David Strom on Tagging Content

I have had two very different reactions to tagging, or labeling my online content. On the plus side, I absolutely love what I can do with Google’s Gmail, and the fact that I can label my conversations, organize them 27 different ways, have different groups of contacts that are the way I think about my peeps has been a very liberating experience.
Over the years I have maintained an electronic version of my contacts, I have had several haphazard systems to keep this valuable data. I think my earliest effort was to use a great Mac program called Dynodex. I am hesitant to make note of it here because I am sure this will kick off a series of emails from other loyal Dynodexers once this column is inserted into the great Google mind meld in the sky. (If you do a search on the term, my columns come up at the top of the page. It is nice to know that I have such authority on a forgotten product.) But Dynodex had four things going for it — it was fast at searching for people, it was cheap, very lightweight (I think the version I used came on a single floppy disk), and you could enter all sorts of free-form information into it if you didn’t want to abide by its data structure. Over the years I have used Lotus Notes and Microsoft Outlook, but both of them violate the first three rules and were clumsy at dealing with thousands of contacts that I have ended up with.
Now for the past six months or so I have been using Google and I am
for the most part pretty happy. All my contacts are online, so I
never have to worry about making backups or having them on one
computer or another. As I said, I have a couple of dozen different
groupings that suit the way I work: someone who lives in New Jersey
and works for a firewall vendor and was a source in a story that I
wrote could be placed in three different buckets, for example, and I
could easily see that. Yes, there are a few things that I would
change — such as adding ways to present an initial screen for adding
a new contact. And having better import and export features as well
(CSV is so old school, and so painful anytime you want to move
information one way or another).
I also like the way Google can search through my contacts quickly,
and search through the conversations that I have had with each person
too. It really is nicely designed.
Now for the other side of the coin. Google I get. Google I grok. But
then the whole delicious tagging thing escapes me. This seems like it
is just too much work. I don’t particularly get that whole deal,
even though I understand why and how and where it works. It just
doesn’t do anything for me.
Now I tag and organize my blog content over at Strominator.com with
various subject headings, and that is fine too — not that anyone
outside of maybe one or two people are really going to be searching
my site on these subject headings. But I figure I might as well make
it easier for those one or two people. And I guess that is where I
think of tagging right now — it is kinda like the number of people
that first understood Einstein’s relativity theories back in the
early part of the 1900s — you knew who you were, and you could be
smug in that knowledge, but for the vast unwashed masses of the
general population it was more an intellectual curiosity.
Your mileage may differ, and I’d love to hear from you on how you use
tags, or labels, or these other site-organizing tools.
Self promotions dep’t
While I mention my blog Strominator.com (which contains a current
archive of these Web informant essays, along with shorter pieces that
I don’t send out to the entire email list), I should also promote a
couple of other things that I have begun to do in the blogosphere.
One is a collection of podcasts for small business owners and
individuals that want quick productivity tips on tech. I call it
YourPersonalGeek.tv, and you can subscribe to the podcasts in iTunes
if you search on that term, or just point your RSS reader to
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