Making Some Front-End Decisions About Blog Post Formatting & Tagging

For the last few days, I’ve been thinking a lot about the general structure of this weblog. I want to make sure I make smart front-end decisions before I get too far along because it’s very frustrating than having to audit and restructure the content of a website after the fact. 

Question #1: How Will I Format Blog Posts?

The last time I took online writing seriously, I published a link blog (in the style of Daring Fireball or 512 Pixels). So when I started writing again last year, that was the format to which I naturally gravitated. But, I don’t think it’s the right format for me anymore.

The link blog format reduces the barrier to publishing by lowering expectations for each post to just a few sentences. But it also creates a lot of “fluff” posts that don’t hold up over time. In most cases, link posts would work well as tweets. And the exceptions, where my commentary is more substantive, are worthy of a full-on blog post like this one.

The enduring benefit of the link post format is that it provides a structured way to cite the source material that inspired a post. A lot of the time, I write my posts in response to something I read or saw, and it’s important — on both a practical and ethical level — to link back to that source material to give additional context and credit where it’s due. But there are other ways to achieve that end that avoid the formatting inconsistencies and hollow writing to often associated with link blogs. 

So, my decision is this: no link posts. If I want to share something with just a few sentences of commentary (e.g., “This is neat. Check it out.”), I’ll toss it into Buffer to post to Facebook & Twitter. If I had more to add, I’ll share my thoughts as a blog post and include a small “source” link (to the original material) in the page’s byline. 

Question #2: How Will I Tag Blog Posts?

How to tag/categorize blog posts has long been a vexing topic for me. Historically, I haven’t used tags at all due to my inability to settle on a consistent approach to them. Better to do nothing than to do something poorly, I figured. But this time, I have a plan.

Rather than trying to come up with a concrete list of tags up-front, I’m going to follow a Kottke-esque approach and tag posts liberally and on-the-fly. My aim is for each tag to be usable in the sentence, “Read more about _______.” Every noun (e.g., person, place, object, idea, or topic) of significance mentioned in a blog post can and should become a tag. 

Over time, this approach to tagging will add up. For example, back in 2005, Jason Kottke counted that he had already accrued 1,376 unique tags on his blog. This approach to tagging is more descriptive than categorical. The question is not, “which bucket does this post fit into” so much as “what does this post talk about?” Eventually, the tags will come to represent a sort of 10,000-foot level description of what the blog is about. 

Each tag will be listed alphabetically on the Archives Page, and relevant tags will be listed at the bottom of each post. 

(Aside: It will be interesting to see whether NationBuilder’s {{ site.page_tags }} array has a limit to how many tags it will return. If so, I imagine that I’ll find out sooner than later.)

The Bottom Line

All of that is by way of saying that going forward, Hines Digital is going to use traditional blog post formatting (not link posts or other tumblelog formats) and a very liberal tagging system.

I hope you enjoy it.