Tags vs. Categories

28 01 2010

When we organize our contents we have to keep in mind the difference between tags and categories. Thus, we are going to explain what means each one and what their advantages and disadvantages are.

Tags: Definition

In online computer systems terminology, a tag is a non-hierarchical keyword or term assigned to a piece of information (such as an internet bookmark, digital image, or computer file). This kind of metadata helps describe an item and allows it to be found again by browsing or searching. Tags are chosen informally and personally by the item’s creator or by its viewer, depending on the system.

Advantages & Disadvantages:

In a typical tagging system, a user can apply new tags to an item as easily as applying older tags. Hierarchical classification systems can be slow to change, and are rooted in the culture and era that created them. The flexibility of tagging allows users to classify their collections of items in the ways that they find useful, but the personalized variety of terms can present challenges when searching and browsing.

When users can freely choose tags (creating a folksonomy, as opposed to selecting terms from a controlled vocabulary), the resulting metadata can include homonyms (the same tags used with different meanings). For instance,  the tag “orange” may refer to the fruit or the color and synonyms (multiple tags for the same concept), which may lead to inappropriate connections between items and inefficient searches for information about a subject.

Categories: Definition

Categories generate a page of posts in each one’s site. It is true that tags can do that too, but they often generate a page of off-site posts and off-site websites.

Advantages & Disadvantages:

The main advantage is that there is an specific amount of categories. The category is a good way to provide access to topics that interest people.

In the case of disadvantages, there is no referral system planned, to ensure that each entry should be there. Besides, category’s maintenance is difficult:

  • A category cannot be moved: It should create a new category and edit the category name in all articles that use it. Furthermore, to erase an inappropriate category is not sufficient as it should be withdrawn from the articles that use it.
  • Category’s changes is impossible to follow: The record of a category does not reflect when elements were added or removed. Apart from that, the monitoring list does not indicate such changes, only edits to the page itself in the category.