The Categorical Imperative
WordPress uses categories by default. Look to your right. (See?) They are so ingrained in the software that when writing you have to designate a category, even if it’s “Uncategorized.” Today I started to really wonder why.
Do other blogging engines do this? Do readers use them? Are they effective? My logs indicate relatively little human action on the category links. The only one that gets much play is “Politics,” and, based on traffic spikes after job applications, etc. I suspect that it’s mostly negative checking (uh-oh, is he a loony lefty or a raving righty?). On the other hand, perhaps categories are useful not so much as links but as text labels? Do they increase findability? Are they good for getting your stuff indexed in search engines?
In web site construction the function of categories is obviously important. But don’t they work most effectively as broad brushstrokes, rather than granular distinctions? (e.g. Home, Writing, Photos). In the blogging world it might help readers if a site distinguished technical articles from “state of the world” rants (or analytical sociology from musings on technology; however you cut it). I’m starting to think that the category system in WordPress struggles to address a more global information problem on the web: namely, how to convey what this stuff I’m doing is all about.
So I’m curious: are categories actually useful, or are they traits that have lingered on in blogging software because they just seem to be important? And how do we know?