Why I’ve Abandoned Categories On My Blog

I don’t know about you, but I love being organised.

Order brings me satisfaction and calm, whether it’s finding a way to arrange physical items around me, or the thoughts in my head.

Losing things, forgetting things and being late, all frustrate me greatly, so I do all I can to avoid them happening.

By being organised.

So when I started 35hunter I had the best of intentions to use the categories feature to ensure each post fitted neatly within one or more categories.

And on the flip side, so each category had a collection of blog posts of the same topic gathered within it in an orderly fashion.

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Early on, I decided to pick obvious categories, like photography, blogging and thoughts. 

Then as I wrote posts on topics that either didn’t come under any of these original categories, or needed additional categorisation too, I created new ones.

The problem with this was I was adding a couple of new categories virtually every time I wrote a new post, trying to be more specialised, more organised.

But then some of the categories had very few (even just one) post under them, because they were so specific.

I also wanted a way of being able to gather together all the posts under certain series I wrote, like my One Month, One Camera project earlier this year, One Frame, or These Three Photographs.

In the end, it all became too complicated.

Fortunately, in the meantime, because of my very positive experiences with using tags in Flickr for years, I was also using tags in WordPress.

And ultimately, it’s these tags that I find easier to use, and more logical.

A post about colour photography experiments with my Pentax Q I can tag by subject (photography, colour photography, digital photography), by the equipment used and mentioned (Pentax, Pentax Q) and any series of posts it’s a part of (The Colour Quest, experiments).

I didn’t want a category called Pentax or Pentax Q, or categories for series/experiments, really.

And I was using some categories for virtually every post – photography, simplify, and thoughts for example – because virtually everything I publish here is about me making photographs then writing about them, and honing down the kit I own and use anyway.

So as categories they became so obvious as to be redundant, perhaps like a sign outside a supermarket saying “we sell food and drink”.

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Rather than delete all categories, for now I’ve simply switched them off, ie made them invisible.

Just using tags feels simpler and more what I’m used to, as well as easily being able to search for and group posts with the same tag.

In case you didn’t know, if you click on any tag at the bottom of a post on 35hunter, you’ll get a page with all posts where that tags has been used. Go on, try it. Then come back and finish our conversation here.

So I can conveniently link to series like The Colour Quest or One Month, One Camera, by using the URL of the tag, eg https://35hunter.blog/tag/one-month-one-camera/

The foreseeable future for organising posts here on 35hunter involves abandoning categories and using tags.

I hope you find it easier too when you want to explore more posts on a particular topic here.

How do you use categories and tags on your blog? What do you like to see on other blogs you read to help you search and read posts around similar topics?

Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

Thanks for looking.

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10 thoughts on “Why I’ve Abandoned Categories On My Blog”

  1. In WordPress, under the covers tags and categories aren’t different anyway. Old days, WP had no categories, just tags. People wanted categories so they did some UI trickery on top of the tag engine _et voila_, categories.

    1. Thanks Jim. Yes you can see from the structure of the URLs it’s the same, just a different word – category/ or tag/. I guess people can pick which word they like best – there seems little point in using categories and tags for the same thing!

  2. You discovered what Douglas Adams called “the fundamental interconnectedness of it all”.
    Categories place artificial limits on content and may restrict viewing. Tags just let anyone searching for whatever discover what you’ve written. Then they might find something else you’ve done which they wouldn’t have been looking for but nevertheless end up liking! 🙂

    1. Marc I think that’s a very clever summation. With categories, they’re either too vague to mean much (like “photography” or “blogging”) or too precise and limiting.

      Yes tags seem more like an organic assistance to how people search anyway.

  3. Hi Dan, I did try clicking at the bottom, do you really follow 20 other blogs? How do you get anything else done? Maybe I’m a slow reader, I could never do that. I have trouble keeping up with five. Anyway, to me tags make the most sense.

    1. Well just looking at my followed list, it’s currently 28. In the last week there have been about 25 posts, so just over three per day. Seven of those were Jim Grey, who, aside from Seth Godin (who I follow by email but not in WP Reader) who posts every day without fail, is by far the most proilfic blogger I follow.

      Others post between once or twice a week, some once a month and others have not posted for months.

      And some of those who’ve posted in the last week have only had a short post with a single picture or a couple of sentences.

      So following these 28 blogs doesn’t actually take as much time as it initially might sound! Three or four posts a day which each might take between one and five minutes to read.

      If I want more to read (I do most days) I usually hit Seth’s blog and the Random button, or browse the “Discover” section in WP Reader.

  4. Having devised thoughtful categories long ago back in my more idealistic, hopeful days I do my best to sort each post in an appropriate-seeming manner although it can be hard to decide where something falls inside of so I have several groups which are sort of like junk drawers and I tend to jam things untidy in there. My journal is barely-read, no one (not even me) goes back inside looking for anything, so I don’t give much thought to organization anymore. I’m a hopeless case. But I did enjoy your thoughts on the matter, I always do.

    1. Thank you kindly.

      When I started 35hunter I had no readers, but intended to, so wanted to be organised from the outset. Which didn’t works so well with categories, as explained above. But it seems to work pretty well with tags.

      I don’t know if anyone clicks on the tag links at the end of the posts, or searches by tag, but it remains a useful way to group posts and be able to create a link to them.

      I think there has been a wider trend towards tags and searching in recent years, and away from a more traditional hierarchical file structure. I remember when I first had a computer I used very neat file structures and hierarchies. I then knew where everything was. I still do this but over time with Google’s influence on our lives, searching has become usually easier than looking through a set of files – however organised they are. The search engines (Google itself, and within apps) have become so efficient.

      At my day job this is even more prevalent for me. I title a document something very logical, so I (and others) will be able to search for it and find it easily. We still have a fairly strict filing system (on the shared network drive) but by naming files logically it means more often than not we just go to the search bar in Windows Explorer and type the name.

      Because I don’t name many photos, the best solution is using tags. Which are then easy to search for.

      It’s interesting over the years seeing people’s different logic and levels of organisation (again I mean at the day job). At one end you have someone geeky like me who, on writing a procedure on how to edit a polygon in our mapping system (let’s called it Indigo) will call it something like “How To Edit Polygons in Indigo”, and file it in a folder called Indigo, within a larger folder call Procedures/ How To. So it’s easy to find via searching for the name, and going down the file hierarchy. Simple, and logical (to me).

      At the other end of the scale, you’ll get someone call the same file “Document 1” and dump it on their Desktop, or just in the highest level of the shared drive, not within any other folder. Fine perhaps for the very short term, but after writing a dozen files you have no clue what’s what, and never find anything.

      I think I digressed somewhat!

    1. Glad to help! It seems logical to me to focus on one or the other, and tags just seem more flexible, without constraining the readers opinion on the post by it being in a certain category.

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