Why can't a topic be placed into multiple categories?


(FinalZero17) #1

Part of the problem with existing board software is that they force a rigid tree hierarchy, which sometimes makes it difficult to know which sub-board/category to place a topic into, especially as the board gets larger. But, Web 2.0 already solved this problem with tags/labels. If we think about this in terms of categories, it basically means to let a topic be placed into multiple categories. Jeff already pointed this out here, so why does Discourse force one to choose only a single category then?


MOSS Roadmap - Mailing lists
#2

Probably just haven’t gotten around to it yet.


(Jason) #3

They would like to add a way to have a second category or tag and are looking for ideas on how to do it.

See this thread: Shouldn't you be able to tag with multiple categories?


(Chris Leong) #4

That’s sub-categories they were talking about not multiple categories


(Jason) #5

It answers the question of how @codinghorror wants to approach this issue though. So most likely no to multiple categories and instead a sub category or tag of some sort is the impression I got. Though of course if one of you has a good idea on how it should work that is what he is currently looking for so you may be able to influence how it will work.


(Peter Stoinov) #6

There is already discussion about it that shed some light on it


(FinalZero17) #7

So most likely no to multiple categories and instead a sub category or tag of some sort is the impression I got.

I don’t understand why Jeff has suddenly forgotten why he disliked hierarchy, even if it’s just 2 levels of it. Would Stack Overflow work if you could assign only one tag per topic? I suppose you could consider SO a category already, since it accepts only certain kinds of questions relating to programming/algorithms/data-structures/etc, but most sites already narrow their range like that, to running/legos/water-guns/etc.

Though of course if one of you has a good idea on how it should work that is what he is currently looking for so you may be able to influence how it will work.

I don’t understand what makes multiple categories/tags difficult to implement, at neither the database level nor the interface level.

For the interface, you would have to give more width to the category column on the main page, and maybe have a tooltip that lists all the tags show up when you hover over a cell. The search could let you search for topics matching multiple tags too, in an AND-wise fashion. You could limit the number of tags to apply. (As long as it’s not 1 or 2!); I think SO’s limit of 5 works well.

I spot a problem already though; There will surely be users who are too lazy to choose any category/tag at all, and whose post will probably consist of only “Help, I can’t get X to work.”. Perhaps it would be wise to force users to choose at least one category/tag, even if it is just “Other”.

But still, people may forget a category/tag that a topic really should belong too, so perhaps it would also be wise to let any user other than the original poster (not just a moderator) add/remove what categories/tags a topic belongs to, like SO. Griefers should be banned, of course.


(Peter Stoinov) #8

We are all looking at one angle at this case - we want the topics (the information) to be organized and categorized. Something that @codinghorror and @sam already did at SE.
But there are lots of forums, maybe even the majority, that are not only OK with single level hierarchy/one category per topic, and they are happy about it! People just want to enjoy conversation with some like-minded people. They do not want to be bothered with tags and hierarchies and sub-levels.
What they do is go to a given category, and share some thoughts or feelings or pictures in some thread. And they expect the same from the other. That, for me, is the reason why for the last decade, there was no major shift in the forum software - the need was not there. There was no critical mass to make the change urgent.
But now, after web 2.0, there is such need. The information is being generated at uncontrollable speed and unimaginable quantities and without proper storing, it’s becoming lost or in the best case - hard to find.

But there will always be more communities that just want to share experience and thoughts for the sake of sharing. And I don’t see them becoming minority in the near future. So let’s first make a software that works flawlessly for them, and afterwards we could upgrade it with plugins for cases we can’t even imagine at the moment :wink:


(exocortexcom) #9

Just a quick post as I am setting up Discourse for our company’s forums ( http://discuss.exocortex.com ). I am finding that it would be really nice to have posts that can land in two or more categories at once. For example our announcements would be relevant usually to additional product specific categories. Also our user gallery posts would be relevant to specific products as well. Thus cross posts would be highly beneficial.

There seems to be a lot of discussion on here about the pros and cons of multiple categories – it sometimes seems like an either/or discussion.

Why not just make multiple-categories an optional feature of Discourse so that smaller forums like ours could use it (because we would really benefit) and it could be disabled on other forums who do not want to allow it?

I thought initially that Discourse was a flat, tagged forum, but it isn’t, and that is currently a bit of a disappointment – it was actually what I thought was a main selling point of Discourse, but obviously I misunderstood initially. I would hope it can improve in this area.


(Jeff Atwood) #10

There is an official tag plugin we support for this now. Categories are more strict, rigid categorization and tags adds a layer of more flexible grouping on top of that.


(Jeff Atwood) #11