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Davin Greenwell, Posted On: March 06, 2009 at 4:42 PM

What is the difference between categories and tags, when would you need to use them, and what for?  Would you ever need to use both at once?  Within the context of blogging and, more broadly, the web, I've found myself explaining how to use tags and categories a few times in the last year.  For this reason, I think it is a good idea to take a moment and document which principles I use to guide the creation of both and how to use them in a couple example scenarios.

First lets define categories and tags.  Categories are defined as a division within a system of classification. Tags are keywords that are assigned to specific items, such as blog posts.  We can already deduce two things from these simple definitions: categories require a system of classification for content, so you must have some context for your application of the term; tags require content on which they are based.  In other words, content fits into categories, and tags fit the content.  One is top down, the other is bottom up.