Categories vs. tags

Are there any articles or such on helping one build a new Discourse system around categories vs. tags? I’m sure I read somewhere that Discourse was initially designed around a very flat structure using tags to categorise topics. I can see where this thinking was coming from as tree structure categories can become a nightmare and put off new/casual users. However, I’m glad they were introduced if not for reason of allowing private categories.

My view though is that one should really try and keep the number of categories to as few as possible. Problem with CAMRA (the new Discourse system) is that there is a real tendency in the organisation to categorise everything into minute detail! Don’t get them started on the definition of craft beer :wink:

For example, they said “We need categories for every computer system we have”. There are at least 20 of these. I said "No, that’s unmanageable - keep it simple with something like “CAMRA systems with sub-categories of just support, development and implementation (users, users interested in new features and software developers”. Then get people to tag the question.

So I’m looking for counter arguments to category madness!

Later… I notice that tags are often disabled in this very forum??



To start


Thanks for that - I’ll move the discussion over there if it’s not too late to re-open that thread. Shows how important search is - the link supplied didn’t work, neither did the search on Vanilla (good site BTW) so here it is for reference:


I tried adding a bunch of categories via the api before finding this topic. Loading a .csv of tags and groups is an easy way to manage. I’m a little worried topics will not be properly tags by users because of the volume of tags, but I’m eager to test that theory.


Here’s my proposal for using tags to create a fluid evolving navigation structure after our users constant complaints that they found the stock one confusing.

I’m trying to get some support behind the idea.


Link is broken. Looking for current views on use of tags vs categories for new forum. (confused by title of broken link since the quote seems to suggest a judicious use of categories, which is they way I was heading).


Ah yes thank you for the reminder! I have edited that post to link to the authoritative blog entry.


I’m trying to understand categories vs tags. I realize I’m almost 2 years late to this conversation, but is there a current view on use of tags vs categories available?

I’m experiencing the same difficulty that Mr. McEwan was going through. Eek!


The blog post linked above is still the best resource


@codinghorror thank you! I’ll head over there now to check it out. I appreciate you!!


From experience the greatest benefit of Categories is the permissions, and the fact it forces the user to apply at least one “Tag” to the Topic(i.e. the Category). In most communities this isn’t useful, as most communities are built around one single thing – e.g. Rust Community. But when you have a large user base, who you know will have distinctly different interests, the Categories can help you govern those interests, and provide them on demand.

For our Community I implemented the following with Categories and Groups so the user can select their content/feed:

  1. Every Category is clearly distinct
  2. Every Category has two Groups attached to it
    a. Category Moderators
    b. Category Members
  3. A Category can only be seen by Members or Moderators
  4. If you are not a Member or Moderator, you can view the Members Group in the Groups page, and submit a request to join.

This means that if I search the Groups, I can Join a group to gain access to that Category. If I am not a member of that Group, I don’t see the information from that category at all.