A case for nested tags to create mini-bibliographies

Submitted herewith as food for thought, tags have one obvious purpose, to categorize.

Then, when you’re looking at a document, you can use the “reveal tag” feature to see all the documents relating to the subject named by the tag.

Those tags point from a document to a category. The reveal tag function then serves for subject navigation. Tonight I hit on the idea of tagging as a way of assigning a role to a note.

Instead of tagging based on what a note is, tags can be based on what support a document provides. A tag can be used to point a document to a category, or a tag can be a pointer from a category to a group of supporting documents. A fine distinction, but bear with me.

Scattergun a batch of notes for a work of fiction. Or a dissertation. In my case, the two might be disgustingly indistinguishable. Write up scene ideas, characters, locations, the atoms for story construction.

Tag the notes that describe your story’s beginning with something like Beginning.

You could tag each character sketch, location description, or related note with Beginning. Nice, but that mixes those notes in with plot notes.

Better to create Beginning/X for cross references.

In other words, tag all the documents that describe the stuff in your story’s opening with Beginning. The contents of Beginning/X are a different role, the notes-to-self to keep your story consistent.

Best of all, those references in Beginning/X can appear in other cross reference groups like Middle/X.

Using the same single character tag for each supporting category seems to work. The list of tags at the bottom of a document describing a location, for example, may have ten X tags. No big deal, because what you are probably interested in seeing is the parent tags, Beginning, Middle, End, or Chapter1, Chapter2, etc. A short tag name like X reduces clutter in the tag list and you can tag documents as Beginning/X for a cross reference to Beginning, or just as Beginning to add it to the group/tag of notes describing your beginning.

I like to disable the option to open a group in a separate window on double-click. That way, when I double-click the Beginning tag, I see the Beginning notes with a subgroup (tag) where the cross references are.

Or, if I’m looking at Snidely Whiplash’s character sketch I can use the reveal tag function on the Beginning tag to show the same thing. Notes about a phase of the book with cross references at a second level.

Maybe more subtle than useful, and I can’t swear this will become common in my databases, but I thought it might be a strategy of interest.

Of course, using some tags in this way doesn’t mean all tags have to be used in this fashion.

Without doubt, the concept of tags in hierarchies and the way tags are groups and vice versa are key strengths in Devonthink.

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