How to: use tags | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

How to: use tags

If you're already used to tagging information on the web, skip down to see how to add and then use them at If you're new to tags, what's the big deal?

Think of trying to use a 30,000-page reference book that didn't have any index...

This website is a bit like that – over 30,000 different photos / places / articles / forum posts, but no index!

Then Tags provide the index.

An example:

Let's say you've been looking at this photo of an old Hong Kong tram, and you'd like to see if there are any more. In a book you'd go to the index to see what other pages are listed under the word 'tram'. Here you can see the tag 'tram', in blue below the photo. Click it, and you'll see a list of all the pages on the site that have the tag 'tram'.

So another way to think of tags is that they act as links to join together related information, making it easier for other readers to find it.


A tag describes the item you are adding, and links it to other, similar items. So for photos of trams, 'tram' is an obvious tag. It's also worth pointing out that tags are optional – if you can't think of anything to tag it with, you can leave it blank.

How to add a tag.

When you add a new image, place, forum post, etc, one of the boxes you can fill in is marked Tags:. You simply type one or more tags in there. If you want to add multiple tags, remember to separate them with a comma.

Using Tags.

Tags are listed under each item (photo, forum post, article, etc). Just click the tag to see a list of all items with that tag.

Best practices for choosing tags

  • Keep them short. One or two words is usually enough.
    A common mistake is to use a long, descriptive sentence for the tag. Eg in the tram photo above, to use a tag like 'tram in causeway bay'. But tags are only useful when there are more than one item with the same tag. The chances of getting another item with the tag 'tram in causeway bay' are almost zero, so the tag is useless.

  • Let the website suggest a tag, to avoid duplicates.
    Duplicate tags (tags with different spelling, but the same meaning) are bad too. Eg if there are three photos of trams, one tagged tram, one Tram, and one trams, none are linked to each other. The trick is to type a few characters, eg tra, into the box, see what suggestions are shown. Then click the one you need. (NB You're not limited to existing tags though. If there isn't a relevant tag in the suggestions, go ahead and type your new tag. And if you want to be extra-thorough in checking, you can use the 'List of tags' page to see if any relevant tags already exist.)

  • Don't use them for places.
    If you want to note the location of an item, use a Place instead. But if you want to identify a type of place, tags are ideal. So 'police station' is a good tag, but 'Mong Kok Police Station' would be better described by using a place.


Different ways to display tagged information.

We've already seen that clicking a tag shows a list of related items.

You can also use the place map to show all places that have a certain tag.

Eg Let's look for all places that are linked to Martin Booth's 'Golden Boy' book. Go to the Map of Hong Kong Places. In the Tags box, type gold, then click on the suggested golden boy. Click the 'Apply' button, and the map updates to show every place that is tagged with golden boy.

If you were only interested in places mentioned in chapter 3 of the book, go back to the Tags box, add a comma and then type chapt. Choose chapter 3 from the suggestions, and the Tags box should now show golden boy, chapter 3. Click 'Apply' again, and the map updates to just show places that were tagged with golden boy and chapter 3.

Note that the URL of the page updates to show the selected tags, so you can forward the URL to another person if you want them to see the same map.

Tell people what tags you are using

In the Golden Boy project, we all agreed on a set of tags we would use, so that later we could search on those tags to see all the information different people had added.

So if you are adding some new information, and hope that others will add other, related information, it's good to let everyone know the tags you are using.

eg, If you have any old photos of Hong Kong's trams you would like to share, please upload your photo, and give it the tag tram.


If you're adding a scan of a map, please give it the tag map, to make it easier to find again in future. Here's what we have so far that is tagged with map.


Two questions: 1) when uploading a photo and trying to add a "Place" I have found that the photo is rejected unless I select a Place that is already on the list and with the exact wording and punctuation. Am I omitting a step? Does the Place have to exist on the site already?

2) Is it possible to add tags/links to photos previously uploaded through the Edit menu? I could probably do some tidying up of titling to help with cross-referencing if this were the case.

Best wishes,


Hi Jill,

1) Yes, the Place must exist before you can add it to the photo. Here are some tips about using Places with photos:

2) You can use the Edit menu to go back and add tags and Places to existing photos. (Note that only the person who uploaded the photo has access to the Edit menu.)

Regards, David

I see that a recently posted photo (and one older one) have "Cathy Pacific" both in the title and as the tag. Is it possible to correct these typos?

To correct the tags you need to be the person who created the page, or the Admin user. I've just corrected them.