Tags, or other similar metadata, added to resources in a Personal Knowledge Management system are not content. They are best used to help you curate resources and can answer questions such as:

  • What was written in July 2023? (add a date)
  • Where are all the references to books? (add #book)
  • What am I currently working on? (add to-develop)

When used as markers for the content of a resource - exactly like keywords - an issue arises where one tag can mean multiple things. Is #philosophy a reference to a note that discusses a philosophy, or is it about philosophy itself.

In Tags or Links, Curtis McHale distinguished between tags, notes and tagnotes. The latter are a flavour of note that summarise broad topics. They are similar to Maps of Content in that they bring together information with more context than a single word. Curtis writes,

Tagnotes vs Notes

The difference between #tagnotes and notes is that notes are summaries of reading and research I’ve been doing while #tagnotes are the connection points between that research.

Tagnotes vs tags

When it comes to #tags I use those to set the status of a piece of research in my vault. Something I want to summarize gets #tosummarize. If I want #toread something then it gets that tag applied.

I also use them to set the type of content. If I have a note on a specific person that note gets the #people tag. A note on an application like OmniFocus would get the #app tag. A note on a book gets the #book tag.

In my system, I do not tag notes with markers of what knowledge is within them. If I am tempted to tag with a concept, I’ll find a way to rewrite my text to use a link instead.