So, I don’t know what you did for fun over the long weekend, but I took advantage of the extra time to finally create categories and tag my blog entries.
I’d intentionally not done this at the beginning – when I began blogging, I had a general sense of the types of things I thought about, but not a coherent sense of what I’d end up writing about. So, I didn’t want to limit myself by category.
But I also didn’t want to create categories as I went – in my experience that just leads to a long list of poorly delimited categories which may or may not actually be helpful for navigating content.
So I waited over a year, and, having a somewhat overdeveloped love of process, I put a not insubstantial amount of thought into the development of categories and the tagging of posts.
For those of you who are moved by such things, here’s how I handled the process. While I’m not likely to repeat it eminently, I am, of course, interested in any changes or amendments you might suggest.
I started with a draft list of categories. A short list of things that I’m pretty sure I write about a lot. Since I personally have written all the posts on this blog, I found this step rather easier than when I have previously attempted this exercise for communal blogs or organizational website. I more or less know what I write about.
Then I made some changes and amendments as I tagged each post. Separate categories for “Citizens” and “Institutions” become one category of “Citizens and Institutions,” which eventually became “Citizens and Civil Society.”
I kept that category separate from “Civic Studies” which, while certainly overlapping, has a more academic lens. Random musings about what it means to be a good citizen based off a conversation I had with a stranger on the bus – that went under “Citizens and Institutions.” If I quoted Robert Putnam, Elinor Ostrom, or even Robert A. Heinlein, that probably got a “Civic Studies.”
And, both of those categories stayed separate from “community” which, while also intertwined with the above, tends to focus more on my communities – organizations I work with or, occasionally, interactions in the cities I visit.
“Justice” served as an umbrella category – though I was tempted at times to break it down. Racial justice, economic justice, and LGBT rights seem to be my most common topics within this category. I’m not sure how often I articulate a connection between these topics, but keeping them together felt right.
Interestingly, I believe many of my posts about gender equity ended up under “social norms.” Perhaps I’m too tired of fighting those battles and have devolved to simply being annoyed. A sort of, did you hear what society says we should do? sort of sarcasm.
History, Marketing Communications, and Physics (or, perhaps more generally, STEM) each earned their own categories as the starting point for much of my thought – being formally trained in two and generally interested in the other.
Perhaps my biggest struggle was around morality – as it were. I don’t have many declarations of what it means to be moral, but I do spend several posts exploring what it means to be a good citizen – and, almost by default, what it means to be a good person.
I ended up putting these posts under the “Citizens and Civil Society” banner. I couldn’t quite bring myself to declare “morality” as a core interest, and…I’m not sure that I’m concerned about morality, per se. I’m concerned about being a good person, and I’m concerned about being a good citizen. And I’m concerned about being the best person and best citizen I can be…but, morality? Some how that didn’t feel like the right word for it.
So, with all those categories declared and all my posts tagged, this is how things shook out for 249 posts, many of which have multiple tags:
Citizens & Civil Society – 108 posts
Miscellaneous Musings – 75 posts
Civic Studies – 60 posts
Community – 53 posts
Justice – 51posts
Social Norms – 39 posts
History – 31 posts
Unpopular Opinions – 20 posts
Marketing Communications – 19 posts
Mental Health – 16 posts
Physics – 14 posts
Meaninglessness – 10 posts
Utopia – 10 posts
Network Analysis – 9 posts
Once I had completed this process, I couldn’t help but take a look at something –
I’ve written before about moral networking – a process by which use network analysis to interpret your moral views. This can be a helpful process for self-reflection and a helpful process for deliberation.
But I find myself skeptical of its use as a quantitative, network analysis tool. It’s too…soft. Too driven by gut feelings and what you’re thinking of at a given moment. Combining individual networks into a collective network presents an even greater challenge – what does it mean for two nodes to be the same?
If we use the same word, do we mean the same thing?
David Williamson Shaffer’s work on Epistemic Network Analysis can provide some guidance here. Shaffer argues that the way professionals think can be modeled as a network – being an urban planner doesn’t mean you’ve memorized a set of facts, it means having crafted approaches and ways of thinking which help you address the topics you encounter.
The “scientific method” aren’t just steps you memorize, it’s a way of thinking.
Shaffer carefully constructs models of a professional’s network, then tracks the development of a personal network in a novice training to be a professional.
The key here, is that to develop the networks, Shaffer and his team conduct in-depth interviews with professionals and novices, record training conversations between professionals and novices, and then systematically code all this information.
They look not only for ideas, but specific ways of thinking.
I’d love to try something like that out for moral networking, but, lacking the time and resources to do this properly, I’m left to play with the poor man’s coding in my little sandbox.
I’ve previously played around with using simple word counts as a way to visualize the connections between my blog posts.
That, of course, has many challenges, including, for example, the many meanings of the word “just.”
So, recognizing the imperfection and probable meaninglessness of this next analysis, once I had my posts tagged, I had to map them:
Nodes are sized by the frequency of use, and edges are sized by the number of times linked categories appeared together.
As the chart above indicates, Citizens and Civil Society (shorted above to “Citizens”), was by far the most frequent category, with 108 tagged posts. It also had the highest degree (linked nodes), with 13 connected nodes – out of 14 total for the network. It is also most central to the network, with a betweenness centrality of 0.063.
There are a total of 68 edges.
The network is fairly connected, with an average path length – the distance from one node to any other node – of 1.25. The network diameter is 2 – if Kevin Bacon were one of the nodes, no other node would be more than 2 degrees from Kevin Bacon.
Marketing Communication and Network Analysis both have the fewest connections – each with a degree of 5. However, I wrote 19 post about marketing and only 9 (now 10) on networks.
This is, of course, still a very soft analysis. Still very based off my own biases and gut decisions.
But it’s a fun project for a holiday.