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And doesn't the pigeonhole really cost you career-wise? A couple of years ago I applied internally for a more senior position, and the person interviewing (essentially my boss's boss) who had worked with me for three years, knew nothing of my qualifications (Marketing and Finance, both revealed in the resume) because he only saw me as an IT person. Needless to say, I didn't get the job!


Prexisely! Now imagine that instead of your pigeonhole (title + job description + department etc.) you were tagged with "IT" + "Marketing" + "Finance" plus even more detailed tags and of course "Nice chap" and other important information!

Then using multiple tags in a tree-less organisation they would stumble over you if your tags were a match, partly or fully!

Not to mention that the company could then fully use your talents and knowledge...


Now that'd be nice ...


I didn't mean to trackback that. To early, to little coffee... Great article though, thanks Sig ;)

Alex James

Interesting stuff. I created an application about 3 years ago that was designed to use multiple tags to find files etc. If you are interested there is a flash demo here: http://www.base4.net/xtend/search.htm

Anyway I have moved on since then, I wonder however if the real problem is not tree structures themselves, but how we continue to try to employ them without context. I have a number of discussions on this very topic on my site at the moment.

I look forward to seeing what you come up with...

phil  jones

Wow, that thing about losing word documents in the file-system hierarchy really resonates with me. Just wrote a long rant about it yesterday (with some points about wiki as an alterantive.)


Phil, we're not alone in 'forgetting what we thought last time', my wife's favourite is "I lost the document!" - translated to "I cannot remember where I put it!" :-)

Read your post and left this -

"A local Wiki is certainly a good idea, and as you say - a start.

But it has an inherent flaw, as in HTML - links. On the surface a link works, but it's linked the wrong way - it should have been linked from the source! If you change the file or its URL or place in the hierarchy then the link is broken...

Tags are better that way, or "ln -s" in any 'nix' system :-)"


Sig, your 'geek' is showing ...

Isaac Chen

Lots of things/systems/problems can be modeled properly by tree structure. That's why it's useful. The biggest problem with it is, IMHO, lots of more can not. That's why it's dangerous. It gives you a false sense of "usefulness to everything".

This also reminds me of the battles between hierarchical and relational models decades ago. And OO proponents tout inheritance is all so great.

I forget

But the problem even with tags is that you forget them as well. You really need to learn how to use tags (or are you really just categorising?) for it to work. I'm so inconsistent that if I don't learn the method in some formal sense I'm just going to have the same problem. In 10-20 years kids will probably all get taught how to organsie their files and info for easier retrieval.

For what it's worth you're basically talking about the sorts of things MS and Apple are doing with their search tools. You apply tags (aka metadata) to each file and then you forget about the folder structure. Instead you just search. You search the content, and to filter your searches you use tags/metadata.


I forget :), good thing about "forgetting" is what you forget is often what somebody tried to "implant" in your brain, like somebody else's logic, completely forgettable.

Actually, what we're suggesting (link to an example site elsewhere) is to use multiple tags and overlap them to find the object per interception.

What Apple and MS is going for, as well ass social tagging as Technorati etc is that they use only single tags... believe me, huuuuge difference :)

Ash Buckles

Hi Sig:

First time reader, thanks to Hugh at GapingVoid.com.

As I work to release my first b2c blog this week, I have struggled with the idea of Categories or Tags (or both). Now I need to rethink multi-tagging. Thanks a lot Sig. ;-)

As for Alex's post (above), why not just use Google Desktop? Am I missing something here?



Just noticed that my trackback from a while ago hadn't worked, so fixed it - sorry!

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