Thursday, January 27, 2011

The no-tag tag

I recently ran across a blog with a tag I don't think I'd seen before: "No particular tag"

What's the point?  Well, for one thing it gives you an easy way to bring up all the posts that don't have any other tag, and which otherwise couldn't be reached at all through the tag list.

This distinction between nothing and a label for nothing comes up again and again: The empty set vs. no set at all; a null value vs. an empty string or other collection; Odysseus getting Polyphemus to say that "Noman" was attacking him ...

It's a double-edged sword.  It's certainly useful, probably even necessary, to have a something-that-stands-for-nothing, but it can also cause no end of confusion.  Any number of bugs come down to losing track of the distinction between no value and an empty value.

It's a neat idea, adding a tag for no tag, but I'm not sure how much demand there is for it.  If there were much, I'd expect to see more of it.  But perhaps I should leave the definitive statement to the experts:
Everybody knows that more wars have been won with a shovel than a sword. Give a man a hole and what does he have? Nothing, but give a man a shovel and he can dig a hole to contain the nothing.

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