How to: use tags

Submitted by David on Wed, 02/11/2009 - 13:45

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 50,000-page reference book that didn't have any index...

This website is a bit like that – over 50,000 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 other photos on Gwulo that have the tag 'tram'.

So another way to think of tags is that they give users a 'Show me more like this' feature.


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 adding tags

  1. 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.
    If you find yourself writing a long tag, it is probably better added as a comment instead.

  2. 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 'Tags' page to see if any relevant tags already exist.)

  3. Don't use them for places or people.

    If you want to note the location of a photo, 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 adding a SHOWS PLACE connection from the photo to the Place (see the FAQ: How to connect a Place and a Photo).


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