Handling large numbers of categories with subcategories


(Joel Uckelman) #1

How will/should Discourse you deal with a very large number of categories? I see a dozen categories in the category combo box now. If I think about these mapping roughly onto subfora in my existing forum, this is manageable, as we have about the same number of subfora as Discourse has topics.

My mind boggles at how this would work for a site like ConsimWorld, which has a tree of subfora five or six layers deep with thousands of leaves.

Background: ConsimWorld is devoted to the discussion of conflict simulations, i.e., wargames. Each of hundreds of games has its own subforum, many of which contain thousands of posts each. So there’s been a colossal amount of traffic over the years. I would not be surprised if there were a million posts across the whole site. (CSW uses the most shockingly bad forum software I’ve ever seen. Each subforum is a single thread. I don’t mean that the forum is unthreaded, I mean that when you have 2000 posts about a single game, you have a sequence of 2000 posts to page through. Truly awful. Nonetheless, CSW is the best place on the net for this kind of thing, so the spectacular badness of the forum hasn’t killed it yet.)

So, returning to the issue of topics: Here’s an example of one subforum from CSW:

Boardgaming > *INDIVIDUAL GAMES AND GAME  SERIES Discussion > Era: World War II (INDIVIDUAL GAME) > Eastern Front > Ukraine '43 (GMT)

This is the branch for the game Ukraine '43. That would suck to have in a combo box at all (due to its length), let alone having it be there along with a few thousand other items. So, hypothetically, how would/should Discourse handle something of this sort? The existing category system doesn’t look up to it to me. Maybe a tagging system, like StackOverflow has would make more sense in this situation?

(Simon) #2

As far as I understood previous discussions about categories and tagging, categories in Discourse are not meant to be used exactly like subforums in other systems and the problem with tagging is that it does not work that well.

I think the example you give is kind of extreme and does not work well in any kind of forum software. However, when support for hierarchical categories will be added to Discourse (I think this is planned already), it could be used to replicate those deeply nested subforum structures.

For posting a topic in a subcategory you would have to navigate to either that category first or to the parent category and then pick a subcategory from the category list.

(Joel Uckelman) #3

That would be fine with me. This might be the best one can do.

(Simon) #4

I think codinghorror wrote some interesting points about the problems of tagging. Of course there might be communities or systems where tagging works, but my experience with tagging (even in my personal stuff) is that it kind of requires a lot of maintenance and work to be useful. I think the main problem is consistency. Everyone (including myself) has a different idea of how to tag something and will probably invent new tags over time, even though there are already existing tags that could be used.

However, those things really depend on the community. Some people love deeply nested hierarchies and tagging systems, others simply get lost and hate it. I guess the majority of people are of the second type.

(Jeff Atwood) #5

The majority of people are unquestionably the second type. The first type, unfortunately, is all software developers. :smile:

Trees, TreeViews, and UI

(Joel Uckelman) #6

ConsimWorld differs from, say, StackOverflow or Gmail, in that it’s obvious beforehand what categories are salient for users. Since it’s a site devoted to discussion of particular board games, having one category per game is the obvious thing to do. On reflection, I think there’d be little point in letting users devise tags for a concept space like this—what you’d end up with would be multiple variants of the same tag that way. So, I’d hold CSW up as an example of a forum where a tree is the right method of organization.

(Dean Taylor) #7

#Large number of categories handling - Feedback

I’m trying to deal with an issue for a mature ( :older_man: not :bikini:) forum which has:

  • 9 top level categories
  • 49 sub-categories

Each of these are well organised.

We have set permissions to prevent posting new topics in the top level categories.

However for new users / common complains from users
###1. the single drop-down combo box:

  • painful to navigate to the correct category to post with 49 plus items with descriptions - even on desktop browsers.

###2. navigating via the Categories page:

  • troublesome because users click the top level category and then select + New Topic which again leaves users to use the combo box because they can’t post in top level categories.

###3. Category Breadcrumb control

  • Users don’t seem to use the Category Breadcrumb control - “not obvious”
  • When they do they don’t understand they can select a sub-category - or specifically how that relates to creating a new topic.

###4. Hamburger menu categories

  • Users do use this - but it’s again confusing as the top-level category is listed.
  • This list is massive containing 58+ categories.
  • Users have no idea what the numbers are.

#Multi-step category selection in Composer?
I believe when the category / sub-category count hits a critical mass it would be better to have two category selection boxes display.
The first as it is now - but only displaying the top-level categories.
The 2nd displays the sub-categories after a top-level category has been selected.

If the user doesn’t select a sub-category and doesn’t have permission to post in the top-level category - they can’t post - and the composer prompts them to select a sub-category.



(Jeff Atwood) #8

There’s a mockup around here somewhere of two drop-downs in the composer for selecting category / subcategory.

Oh yeah here it is

Probably this should be keyed on how many of these there are. It is often annoying to have the category/subcategories joined when selecting and scrolling through.

(Dean Taylor) #9

The mockup seems reasonable however I would imagine the sub-category selector not appearing (or disabled) until the top-level category had been selected.

However for mobile the issue comes that two lines are perhaps required to ensure there is enough room for the category descriptions to be readable.

I’m kind of one for a full-screen category selector on button click for mobile, anything to streamline the process, making more of the categories and descriptions readable at one-time is of preference.