Tag archive: tagging

In search of a scratchpad, part two

As I discussed in the first part of this series, I often come across information while at work that I want to save or act on later while on my own time (or vice versa). In an attempt to address this need, I set up a personal scratchpad using Together. Sadly, though Together offered some fantastic advantages, its incredibly spotty synchronization with MobileMe eventually convinced me to abandon it in favor of something a bit more involved.

VoodooPadThe second solution I turned to, and the one that I have been using and fine-tuning for the last eight months, was VoodooPad. Despite some unique drawbacks of its own, VoodooPad offers near-perfect synchronization, a daily log that far surpasses Together’s in usefulness, and the ability to append text to practically anything. The only downside is that VoodooPad is less flexible about what it can store (and how you can retrieve that info later) because everything is text-based whereas in Together you can toss whatever you want into your scratchpad, be it a PDF, image, bookmark, etc. [read more...]

OpenMeta officially released

Yesterday was a big day for tagging; aside from the release of Tags, Ironic Software officially released OpenMeta, their new open source framework for tagging miscellaneous files using extended attributes (xattr) on Mac OS X 10.5. In addition to the OpenMeta code itself, they also released Tagger—a free utility for tagging, rating, or finding files using OpenMeta—and OMTool—a command lined utility for working with OpenMeta metadata. Both utilities are available for download from the Ironic Software homepage.

The exciting part about OpenMeta is that developers finally have a standardized way to assign and read tags on files (other than the less-than-ideal Spotlight comment hack of yore) which has the potential to free users from getting tied down to a particular solution. Aside from Tags and Deep (the first of which is compatible with OpenMeta, the second of which was the first program to use it), MailTags is also in the process of joining the OpenMeta bandwagon (not available in public builds yet, unfortunately). Hopefully software like Together, EagleFiler, and others of that ilk will also begin to incorporate OpenMeta, allowing users to tag and find files across the system and their various tagging programs without needing to keep all of those programs running.

In search of a scratchpad, part one

One of the key problems I face every day is that I have two computers, one brain, and a tendency to forget things. Perhaps while at work I’ll see a link on Twitter that I’d like to read on my lunch break but which skips my mind once lunch rolls around. Or maybe I forget to fill out my timesheet details and the next day have trouble remembering what exactly I did all day. Sometimes I’ll be off work and see a program that I definitely want to remember to install on my work computer only to start work the next day oblivious. How do I track such minor details without wasting time or brain space? The answer, I’ve decided, is that I need a scratchpad: somewhere that I can quickly toss ideas, URLs, and thoughts that will be synchronized between my computers and contains some simple organizational scheme to allow me to easily identify what needs attention.

TogetherFor the past few weeks I have been investigating software that might serve me as a scratchpad. Although I have not yet developed the perfect solution, I would like to share my first, somewhat flawed solution using Together from Reinvented Software. Together gets almost everything exactly right, but falls short for me thanks to the buggy and error-prone synchronization of MobileMe. Despite the shortcomings of its synchronization, however, setting up a scratchpad in Together is extremely easy and for people who don’t rely on synchronization (or perhaps just have better luck with MobileMe sync services than I) Together is an excellent choice for a scratchpad. [read more...]

Looking backwards

When I first started using Things to organize my daily tasks, I sat down and took the time to carefully craft a list of tags that I wanted to use. I knew what what kinds of tasks I’d be tagging, so I was able with some creativity to come up with a list that was succinct yet exhaustive. Having worked with that list of tags for a few months, I’ve only added one or two tags.

This tells me my system was a good one. Aside from not needing to expand the tag cloud, most tasks I only need to assign 1-2 tags per task, and and tasks inherit one more based on which project I stick them into. My tag filter bar is clean, and small enough to be useful even in lists with lots of tasks. When I posted the list in the Things wiki I got some very positive feedback. But having used the list religiously for a couple months, I have realized something: about 80% of my tags are completely useless. [read more...]

43 Folders exclusive

Merlin Mann over at 43 Folders asked me to share some of my tagging feng shui with him and his readers. The result is a little how-to article on building a consistent tagging system called Becoming a tagging kung-fu master. It’s a rather good read, if I do say so myself, with similar ideas to The what and a couple other articles in the “Tagging guidelines” series.

For visitors from 43 Folders exploring Tagamac for the first time, welcome! you might want to check out Tagging best practices (the site’s most popular article to date), Easy choices (a short counterpoint to some of the thoughts from the 43 Folders article and my previous “The what” article), or the software reviews. There is also a list of the most popular articles in the archives.

Easy choices

I like to think about things. I especially like thinking about things logically, piece-by-piece. Tagamac itself is a great example of this; it seems to me that most blogs get started because someone thinks to themselves, “I wanna blog about Spam!” (or whatever random topic) and sits down and does it. I thought to myself, “Gee, tagging is swell!” and then sat down and methodically listed out the things that I would write about. Seriously; I’ve got the OmniOutliner documents to prove it.

This tendency also translates into my advice on tagging. When I came up with the idea of “the what“, it was because I had sat down and tried to think of the most efficient way to tag. The article didn’t come from a system; the system came from the article. But mine is not the only way. [read more...]

The what

Creating a consistent tagging system is like baking a perfect pie crust: it makes you salivate to think about, but some days it just doesn’t work out. Fortunately, consistent tagging (unlike a perfect pie crust) isn’t affected by humidity; all you need is some careful attention to detail. And perhaps the most important detail to keep in mind while you are tagging is “the what”.

Quite simply, the what is just your answer to a two-part question: what item and what attributes? Despite the simplicity of the question, knowing the what is a vital part of creating a consistent tagging system. You can take or leave my SLS guidelines, but if you really want consistency you’re going to have to ask yourself about attributes. [read more...]

More to life than tags

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: tags are an extremely flexible way to organize the mad rush of information that is your computer. As you no doubt have picked up (from the existence of this blog, if nothing else), I have a bit of a love affair with tags.

However, while tag-love is a special and beautiful thing, if you are going to create a really great tagging system one of the most important things you have to know is when not to tag. [read more...]

The realms of tagging

Defining tagging

  1. The parts of tagging
  2. Tag browsers
  3. The realms of tagging

Tagging as a popular phenomenon was developed online, where many tagging systems feature tags created by the members of a site. Thanks to this phenomenon, a lot of the intellectual thought about tagging centers around “folksonomies” and other ideas of collaborative tagging.

However, there are actually three distinct realms of tagging, and each requires you think about tagging in a slightly different way: private, public, and collaborative. [read more...]

Replacing spaces

Sadly, not all tagging software is coded equal. Sometimes tags are thrown in as just one more bell or whistle, intended to plump up a feature-set without being particularly useful. Other times developers don’t understand tags themselves and end up implementing them in a way that is not as friendly as it should be. Sometimes supporting spaces in tags causes other problems (such is the case when trying to roll your own tagging system using Spotlight comments).

In any case, you may well run across a piece of tagging software that does not allow you to use spaces in your tags, which can be a major pain in the nether regions. What you do about it is really up to you (although of course I have some suggestions), but when you decide remember the tagging mantra: consistency, consistency, consistency. Pick something and stick with it. [read more...]