categories, sections, tags

17 Oct 2006 - 6:08pm
8 years ago
5 replies
747 reads
Cwodtke
2004

As some of you know, I've been working with a developer to make a
light-weight CMS/publishing tool. We've focused on magazines and other
small publications, and we've run into an interesting conundrum.

Picture a webzine. You've got your stories, and you've got pages about
writers guidelines, and how to advertise, and all that.

We will have both tagging and categories on any article/story. So far
we've had "stories", which are time based, more or less, and scroll down
the front page, and "pages" that are fixed in time, and are just in the
"about" section. We realized one day they weren't all that different,
and now we are looking at potentially combing them. My partner-in-crime
suggested stories have categories, and pages have sections, and a page
lives only in a single section.

But this raises other questions. Can a story live in a category *and* a
section? Should a page live in multiple sections, one section, or a
combination of sections and categories? Should we really mess with
people's organizational mental models?

Moreover, should pages have comments, just like stories?
Advantages/disadvantages?

Anecdotes, brilliant designs nixed by PM, and theories all welcomed, but
real-life stories tend to trump....

And anything starting with the phrase "the simplest possible" is extra
welcomed...

cheers!

--
Christina Wodtke
Principal Instigator

Magazine :: http://www.boxesandarrows.com
Business :: http://www.publicsquarehq.com
Personal :: http://www.eleganthack.com
Book :: http://www.blueprintsfortheweb.com

cwodtke at eleganthack.com

Comments

18 Oct 2006 - 9:59am
Kim McGalliard
2006

I always told my clients that the 'magic' of a CMS is that it allows you to
separate the content from the display. You use the CMS to create content
modules, then use the publishing process to output those modules into the
display or pages. You can create a heirarchical categorization (a taxonomy,
really) that allows you to categorize content by type (story, about, etc).
The tagging and categorizing can allow you to assign content to a page that
lives within a section that matches the cateogry you give the content.

So, I wouldn't think about having types of content that live in categories
and types that live in pages. Content lives in the CMS as an independent
thing that has metadata (categories, tags). Pages can't really live in
multiple sections, but content can if the metadata says it does.

This is all mainly relevant if you have content that you think will be
re-used across multiple pages/sections. It's also a little more difficult
for content creators to conceptualize, since we all tend to think in pages,
but once they get it, it means a far more flexible system.

On 10/17/06, Christina Wodtke <cwodtke at eleganthack.com> wrote:
>
> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
> material.]
>
> As some of you know, I've been working with a developer to make a
> light-weight CMS/publishing tool. We've focused on magazines and other
> small publications, and we've run into an interesting conundrum.
>
> Picture a webzine. You've got your stories, and you've got pages about
> writers guidelines, and how to advertise, and all that.
>
> We will have both tagging and categories on any article/story. So far
> we've had "stories", which are time based, more or less, and scroll down
> the front page, and "pages" that are fixed in time, and are just in the
> "about" section. We realized one day they weren't all that different,
> and now we are looking at potentially combing them. My partner-in-crime
> suggested stories have categories, and pages have sections, and a page
> lives only in a single section.
>
> But this raises other questions. Can a story live in a category *and* a
> section? Should a page live in multiple sections, one section, or a
> combination of sections and categories? Should we really mess with
> people's organizational mental models?
>
> Moreover, should pages have comments, just like stories?
> Advantages/disadvantages?
>
> Anecdotes, brilliant designs nixed by PM, and theories all welcomed, but
> real-life stories tend to trump....
>
> And anything starting with the phrase "the simplest possible" is extra
> welcomed...
>
> cheers!
>
> --
> Christina Wodtke
> Principal Instigator
>
> Magazine :: http://www.boxesandarrows.com
> Business :: http://www.publicsquarehq.com
> Personal :: http://www.eleganthack.com
> Book :: http://www.blueprintsfortheweb.com
>
> cwodtke at eleganthack.com
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://listguide.ixda.org/
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>

--
Kim McGalliard
kimmcg at gmail.com
646-265-8353

18 Oct 2006 - 1:02pm
Austin Govella
2004

On 10/18/06, Kim McGalliard <kimmcg at gmail.com> wrote:
> Pages can't really live in
> multiple sections

Why not? If content can, why not pages?

--
Austin Govella
Thinking & Making: IA, UX, and IxD
http://thinkingandmaking.com
austin.govella at gmail.com

18 Oct 2006 - 3:03pm
Jeff Howard
2004

Clay Shirky wrote an article a while back that talked about this
problem.

Ontology is Overrated: Categories, Links, and Tags
http://www.shirky.com/writings/ontology_overrated.html

"Today I want to talk about categorization, and I want to convince
you that a lot of what we think we know about categorization is
wrong. In particular, I want to convince you that many of the ways
we're attempting to apply categorization to the electronic world are
actually a bad fit, because we've adopted habits of mind that are
left over from earlier strategies."

// jeff

18 Oct 2006 - 3:48pm
Cwodtke
2004

Yeah, I saw that floating around the first time. It's full of slander,
great ideas, misconceptions and impractical insight.

His article is not real world enough for my needs though. Ordinary
people have a model of how the world works, that is slowly evolved over
time... Shelf space is a metaphor that is easy and readily understood.
Things have location. But as you become more digitally minded, you
realize things have qualities more than location (or rather, location is
just a stand in for a facet of its nature).

I think my answer will lie somewhere in between... content that looks
like it has homes, then as the user's mental model evolves, perhaps they
discover that those bits of content can live many places.

Jeff Howard wrote:
> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted material.]
>
> Clay Shirky wrote an article a while back that talked about this
> problem.
>
> Ontology is Overrated: Categories, Links, and Tags
> http://www.shirky.com/writings/ontology_overrated.html
>
> "Today I want to talk about categorization, and I want to convince
> you that a lot of what we think we know about categorization is
> wrong. In particular, I want to convince you that many of the ways
> we're attempting to apply categorization to the electronic world are
> actually a bad fit, because we've adopted habits of mind that are
> left over from earlier strategies."
>
> // jeff
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://listguide.ixda.org/
> List Help .................. http://listhelp.ixda.org/
> (Un)Subscription Options ... http://subscription-options.ixda.org/
> Announcements List ......... http://subscribe-announce.ixda.org/
> Questions .................. lists at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://ixda.org/
> Resource Library ........... http://resources.ixda.org
>

--
Christina Wodtke
Principal Instigator

Magazine :: http://www.boxesandarrows.com
Business :: http://www.publicsquarehq.com
Personal :: http://www.eleganthack.com
Book :: http://www.blueprintsfortheweb.com

cwodtke at eleganthack.com

18 Oct 2006 - 7:26pm
Christine Boese
2006

When I heard the original question, I thought of Clay Shirky's piece too.

I know, he made a lot of hasty generalizations, etc. etc. It was an
overstatement. But the ideas have germs that make sense.

My basic take on the original question (tags, categories, semantic models)
is that they all are divided by a distinction without a functional
difference.

Someone else wrote about how mental models make a difference, so systems of
categorization do have meaning. I don't dispute that.

I'm sort of going off my memory of Shirky's piece from a few years ago, so
forgive the fogginess (I suppose I could go back and reread it), but I
remember that I basically agreed with his premise, but found most of his
arguments unpersuasive. But I had my own arguments to support the premise,
so I wasn't particularly concerned.

So I'll either be belaboring the obvious here, or waltzing on a thin limb,
so forgive me either way.

I first became a convert to hypertext theory in the early 1990s. What
appealed to me was the idea of nonlinear thinking, non-hierarchical,
associational thinking. Vannevar Bush's Memex machine. Sometimes its a good
idea to return to those first principles. Science is about categories,
taxonomies, nested structures, hierarchies, but Bush, in 1945, as top
science dude for the US (and top UFO dude too, if you believe the stories)
got his head around the concept of how disrupting those hierarchies can
still serve science, can even serve science better, because it is a more
comprehensive mental model or knowledge structure.

Alvin Toffler, too, liked running with this idea, for corporate structures,
flex firms he wanted to be able to make end runs around hierarchies,
gate-keepers, and guarders of turf-cubbyholes. (see the book Power Shift)

So mental models, schematics, tags, categories, a distinction without a
difference? Yes, in the land of hypertext theory. Does that mean that the
sense of the different models just goes away? No. What it means is that they
all exist simultaneously, like overlays over the same structures, like a
site that has many different methods of navigation: bread crumb trails, site
maps, hot words, etc. through the same content.

Y'all, Google gets this. It's the whole idea behind its gmail labeling
system. Apple's original "publish and subscribe" feature from the 1990s got
this (y'all are used to thinking of these things in terms of "aliases," or
even parent/child etc. in code).

Blogs as content management systems completely epitomize this with their
system of permalinks, paired with hypertext theory. This is what a
relational database is. Content lives in one place, has a permanent marker
in that location, and then it can be punted to any mental model or schematic
or category system, section system, "page" system, ANYTHING, as you see fit.
Creative hypertext pushes on this idea further, by unbinding content from
context, so that ultimately it can be juxtaposed in ANY context where it
seems to fit.

Unbound content. That's the idea behind the entire Internet. That's what TV
consultant Terry Heaton goes around telling TV stations to prepare
themselves for, a brave new world of unbound content. And with
tagging/categories, we build the semantics for the Semantic Web. That would
be how the semantics begin to parse themselves, with this uber-tagging
project. And that's how the aggregate system of Vannevar Bush's
associational links would have done it too.

Like subcultures layered beneath the surface of society, all organizational
systems exist simultaneously in the same spaces. Even the notations or
category systems we haven't thought of or added yet.

Sorry if I'm saying really obvious things. It's just stuff I like to sit and
think about.

Chris

On 10/18/06, Jeff Howard <id at howardesign.com> wrote:
>
> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
> material.]
>
> Clay Shirky wrote an article a while back that talked about this
> problem.
>
> Ontology is Overrated: Categories, Links, and Tags
> http://www.shirky.com/writings/ontology_overrated.html
>
> "Today I want to talk about categorization, and I want to convince
> you that a lot of what we think we know about categorization is
> wrong. In particular, I want to convince you that many of the ways
> we're attempting to apply categorization to the electronic world are
> actually a bad fit, because we've adopted habits of mind that are
> left over from earlier strategies."
>
> // jeff
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://listguide.ixda.org/
> List Help .................. http://listhelp.ixda.org/
> (Un)Subscription Options ... http://subscription-options.ixda.org/
> Announcements List ......... http://subscribe-announce.ixda.org/
> Questions .................. lists at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://ixda.org/
> Resource Library ........... http://resources.ixda.org
>

--
christine boese
www.serendipit-e.com

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