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(Archived) Feedback for my tagging philosophy

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How to tag in Evernote is a huge topic (and has many threads here) so I'm going to try to narrow this down a bit. 


The tagging philosophy that has been working for me for a while now falls into two groups of tags: locations and people. A rule of thumb for me is that any person that gets three to five notes in my system usually deserves a "promotion" into a tag, and this has been working great. Similarly, places that I create notes for (in my place, I teach in two places, so I have two tags, then there's one for the school I study in) get a tag after 3 to 5 notes as well. Again, great success. I only have three tags under locations and about ten under people. 


As I worked more with the tags though, I learned that some people (especially my significant others) have too many notes (for me this means usually beyond 30 notes) I need to organize under that name. Same goes for location tag. So I'm looking into expending in a way and creating subtags that make sense, but I'm not sure what these are yet. What do you guys think? 


Another issue are all the notes that don't get tags. I have many of these. For example my general computer stuff: a picture of my serial number, a hint for a wifi password at my sister's place, my  printer model. This doesn't really fit into any location or person (even though in this case the wifi note does get my sister's tag), but still, I have a lot of notes in that general category - I am just not sure how to call it. Whatever I come up with I forget and I usually end up looking for keywords I remember from inside the note anyway. 


Many people in the G+ productivity community I'm a member of (and here) also swear by different "action" tags. This is another category in itself, especially now with reminders that sometimes become a note worth saving. I don't like action tags because they are too dynamic. Changing from "to do" to "done" is a daunting task when you have to do it more than ten times a day. I tend to fall into the notebook per project group, but then I have an issue of when to create a notebook (when does a "thing" become a project?) 


I don't think you need to tag everything (as a matter of fact I like GrumpyMonkey's philosophy for titles, and I use it quite a bit), but I do want to create a couple of more categories to help me find things. What do you guys think? 



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It sounds like you have a great system in place so far.  

I am a recent notebook convert and am learning to embrace (and love!) the tagging abilities.  I agree with not having to tag everything, but I find it very useful as a sorting tool.  I love being able to select more than one tag at a time and keep having my results filter down to exactly what I am looking for.  Using this, along with using descriptive titles has been very helpful!  

I have been using subtags and find them very useful.  It takes some time for me to remember what they are, but once I use them a handful of times, it is simple.  For my locations, for example, I have the following:  

.LOCATIONS (I don't use this tag.  It is just a "category" for me to have sub tags underneath)

   Waukesha County





   Milwaukee County

        Oak Creek



I am a photographer, so if I want to make notes on a park in Delafield, I will tag it with Delafied, and Waukesha County.  Sure, I could just add this in the title, but I like using the tag view and sorting by tags.  This way I dont have to think about what I am looking for, I can just see it (does that make sense?)  Anyway, if I want to bring up all locations in Waukesha County, I will just sort by the Waukesha County tag.  If I want to search for a specific city, I will search by the city tag.  As I build up my database, I may also add seasons tags to certain locations to indicate which season that location is best to shoot at.  (Or morning vs evening, but I don't want to get too complicated right now)  

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I have a lot of notes.  Unlike GM, I tend to use more notebooks that are broad categories.  (My main target notebook is "everything else".)  I also rely heavily upon descriptive titles & keywords along with notebooks & tags to find my notes.  I'd guess about 2/3 of my notes have no tags.  Of the 1/3 that do have tags, they normally have only 1-3 tags. 


I do have a tag for model/serial numbers.  I also have a tag "software versions" which is dated screen caps of various software versions.  This is especially helpful when migrating from one computer to another, upgrading an OS or just upgrading a particular app.  I can quickly tell what version I was running & when.  I also can quickly find receipts for paid software (and often include a screen cap of their upgrade policy) so I can quickly determine if I will need to pay for a software upgrade or if they let you upgrade free for life.  This alone saved me from re-buying the latest version of an app a time or two.


Regarding people, I have a tag called "people notes"  For me, specifid people (excluding family members) don't require their own tag b/c I can find their notes by including their name in the search.  But I may include a keyword that is where I know them from.  IE, the name of my husband's company, the name of the company I work for, etc.  That way, if I want to remind myself of someone I met when my mother was in the hospital in 2011, I can search on the tag "people notes" & refine the search by including the hospital name. 


Another tip I've posted about several times is to include misspellings.  I know Shafers & Shaffers.  So I include the person's name with the correct spelling.  But use the other spelling as a keyword.  This way I know I'll find the note I'm looking for, even if I forget which way that person spells their name.


One reason I use tags is when there is either no unique name to use as a keyword or there are several.  IE, I have used a piece of software for about seven years.  When I first bought it, it was called NeatReceipts.  But I may have typed it as Neat Receipts at times.  Then they changed the name to NeatWorks.  But again, I may have typed Neat Works in my notes.  Then they started going by Neat - too general & not conducive to finding notes that only apply to this software app.  So I do have a Neatreceipts tag that I apply to all the notes that pertain the the software app.   OTOH, I have also used ACDSee Photo Manager for about ten years.  It does not require its own tag since ACDSee is a unique name that I include in all notes pertaining to this software app.


I also use nested tags.  IE, I have a notebook on computer software/problems/issues.  I have a parent tag called "Computer info & problems".  Below that is a tag "Computer problems" & below that is (for example) a tag "new & expanded boot disk 20100303" which is applied to all the notes that are relevant to when I used Acronis to backup & restore my boot drive to a new, larger hard drive without having to reinstall the OS & all applications.   In this case, the parent tag exists only to organize the child tags.  I rarely search only on the parent tag of "Computer info & problems".

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As I worked more with the tags though, I learned that some people (especially my significant others) have too many notes (for me this means usually beyond 30 notes) I need to organize under that name. Same goes for location tag. So I'm looking into expending in a way and creating subtags that make sense, but I'm not sure what these are yet. What do you guys think?

I have a tag for each of my immediate family members. - but no subtags. So, for my wife, I will add her tag and a 2nd tag describing the subject. She bought some outdoor deck staining material (for my honey-do list). I tagged the receipt with 3 tags:

  • Fam-DLB
  • Per-Yard
  • Com-HomeDepot

Fam = Family;   Per = Personal;   Com = Company


I also have a tag for many locations. I use subtags just to keep them all in the same location on the Left Panel.

The parent tag and sub tags are:

  • Location
    • Location-Countries
    • Location-States

These 3 tags have no notes associated with them. Underneath each of them are the tags that have the associated notes.


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beholder121 - I read your post twice. In addition to the detail you provided about your current structure, I tried to focus on what were the issues you are looking for some ideas about. I found these issues: 

  1. Some people have too many Notes.
  2. What subtags might be helpful with your structure?
  3. You have many notes that have no tags. What should you call (categorize)? these Notes? 
  4. When do you create a Notebook for a project (when does a "thing" become a project)?
  5. What categories might you create to help you find things?

In regard to #1, consider putting all the information about a person (or at least your significant others) into one Note. In between each "encounter" with one of those people, have Evernote insert a horizontal line in the Note to separate the encounters and each new encounter starts with a date/time stamp that you have Evernote add.


In regard to #2, I like the WWWW (Who, What, When, and Where) conceptual structure for tags and subtags. If I remember correctly, TSW (The Secret Weapons) describes, demonstrates, and endorses that structure. If you require WWWW tags for each Note, it can be time-consuming and an over-kill, but maybe the concept will help you.


In regard to #3 & #5, I see two places to put "categories". The obvious one is in Tags (as "Whats" in WWWW). The other one is what I have evolved to. That is, the first word in the Title of  each Note tends to be the topic, category, or "What" for the Note. Using the Title to do this allows me to have many categories. Examples are: Technicals, Insurance, Astronomy, Bible, Cars, Medical, Financials, Food, Genealogy, Taxes, Investing, and the list goes on and on.


In regard to #4, consider taking an entirely different approach. Make a Notebook titled "Projects". The Title for each Note within that Notebook would have this syntax: "PPPPPPPPPP-TTTTTTTTTT", where PPPPPPPPPP is the project name and TTTTTTTTTT is one or more words that describe the "kind" of information in the Note about that project. Examples of TTTTTTTTTT are Tasks, Technical Information, Administration, and Resource Requirements. - - - When the amount of Notes and information within the Notes for a specific project become large enough in your mind, then you can consider a separate Notebook for the project.


I hope you find these ideas helpful.

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My tag philosophy(sort of):

The solution to the overabundance of information is more information.

Everything is just data. Tags are there to help you... Tags are just metadata.

The less metadata you apply the less valuable and more hidden the information and your knowledge database itself becomes.

Organize each note with tags in as many ways as possible. The more "places" you put the note in, the easier it is to find it later. But give up control... Use only as many/little tags as you need, you don't want to be wasting time by trying to define all possible ways to organise each note in Evernote.

* organize everything in as many ways as you want and you feel is helpful to you personally, put each leaf on as many branches as possible or as you care for

* give up perfectionism because it's impossible to organize everything in all of the useful ways

I usually organise notes with a "type" and "topic" Tags.

Type of note Tag answers a question "what is it?"

Some examples of type tags:

Quote, my ideas, photo, video, saved article, mindmap, study etc.

Topic Tag could be anything, e.g. Diet, skincare, critical thinking, science, veganism, meme, green tea, etc.

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Another issue are all the notes that don't get tags. I have many of these. For example my general computer stuff: a picture of my serial number, a hint for a wifi password at my sister's place, my printer model. This doesn't really fit into any location or person (even though in this case the wifi note does get my sister's tag), but still, I have a lot of notes in that general category - I am just not sure how to call it.

What tags I'd use

A picture of a serial number - "photo", "password"

a hint for a wifi password at my sister's place - "password", "sister", "wi-fi"

my printer model - "printer"

I like to tag stuff with some general Tags like this, they help to narrow down search results.

I usually search for some general Tag then further refine the search with keywords, dates if necessary.

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Andrea: Interesting location system you have. I tried to use Evernote Food before for locations (not just restaurants) and it was pretty nice since it uses Foursquare's data base for places, however, since Evernote dropped it's map support on Android (you can't being up a map as an option when looking at multiple notes) it's even more annoying to use Evernote for locations and I gave up. I'm much more of a visual person and I need the map, tags with name of locations mean very little to me, personally. Today I use Foursquare itself to check into locations and Google Maps. The only locations I have are those that has to do with places I do work for, and these are specifics (like home, office, class, etc.) 


BnF: Nice to hear from you, you're like an Evernote celeb here :)

My main notebook is "Memory Bank" which has 1000+ notes compared to other notebooks which have no more than a hundred, I think. I recently "purged" Evernote from past years and exported notes so I have less now. 


Interesting strategy with the people notes. I tend to give close people nicknames, to the tags are very powerful category in itself. I also have shared notebooks with these people, so I have BOTH a tag and a notebook, which make sense because not all notes that has to do with these people are notes I share with them (journal notes, for example, or a surprise gift ideas, etc.) Interesting about the misspelling as well. Think I have this covered though because my tags are either nicknames or stuff like "mom" or "sis" so I'm not worried about this. However, I am going to create another meta-tag for work connections and these people I might forget the name. But in this case, having the name spelled correctly a the tag helps me remember the person. I can ask myself "who was that person who called me about that job two months ago...?" and like you with people notes, I'd go to my meta-tag of professional contacts and make a search there with a time range, and the tag with the right notes will show me the name, and I will be like "oh yeah! duh!" 


I don't remember names very well, but like you, if I use a certain software often or a service or what not, it will become a sort of a verb. For example, Evernote is already a very on a daily basis for me. I would actually tell my friend "Ok, so I sent last night and evernoted this conversation, and here is what I came up with..." so I could have a note like "deadspace" which is a computer game, but it me it means horror fiction, for example. These tags are powerful because I will not forget what they mean and they are also very specific for my needs. 


I'm still trying to figure out how to figure out technology related stuff. Not sure how to tag wifi passwords, HTML and CSS bits of cods, network settings etc because they are all over the place. Too much would fall under "computer stuff." It belongs more under individual categories, like network setting under "home" and wifi password under the person the password belongs to, such as my mom's wifi or my friend, under their tags. 


benson: wow you must have lots of tags. I'd get lost in not time. If this works for you this is good... for me personally, if I have a tag for the person and then a specific project I do for them or with them, the tag would not mean much after the project is gone. I much rather have as much as I can of a project in one note that is tagged under that person with a good title, which the note text itself will have the information I need to find it later. For example, I could remember I had power of attorney over some of my mom stuff regarding a bank policy two years from now. So I will look under my mother's tag, and search for power of attorney + the name of the bank and this will be good enough, especially if it's all in one note. Same goes for your location tags (thanks for sharing, btw). In my case most of it will be in NYC, and then that will go into subtags of the areas, and sometimes I just don't know the name of the neighborhood anyway and finding it out won't do me any good in finding the place in the future (because I won't remember the neighborhood's name). Hope this makes sense... 


Analyst: wow, thanks for taking me so seriously. This will probably be a long response.

  1. Interesting suggestion. I have a few issues with it: first, it would be one loooooooong note. I save pictures, notes, files and screenshots and I feel this will get out of hand. For example, one of my partners just went out on a trip over seas and we shared a notebook for the pictures. I have all of these tagged now, 28 total. All of these in one note might be too big already for a single note, not to mention slow loading time.. you get my point. The other issue is that I use my android phone mostly for quick updates, and it doesn't' come with adding a line option or a date stamp. Further, these actually "handicap" the note on my phone because I get the yellow comment that some of the note formatting can't be loaded. 
  2. WWWW is beneficial halfway. I already use Who (people tag) and Where (location tags) but as for What and Why, it's a bit more tricky. What, I feel, is more of a note title than a tag (you say it's an overkill to use these notes for all and I agree), but a combination of what and why as a title could be helpful. For example, "receipt for domain registration" or "stuff to buy at GNC to keep healthy" it might sound silly, but something like "healthy" is a good keyword to associate this note with, as well as domain registration and receipt. Thanks for the suggestion :)
  3. (and 5)We seem to agree here. Yes, I like to use titles for that, and I even use abbreviations. For example, I have many quick lesson plans, so I start these notes with the title LP (for lesson plan) followed by the major topic of it in a short sentence, like LP: independence day. These are kind of tags in themselves, and might sound redundant, but they are more flexible and I don't like having too many tags. It just looks cleaner to me. I hope to be able to have more of these. 
  4. I like your idea here. I already implemented the change: got rid of my project notebooks (which got me lost and less organized, to be honest) and went back to have a note for each project. This is actually much better in an unexpected way: reminders. Now I can have a whole "project" as a reminder, and all the info is right there. The title tells me what the project is, and maybe I could change a word in the title considering my "next action" item. For example, "fix computer: research video card" and then it would be "fix computer: buy video card." for example. It doesn't have to be on this level all the time, but I can see where it will become very useful, especially for quick glances on my Android reminder widget. Once again, thanks. 

 May: I respectably disagree with you there. While I do like how you tag notes (topic and what is it), having too many tags is often my problem. Perhaps because I tend to look at my tags to find a note rather than use the tags in search. The biggest issue for me is having more than one tag doing the same things. For example, I have a "writing" and "fiction" tags. many of my writing ideas fall under both, as well as my research for my stories, so they are basically not there for me, because they don't really provide any useful filter, they are too general. So instead I now have "ideas" specifically for writing ideas, and I'm actually changing it to something even more specific (I get ideas that aren't just writing) and I'm getting rid of fiction all together, because I write fiction. 


I like having less tags. Since I use titles more in search, I think that, as a "tag", makes more sense to me. But thanks for the feedback, it makes me realize more why I like titles ;)





Thanks guys! I'd love ot hear more responses! 

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Hi. It sounds like you have gotten some great advice, and I think this thread will be a great help to others who have similar questions about how best to tag. Thanks for starting the thread. If you'd like to put in the extra work to summarize each of the workflows / strategies suggested, then we could link to it as a resource for the future :)


In my case, I've found tags to be occasionally helpful for organizing temporary groupings. For example, I have a few thousand notes I need to move around / delete on occasion (it's a long story for another thread) and it helps to have them tagged for this purpose. I don't use the tags for navigation, though. It's definitely not that I have a problem with tags or anything. Rather, I keep trying to use them (various systems) and finding them (at least for me) to be something akin to wearing three-sleeve shirts. Sure, I guess it would be nice to have that extra sleeve, but if you aren't really using it and still have to iron it, well you might as well get rid of it. I always recommend them to people starting out with Evernote, because I think using them covers a lot of use cases, but I also say to stick with them only if they are working. 


Related to this problem of organizing beyond just titles, I'm a big fan of internal links (a personal wiki) and really like the new "table of contents" feature (on the Mac). 


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