Tag Aliases

Know what feature I’d like to see in content management systems? Tag aliases.

Being able to add metadata to content is a hugely useful tool. Thanks to searchable tags, a post tagged with “rant” can be found by searching for that term, even if the word never appears in the content itself. Tags provide flexible, on-the-fly categorization.

But they’re also literal, sometimes bothersomely so. I might tag something related to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as “MCU”, but that’s not the same as a “Marvel Cinematic Universe” tag. As mentioned above, tags are useful for content discovery, but someone searching for “MCU” isn’t going to get anything tagged with “Marvel Cinematic Universe”, or vice-versa, even though the two tags signify the same thing.

In my blogging, I’ve noticed this leads to a burden on my memory. I either have to designate a single tag for a subject and remember to stick to that tag, or use multiple tags and hope that I’m somewhat consistent with how I tag things–to always use “MCU” and “Marvel Cinematic Universe” together. Neither of these options are ideal. The former requires a lot of brainspace, especially the more functionally identical tags I have; and the latter gets clunky very quickly, leading to content tagged with every variation on a tag one could imagine.

I believe one solution would be to allow the creation of tag aliases. Allow users to group functionally identical tags, and when content is tagged with one of the tags in that group, silently add all of the other tags. For instance, if I were writing a scathing critique of Fifty Shades of Grey[ref]I always have to look up whether the title of this work is Grey or Gray.[/ref], I could create a tag group that contained “Fifty Shades of Grey”, “Fifty Shades of Gray”, “FSoG”, “50 Shades of Grey”, and any number of variants, and apply them all to the post by simply tagging it “Fifty Shades of Grey”. The tag I typed would be displayed on the post itself, while the others would be added to the post’s metadata but not displayed, so as to prevent an ugly accumulation of tags.

I’m not a developer, so I definitely don’t have the know-how to make this happen. But I’d love to see it implemented in blogging platforms like WordPress or Tumblr, or on other content management systems like YouTube. It seems to me like a logical and useful evolution of the tag.


Header image background: Dark Sharp Edges by Carlos Aguilar, via Subtle Patterns. Released under a CC BY-SA 3.0 license.