Shouldn't you be able to tag with multiple categories?

(Cade Roux) #1

A LOT of forums try to help with a huge volume of users by having an entire hierarchy of forums. The problem with this is that things SPAN categories. I’m thinking of HEAVILY trafficked forums like XDA Developers. They have sections for each phone and then even sections for the vendor-specific model. Seems to me if you wanted to be a successful forum replacement, you’d have to target the most successful forums (e.g. XDA Developers) and review their actual usage of features and determine how to solve those same problems they are solving, but in a better way.

This is where I think allowing multiple categories (a la SO tags) would be a better solution to the extensive hierarchy of sub forums which a lot of big popular forums tend to use to help users find things and track things.

Adding a Second Topic Tag as a MetaTag
Why can't a topic be placed into multiple categories?
Paid gig: plugins and a theme
Looks good so far but need tags to subset the categories
Should you be able to create subcategories with the same name as ones under another category?
How should subcategory show its parent category?
Query about Discourse features
Forum categories as social isolation, not as information organization
(Peter Stoinov) #2

I think category imply single option. This is something that comes naturally in the current state of the internet.
Tagging on the other hand is inherently used with multiple items.
So I guess it would be better to add plugin, or even implement in the core, tagging field which could have the functionality of SO. If this option is enabled though, categorization could become optional because it will just be a separate tag in the grand scheme of things.
Or better yet - just add option to enable or disable multiple items in category field and if it’s enabled rename it to tags :smile:

(Cade Roux) #3

I understand. I think multiple tags is a must for breaking into the “large” forum domain. There is NO way the current flat categories system would handle the forum at (just too many categories and category groups) or xda developers (very dense tree because of the huge range of hardware models and anal-retentive topic structure which has a LOT of overlap and trad BBSes don’t handle well).

The multiple tags system would be a better way to solve the dense hierarchy of overlapping topics than the ridiculous hierarchy at sites like xda developers.

(Jeff Atwood) #4

Out-of-box, we want to offer 1 more level of sub-categorization, and hope that’s enough for the vast, vast majority of human discussion.

A relevant anecdote:

We were very proud of our user interface and the fact that we had a way to browse 16,000 (!!) pages of documentation on a CD-ROM. But browsing the hierarchy felt a little complicated to us. So we asked Tufte to come in and have a look, and were hoping perhaps for a pat on the head or some free advice.

He played with our AnswerBook for about 90 seconds, turned around, and pronounced his review:

“Dr Spock’s Baby Care is a best-selling owner’s manual for the most complicated ‘product’ imaginable – and it only has two levels of headings. You people have 8 levels of hierarchy and I haven’t even stopped counting yet. No wonder you think it’s complicated.”

However we were having a tough time coming up with a natural way to implement and display sub-categories so we dropped it for launch.

Would love to hear ideas, but to be clear, only for 1 more level of sub-categories. Anything deeper than that, would need to be a plugin.

Why can't a topic be placed into multiple categories?
Tags or items associated to topics
(Cade Roux) #5

I would prefer no levels at all. If you want to have categories, that is fine. I think tags is a better model for some forums. It would certainly work a LOT better at XDA developers.

If you are aiming to revolutionize forums, then you have to look at some of the biggest forums and how they handle problems and the ways they chose to do it.

The purpose of the hierarchy is to keep people on topic and help people find things within a topic. That IS NOT necessary if you tag things according to their topic.

The SO tag model works. Why would it not work for “forums”?

(Cade Roux) #6

And when I say successful forums, I mean by user interaction, not actually being successful at being good forums.

(Logic) #7

I second the tags idea! It is simpler than a hierarchy and far more useful than a single category.

(Cade Roux) #8

Some sites might be fine with a single category. Some might be good with a hierarchy (most of the BB-style ones have like one level category groups). But still others would be better off with tags.

I think the use of extensive hierarchies is a mistake.

(Jeff Atwood) #9

I don’t think that hierarchy is a mistake.

I think that hierarchy deeper than two levels is almost always a mistake!

(Peter Stoinov) #10

In my opinion if you need more than two levels you should consider tagging. Also categorizing is OK primarily when topics are diverse and do not have (lots) of overlapping. If you start wondering which category should a post be you once again need to consider tagging.
For instance in an art forum what should you choose as a category for a musical? Should it be theatre or music? the conversation could easily swing between both categories without being specifically only in one of them.
On the other hand in home improvements you can almost never discuss bedroom decorations when addressing your garage (if you do maybe you have bigger problems than choosing the correct topic).

So both have their place and time and it will be best if the admins could choose either out of the box or through a plugin.

(Aaron Levin) #11

My opinion: users should not be subjected to the internals of how information is organized. They need tools to find topics of interest quickly, as well as getting information regarding the board at a high level fast. Hierarchies usually satisfy the latter (Oh, look, there’s a sub-forum for rare record trading, how quaint), but they’re not the only option.

Stack Overflow seems to have hierarchies at a subdomain level, but otherwise I can’t think of any. Despite the lack of Hierarchies, I have never had a hard time finding questions/posts/what-have-you of need.

tl;dr - hierarchies are not needed. Good UI is.

(Cade Roux) #12

For a home DIY site, even with a heavy traffic, I expect you would be better off with just tags and no categories. Most DIY is very similar and the stuff which is very different will just have rarer tags - it’s certainly not going to merit a whole category.

For an auto site, I might expect categories for different makes, but not models and heavy use of tagging for cross-model issues like tires and things.

(Cade Roux) #13

This is my point, SO doesn’t use categories, and the way tagging works there has proven to be very valuable. Why have we abandoned tagging and brought in categories?

(Aaron Levin) #14

I think we’re on the same page. Discourse is just lacking in tags.


  • Single-Level Categories. This will allow administrators to organize the forum thematically within their own control. Self-defined, thematic organization is important. Intricate taxonomy is not.
  • Tags
  • Search / tag functionality similar to SO.

Proposal for a (hash) tagging feature
(AstonJ) #15

What he said^^

Single categories and tags.

(Aaron Levin) #16

My first reaction was:


After thinking about SO:


(Kiss György) #17

I’m missing tagging too. I think it is simple, effective way of organizing topics. When there is tagging, the userbase doesn’t need to pay attention how they organize information and doesn’t need to read a lot of rules before posting anything. Just tags the topic and done !

(Martin Brochhaus) #18

fine, two levels sounds great but still- let us apply more than one label to a topic. Just like gmail does.

(Clodoaldo Pinto Neto) #19

The purpose of the hierarchy is to keep people on topic and help people find things within a topic. That IS NOT necessary if you tag things according to their topic.

Although I’m all for the tag in instead of the category hierarchy my reason is different. As a user of SO I use the tags to keep track of the subjects I have interest in and filter out the noise. Say track postgresql but take out ruby and pgadmin. It is possible to create any combination and that would be impossible with a hierarchy.

But to find things it is much more productive to just Google using the search terms followed by

(Grandy Peace) #20

Jeff, are you thinking of sub-categories as sort of category-determined tags (so that you needn’t worry about the CRPG sub-category showing up under a “Gardening” category, but a topic could be Category Gaming, then tagged as “CRPG” and “Turn Based”), or is this just one more category distinction, like Gaming -> RPG?