The Pointlessness of Category Archives

By Deane Barker on July 17, 2005

What do you do with category archives when you get too many posts? That’s what I can’t quite figure out what to do with this site.

We have over 4,000 posts. This means that I have categories with 500 entries or more. This is way too many entries to list on a page, both for server overhead issues and practical issues – who is going to scroll through all those entries? No one.

I thought about paging them (“Entries 1 – 20 of 526 displayed.”), but what’s the point of that? Again, is anyone actually going to sit and page through them all? I doubt it. (Besides, paging is virtually impossible with Movable Type. There’s a plugin, but I just wrote a simple PHP class to do it. It works well, but I guess lost interest when I contemplated the pointlessness of it all.)

In a larger sense, how do you “uncover” all those posts that get buried by the sands of blog time? New posts cover up the old ones, and it just goes on and on.

The only way to make sure that categories are a managable size is to have a lot of them. And since categorization is so painful in Movable Type (and in general – no one likes to categorize), I think keywords are the answer. Add a keyword, and you make an instant category.

For now, I’ve capped the category archives at 20 entries each. Some of them were hundreds of kilobytes of HTML, which was helping no one and just insuring that search engines weren’t indexing them.


Comments (4)

Mike says:

Funny...I was just contemplating this same issue on my site as well. I was just thinking of getting rid of categories all together and just letting people search via keywords / tags.

Paul says:

Have you considered Category Archive pages with just the Title of the Posts?

I found this to be a much cleaner approach than reposting the entire post.

Anil says:

Have you tried using the Tags plugin to assign categories in MT? It uses the keyword field for tags to automatically create a category archive. We’ve also (finally!) fixed the multiple-category assignment in MT 3.2. That should help solve a lot of these issues.

MEL says:

I’ve found that it’s useful to have both categories and tags. I treat categories like the “table of contents” of a book, keeping them very general. Tags are like the book’s index. But you need to be able to thread all your posts by tag, and see which tags are related. I’ve done up a recipe on Learning Movable Type, and more thoughts on my own blog. Hope that’s useful.