Sunday, February 18, 2007


Ok, I'm peering this way and that around the blogosphere, looking and learning about all things technical. (I mean, yeah, I didn't fall off the turnip truck yesterday, but it's different making offhand comments that sound in the know compared to actually using and creating this technology.) I understand the concept of "tags," and even "tag clouds" and I'm still trying to get my head around what a trackback is and whether it's useful. Are they annoying, to get pinged all the time, or does it help continue the conversations? (And did you notice my links? heh. Such the quick learner!)

But a more general question: does anybody in the academic blogosphere use tags? I see that people use them on their posts, of course, but does anybody actually search for tags or navigate personal blogs using tags? I've searched massive sites like Daily Kos with them, but they don't seem necessary in a little blog where you can run through the archives pretty quickly. (And I should add that I prefer to read blogs about academics rather than academics' professional blogs, blogs about life rather than a technical subfield. To see how the other half lives, or me with a real job, or something like that. I'll do a post about envy and blogging later.)

In fact, tags seem to function more as a stylistic element on the blogs I read, a final (often comedic) touch to round off a post --- a digital garnish, if you will. These tags often seem to be a way of having the last word, or making an ironic twist on the post (or a resounding recapitulation of it) than categorizing topics in any sort of logical way. Borges's description of the Chinese encyclopedia (as analyzed by Foucault) moved to cyberspace, as it were. How would a complete stranger know where to find, say, easy recipes for baba ganoush, or videos of academics gone wild, or instructions on how to submit a conference abstract, if they tried to navigate such tags as "that other thing ... life" or "the label for posts that defy labels" on academic blogs? Perhaps this is blindingly obvious ---- I mean, academics are of course going to be aware of these theories and self-aware of their own ironic play within the constraints of the blogging medium, but I was just intrigued by the fact that tags seem to be used consistently as a rhetorical maneuver rather than an ordering system. (This could also indicate the humanities-sciences differences in thinking, as well.)

So, anyways, what other technical stuff can you do with a blog? Anything else interesting?


Jon said...

I use tags to organize course blogs. See this for an example. And there's a thriving discussion of other possibilities.

Horace said...

I use tags primarily because I'm a little Obsessive-Compulsive, and even if I didn't use them, I'd enjoy the taxonomic act.

That said, when I was posting the teaching carnival (at another blog, back when), I found it very useful to poke around the blogs of regular contributors by clicking on their teaching categories, and isolating the relevant posts that way...

Sisyphus said...

Ahh, thanks for the comments peeps! what about "trackbacks" or "pings" ... those any use? Scott over at Acephalous mentioned being drowned in a rain of pings, and that sounds like it could get annoying.

Dr. Crazy said...

I've been doing this for almost three years, and I've got to say, I don't even know what a "ping" is. As for trackbacks, I sometimes find other parts of a conversation through them, but on my own blog I tend to edit the actual post or to create a new post to alert people to related posts, even if the trackbacks are there. (I'm kind of low tech in my preferences).

Also, I do have some labels that have utility - teaching, research, service, Man-Kitty - but one problem I've been having is that I forget to put a label on all but those posts that defy labels. It's a real problem :)