Sunday, February 16, 2014

Blogger Labels: Humans and Metadata

I just went through and reorganized my efforts at labeling posts in this blog. Like most human beings, I am not very good at being 100% consistent and systematic with labeling and tagging, even though it is actually something incredibly important to do in order to take advantage of what a computer work environment offers us. Luckily, this blog is still not very extensive, so with only about 50 posts to reorganize, it wasn't that hard. From past experience, I know that this is really important to do at the outset of a blog because once it grows, it gets really hard to change your tagging system, especially with the not very powerful metadata management options available in Blogger.

So, I've reorganized the labels here based on TOOLS (i.e. specific names of specific tools). I don't want to give the impression that I am a tool-driven determinist; I choose the tools based on my goals as an educator, not the other way around. But in terms of labeling the posts, tool names seem like the best choice after all. I was having a hard time of pinning down my goals to simple terms that I could apply the posts consistently. Hopefully this system will work; I'll revisit the decision in a month or so and see how things look.

Why are the labels important? As the blog author, I can use labels to manage my content creation and editing process, since the labels are filters you can use in the edit-posts view. I sometimes use labels that refer to stages of the editorial process, for example, to help me remember just how I have used (or re-used) the material in a blog. I often use a pinned/notpinned label to keep track of which blog posts I have pinned in a related Pinterest board, for example, or I use a labeling system to  keep track of content I have re-used in my Bestiaria blog, etc. That is not so relevant to this blog which is more or less detached from my other online publishing, but for my other content blogs, keeping track of content re-use by means of labels is incredibly important to me as a blog author.

Even more importantly, labels can also help readers of the blog find their way to useful content because there are label links at the bottom of each post and in the sidebar, and I can also create links that point to specific labels (for example: my Desire2Learn posts).

Finally, in addition to human users, labels are valuable to computer users as it were. I'm guessing that the use of labels also helps the Google search engine do a better job in indexing content (a hopeful guess on my part; perhaps someone in the know can enlighten me about that in the comments). Since the labels are part of the Blogger RSS file, it means that RSS-driven tools can take advantage of that label information also. The labels show up as category terms in the RSS XML file, and if I actually knew something about RSS and XML (I wish I did!), I'm sure I would understand more about what that really means for the computers that read XML files and turn them into products readable by us poor humans.

That technology, however, is only as good as the human intelligence that goes into the labels (tags, category terms, whatever you want to call the metadata). As one of my goals for my next year, I want my students to become more aware of how tags, labels, etc. can help them in their work and can also help make their work more useful to others. A big part of curation is having a confident and consistent approach to the use of tags (labels etc.) in whatever software you are using that supports tagging. Having the students use Blogger labels, Twitter hashtags, etc. will be a way for me to make that an integral part of my online classes.

In fact, hmmmm... maybe I should start thinking about tagging as a kind of digital writing competency, something that is comparable to the use of punctuation in writing! :-)

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