Dewey Decimal Dunderhead

Melvil Dewey

Melvil Dewey – It’s all his fault.

Right up to the Mayan Apocalypse, I was using a complex, hierarchical system of Categories to identify the posts on Beautiful Railway Bridge. No Tags – they seemed too freeform to deal with. I wanted to be consistent and logical, as much for myself as for you, dear readers, who probably don’t care. I needed to find posts by some “objective” criteria, rather than saying, “well, what did I call it last time?”

So I adopted a bastardised version of the Dewey Decimal System, as used in libraries, with subject names instead of numbers. It quickly became a burden since I wasn’t well-versed enough in the system to use it properly. When I couldn’t think of a suitable classification, I invented a ragtag rabble of categories, stuffed into a heading called “Culture,” and used in the anthropological sense of anything to do with human societies. I was only happy with the “People” category, which contained, well, people.

My system was a nightmare. I seemed to spend more time trawling through the hierarchical categories, in search of terms I’d used before, than I did in writing the post. Or I would have to insert new terms in the right place. The inevitable classification fatigue occurred, and I found myself using fewer and fewer categories, while at the same time becoming ever more frustrated because the system was not working.

I did not heed WordPress’ quite sensible advice about the enervating effect of proliferating categories, and its solution – tags. Until the eve of destruction, that is. A new era called for a complete rethink. I took their words to heart and converted all my hard-won categories to tags, destroying in the process their hierarchical relationships. This is akin to a Bolshevik Revolution in which even the Bolsheviks have no authority. Truly liberating or, as Yeats would say:

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world

But I still needed categories. I decided on a few, extremely broad categories, and only allowed myself one per post. I made pages to hold links for the posts in those categories – you can see them under the blog title. Trouble is, I now have almost a thousand orphan posts, unreachable from the search bar. It’s called throwing out baby with the bathwater.

Never mind. New era, new methods, and I’m working backwards to add a category and rework the tags in previous posts.

It should take less than 3 years.

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