We’ve just launched a major rewrite of the tagging system. We heard from many of you that minor variations in your tags made it hard to get an accurate view of your spending, and that you wanted us to make that easier.
Since tags run throughout three of the four tabs on the Wesabe site, and since they’re so significant as a tool on the site (relating to summaries and reports, targets, automatic editing and suggested tags, tips, goals, and more), Brad has worked for quite a while to get all of the uses of tags to work much more easily.
Here’s how tags have changed:
- If you enter “Restaurants” as a tag on one transaction, and “restaurants” on the next, we used to consider case differences as two separate tags — now, they’re aggregated into one.
- Likewise, “groceries” and “grocery,” and other plurality differences, are now aggregated together.
- If you use punctuation differently, such as “work-expense”, “work_expense”, and “workexpense”, those are now viewed as the same tag.
- Where you have variations, your tag list and your spending/earning summaries will show the tag format you use the most commonly. You don’t have to use the same capitalization as everyone else — you get to use the variation you like, without losing the benefits of aggregate data (how much people spend on average, connections to tips, etc.).
All of these features are designed to do the same thing: to allow you to _not have to worry_ about the exact wording you used last time, while still getting all the benefits you would get if you were exactly consistent.
We think the great thing about tags is that they let you be loose and informal with your organization, and that this is vastly better than older, more laborious strict-category systems. Up until now, though, there was a ‘penalty’ for being too informal, namely that not all of the data would add up. Now that’s fixed. You shouldn’t have to think like a machine or an accountant in order to get great results from Wesabe’s tags.
We learned a lot from the way Flickr deals with tags — they do a great job of letting you say “Dog” on one photo and “dog” on the next and linking those photos together for you. We decided there were some interesting differences between our sites, though, and we didn’t do exactly what they do. For photographs, ‘dog’ and ‘dogs’ have different meanings — the first is a photo of a single dog, while the second is a group of dogs. For financial transactions, the same isn’t usually true — tagging one transaction as ‘restaurant’ and another as ‘restaurants’ probably means exactly the same thing. Even looser variation matter less — ‘grocery’ and ‘groceries’ should be the same group of spending. Also, we decided to show you the variation you use most commonly in your lists and reports; I believe Flickr shows you the variation you used first.
I’ve long resisted making you add a ‘category’ and then optional ‘tags’ on top, even though it would make our job much easier as programmers. I don’t think it’s your job to do more work so that we have less programming to do; I think it’s exactly the other way around! Likewise, we didn’t want to make you work to be consistent with your tags in order to make your reports come out right; we wanted to do that work for you. As we release some of our other changes to the tagging system, coming up soon, you’ll see a common theme: you get to be human, loose, informal, and inconsistent, and get all the benefits that you would have gotten had you worked much harder, with a much more laborious and rigid category system. That’s what tags are meant to offer, and we’re glad to figure out all the ways they can work better with organizing your money. Let us know whether we got it right, and what else we can improve with tags.