Has this view been repudiated? I remember when the original was posted, but since then, it seems that multiple active WikiGnome
s have gone to the PleasePleaseDoCategorizeEveryPageOnWiki
side, in grand, sweeping gestures.
As someone who originally came down on the side of this page, I feel a sense of loss, because it seems that a few people have started categorizing every page on Wiki, without having resolved this debate.
The thing about wiki is that a minority can do as they please. There are people here who will neither be persuaded by rational argument, nor consider the views of others. This question has not been settled, and the category enthusiasts will categorize every page.
I'm all for wait-and-see. I figure people can categorize to their heart's content now, and if any categories really do decrease the utility of Wiki, we can go back and remove them later. It's easier to decategorize than categorize anyway, so if they really want to spend their time that way... -- JonathanTang
In theory, I agree. But the way Wiki seems to work lately is:
A "mostly silent majority"? Then what makes you think the majority agrees with you? The other side also thinks of themselves as the few folks in the "mostly-silent majority". The truth is, both sides are vocal minorities. If the majority cared one way or the other, it would be obvious.
- One person (or a few people) want to add something, and despite no consensus for it, they start adding it with great gusto
- The majority don't like it and start reverting the additions
- A massive EditWar ensues
- The few start complaining they're getting picked on unfairly, invoking conspiracy theories and a "cabal" mentality on the part of the few folks in the mostly-silent majority that stand up.
- Valued contributors in the majority get fed up and leave
The result is just a big mess. After a few iterations of this, the majority just throw up their hands, and a bad (or at least marginal) idea carries the day.
The categorization question has been discussed to death already, and the result (judging from the several, mostly-redundant pages (like this one) seems to be that a few people think it's absolutely necessary
, but the majority think it's neutral or slightly negative. It seems that some people (especially newcomers) don't have any respect for the Wiki consensus, and feel that because they can
do something, they must
This has something of the flavour of the TalentPump.
My personal hope in starting this page is not to dissuade from categorizing of pages, but to dissuade from believing that every page needs a category. If ever you see a page that fits into a category, please do mark it. Likewise, if you ever think that there should be a category where there isn't one, go ahead and create it. But I think it's a bad idea to shoehorn pages into makeshift categories simply because they don't already have one.
The history of this page
This page was started in 2000, when HelmutLeitner
added categories to about 200-300 pages in the course of one week. He also added about 20 new categories.
Helmut was reading every page in WardsWiki
(about 12000 at the time), and categorizing pages as he went. He added categories of a few kinds:
- Categories describing people, places, or things: CategoryArtist, CategoryScientist.
- Categories describing a topic or domain: CategoryPsychology, CategoryHistory.
- Categories meant for use by VolunteerHousekeepers: CategoryNone, CategoryNoise.
Nobody ever doubted the good nature of Helmut's intentions, but many did take issue with what he was doing, and with the role of categories as an indexing scheme for Wiki.
In addition to the discussion, there were a number of votes taken. A WikiSingleVote
did not result in a significant majority favoring the continuation of category assignment, or stopping for more discussion.
were also taken to see what categories voters thought were most useful. Voters were most likely to approve categories if they were specific (Category
Scientist, but not Category
Insight). Voters also disapproved of housekeeping categories such as Category
Noise or CategoryMisspelled?
It is good to keep in mind that completeness, correctness, and consistency are sometimes the friends of usefullness, and sometimes the enemies of usefulness. With categories, I think they are enemies. -- StanSilver
[inventor of categories] on CategoriesDiscussion
I'm strongly agnostic about it. I doubt if anyone on Wiki knows today what will be useful in future, apart from a few categories already mentioned that definitely won't be. I would prefer that before too much work is lost statements began to be made about the relationship of categories in CategoryCategory
and above all that we're driven in our design by the evidence of real life successes
. -- RichardDrake
Never add a category until you've experienced an actual need for it
Even then, you should carefully examine the existing WikiCategories
to find an appropriate match. The distinctions between categories should be clear and intuitive; otherwise categories in general will become less useful.
If you do find yourself tempted to add a category, ask yourself if it's a category that will be of interest to others. The more uninteresting categories Wiki has, the harder it will be to see the ones that really are interesting. (Certainly categories are unnecessary on deleted, empty, or misspelled pages, so don't use Category
Empty or Category
Similarly, perhaps WikiGnome
s should only categorize pages that are worth reading. Nobody needs a way to find useless information: It finds us by itself all too readily.
Category names should say more about the category than about the page it's on. For example, what's Category
Strategy about? Who wants to see all the pages about "strategy"? What does mean? Categories add value by creating a collection of pages, so the name should make it clear how that collection is defined.
Suggestion: Search for category. Pick a category and reverse search for it. Then decide for yourself if it is pulling its weight or if it should be refactored. -- BenAveling
If you find a category which has few backlinks, don't necessarily take that as meaning it should be removed. You might know that there are many pages which should have that category assigned but which, evidently, don't. What you can then do is go put that category tag on those pages.... although if in that process you discover that they already have a relevant category tag, but just different by name or spelling, then you have now discovered duplication to be refactored.
Must a category be so broad as to be practically useless? It seems that if there are at least a half dozen or so pages categorized under one category name, that sufficient reason for the category exists. It seems to me a category of from 6 to 20 pages is more useful than one which has several dozen to hundreds of categorized inclusions. When looking at a category list, one usually is focused in on the specifics included in the category name. Categories are not intrusive and take little space on a page. When utilized properly it is a far better way to navigate the wiki than RecentChanges
and its relatives. It is important and wiki-like to add meaning to the wiki rather than being passive or subtractive to meaning.
I used to dislike categories intensely. I still do when they are added to what I consider very cool short pages such as WikiPrayer
, not least for aesthetic reasons. I dislike the unstated implication that category bureaucracy and completeness is somehow more important than beauty and brevity. We need to cherish and protect the few examples of brevity we have on Wiki (he says, mounting his soapbox to produce yet another major counterexample). Note also that adding a category today to GkChestertonOnWiki
would cause loss of this "signal": that the little deadpan comment at the end, made in December 1999, was by ... well, I'm probably not allowed to say, given that the person concerned hadn't implemented UserName
for Wiki at that date.
Categories not Wiki-like
I agree. In my opinion, categorizing every page doesn't "feel" Wiki-like. It's not consistent with YouArentGonnaNeedIt, and it's not organic PiecemealGrowth. -- FalkBruegmann
, not sure that works as an argument.
Categories add diversity
Having said all that, one thing that I have gradually begun to appreciate is that the category scheme, although started by one individual and currently being extended by a few dedicated categorical folk, is like everything on Wiki wonderfully multi-user and multi-faceted as it evolves. Topics have fallen by the wayside ... c'est la vie. Three categories on some pages, one on many, none on quite a few ... just enjoy the versatility. Categories that remain PromptingStatements?
... why not? Thanks for those that try, thanks to those who don't, thanks to those that add, improve, remove. This surely is the WikiWay
Edit, Change, or Delete Categories - treat like part of text
Categories by definition should be considered the least authoritative text on a page, the stuff we think less hard before altering than any other. They're not authoritative
because (normally) they've been put there by someone other than the real authors. I say this because they sometimes seem to have this solemn air of finality. They are there to be changed, commented on or joked about. As long as this is the attitude of the WikiCommunity
then I salute Helmut and others for taking so much time and trouble to continue and extend the experiment. -- RichardDrake
I dislike the unstated implication that category bureaucracy and completeness are somehow more important than beauty and brevity.
I dislike the implication that beauty and brevity should take precedence over improving access and use of the 12000+ wiki pages. By the way who (but you) said categories were bureaucratic? Finally what specific
criteria would you suggest the community (systematically) use to assign or not to assign categories? -- DaveSteffe
This discussion was so edifying until the word "you" started showing up in a seemingly snippy way. Then some passer-by had to go and point that out. An edit right in this area would turn a good page back around. I lost interest in it when it was turning personal here.
Don't worry, not all of the 12000+ are beautiful and brief. Maybe 120 are though. Those that aren't may benefit from additional asynchronous, incomplete and inconsistent indexing by multiple Wiki users. Well, strictly speaking the pages won't benefit. I'm willing to believe that future browsers of Wiki may find interesting pages this way. (Do we have specific testimonies on that? Even I'm looking forward to searching Category
Joke.) The bureaucratic
tries to describe my feeling so often when I see these things. It could just be my problem. I don't know how to answer the "systematically" question. I never have and would never expect to.
Wouldn't those that aren't
benefit from the use of a systematic and consistent schema to categorize pages? What harm would come to the beautiful and brief
pages? You have IMHO correctly identified the 'problem', namely asynchronous, incomplete and inconsistent indexing.
It's a problem because some are unwilling. Why are you so against a cataloguing mechanism? -- DS
I don't see asynchronous, incomplete and inconsistent indexing
as a problem but as a statement of fact. A fact of Wiki with perhaps as yet unrevealed but wonderful emergent properties. On with the experiment I say! Don't ask me to referee. -- RichardDrake
Good Alternatives to Badges and Categories
Rather than adding category and topic WikiBadge
s to pages,
I think editing text to transform phrases into Wiki LinkPattern
s is more useful, and leads to a richer HyperText
than a few menu items at the top or bottom of the page. Many pages have been written about things that now have pages about them, and it is easy to add these kind of links by either compacting phrases into capitalized compound words, or by changing the wording slightly to create a Wiki link without changing the meaning. -- NatPryce
That doesn't really work for categorizing. How do you get an index of indexes? [er, Category
Category, anyone?] It comes down to this: if I want to find all the behavioral patterns on Wiki, someone would either have to (a) maintain a static listing page
that would need updating each time a new pattern was added
or (b) simply reference the Category
Patterns page. I think it's pretty clear which is a more elegant solution. The second is dynamic while the first creates an factorially increasing maintenance nightmare. Consider PatternForms
- if I create a new pattern-style page I *also* need to update this page. With topics and or categories (who cares) all I need to do is reference Category
Form at the bottom of the page. Personally, I'm in favor of having as much on Wiki indexed as is possible - just as long as what is being indexed (i.e. referencing an indexing
page) contains generally useful information. -- RobertDiFalco
Statements. A humble suggestion to consider page names such as CategorizationDiscussion?
. This page's awkward name reminds me of the IRC practice of changing one's name to make statements when one has been blocked from discussion.
Arguments for the elegance of cleaner, shorter pages are much more credible when accompanied with cleaner page names. ;-)
: perhaps this page and its sister PleasePleaseDoCategorizeEveryPageOnWiki
should be moved to CategoriesDiscussion
It would require the HintTaker to fix the scores of pages where it is linked by substituting with appropriate verbage or linkages in addition to refactoring the CategoriesDiscussion page. The Don'ts link to 38 pages and the Do's link to 9 more, as well as the 3 other pages. That's a total of 50 pages. Any volunteers?
To get an impression about what is going on:
- look into well established categories (CategoryHomePage, CategoryAuthor, CategoryBook, CategoryQuote, ...) and look for an overrepesentation of "A..."- entries.
- look into formerly existing, but little used categories (CategoryCompany, CategoryPerson, CategoryJargon, CategoryExternalLink?, ...) that now slowly develop.
- look into new categories like CategorySoftwareTool, CategoryArtist, CategoryScientist, CategoryMagazine, CategoryWorldView, CategoryCommunication, CategoryPsychology, CategoryStory, CategoryJoke, ... that also develop slowly.
- there is also the mixed group of software related categories I care for: CategoryMethodology, CategorySoftwareDesign, CategoryTesting, CategoryDebugging, CategoryOptimization, CategoryMaintenance...
Generally I look at the Wiki empirically. I look at hundreds of pages and try to find a common denominator in the form of a category (if there isn't already one fitting).
Roadmaps, Searches as alternatives to Categories
Instead of making more categories, why not make more RoadMaps
? I find them more useful, and I bet newcomers do, too. -- RalphJohnson
Yes, categories help users in their search for information. Their real importance is as a tool for those who build and maintain roadmaps. There is no sense in seeing categories and roadmaps as alternatives; they are parts of a system that have to go together. -- HelmutLeitner
After a while (perhaps after 10-15%, now: about 3-4%) of categorizing, I would write another roadmap, perhaps Category
to ease the access and to show the internal, multi-layered structure of the Wiki. Any number of such RoadMaps
could and should exist side by side.
I see my work only as a first step. It should at least
- answer the question "what is in the Wiki empirically?" and
- make the whole content accessible
I hope that others will follow and work more towards the content.
Adding a level of order
First, the answer to the question, "What is in Wiki, empirically speaking?" is
only the page database (see WikiList), technically speaking. So what are you really after?
Second, you shouldn't want the whole content accessible. You should really just want the actually interesting bits accessible.
Everything is accessible from WikiList
anyway. I just wanted to introduce one level of order and I didn't want to decide what's interesting. I just wanted to donate a few hundred hours of work to this Wiki, but this offer was turned down. I'm a bit disappointed. I will read the whole Wiki, but no one else will have any advantage from this. It's a waste, but not my problem. -- hl
Wiki is not a governed entity. This vote thing is a good mechanism for collecting public opinion, but take it as advice, not as the rule of law. Stuff happens on Wiki because somebody tries it and other people talk about what they think of it. Sometimes people are persuaded to change their actions, sometimes not. On rare occasions people struggle with each other by changing a thing back and forth between (roughly) two states. We work things out with each other rather than giving and taking instructions (even though that's what it sounds like sometimes). Wiki runs on consent and consensus, not democracy.
By the way, I think that, on balance, you've done much more good than harm (if, indeed any real harm has been done at all). You took a large task onto yourself in order to benefit us all and I think that is to be commended. -- PhilGoodwin
Categories should help find stuff
The big Category
Joke on this is: last week I asked for testimonies from people who had found specific categories useful for finding interesting pages
. This I thought was the whole point of the exercise. What we got instead in SpecificTestimonyOnCategories
was testimony about how we've added categories over the years
. Where is the testimony of the kind "I was crying out for some good advice on my new C++ project and when I searched Wiki's Category
Cpp I found something useful straight away"? It's never happened to me but I kind of assumed it must have happened to somebody
We could perhaps build a rough ranking of existing categories, not according to a seven day vote on the predictions of current RecentChangesJunkie
s but based on years of real experience - the usefulness of categories to past searchers. Might this not help a little in designing and placing the categories of the future? On how much priority to give this kind of activity compared to other forms of refactoring? -- RichardDrake
Nowadays I mostly find stuff with title searches, which happens because I am looking for things I vaguely recall seeing here 2 or 3 years ago.
I would use categories more if they could be used to qualify full text searches. I'm unlikely to want every
page in a given category. -- DaveHarris
It is also unlikely to want every page in a title search. Searches, Categories and RoadMap
s serve their own separate purposes.
Sorry that it took me so long to make this entry, folks, but I have to say the categories here helped me out of a jam a few years ago. I was trying to put together a set of white papers for a client. I remembered reading specific discussions on engineering process and process related matters such as requirements gathering and zero defect process, but I could not recall the specific pages, the authors, nor the words used to express some of these ideas. By searching through the categories I came across pretty much everything I needed to extract in order to bring my points into focus. Without the categories I would have spent a great deal of time hunting for stuff I needed but didn't know how to find. -- MartySchrader
Categories should lead to enlightenment
With all these categories offered up in bulk, then withdrawn as suddenly, I was disappointed that my fave never surfaced, a Category
Zen. Although categorization is un-Zenlike, this could be a dandy category if assigned to all the pages in dire need of refactoring. By reading these pages (all of them) from beginning to end, the student of Wiki is bound to become enlightened. -- WaldenMathews
FYI - Category
Page was the easiest thing to understand and explain when encountered. -- MichaelFinney
Statistics might prove the effectiveness and utilization of categories
Lots of discussion here... I think this wiki would benefit from having a function that presents simple web server statistics on a monthly or weekly basis. We would learn which pages (categories or not) or searches are actually used, and could use this feedback for making, naming, and categorizing pages in ways that improve their usefulness. -- LarsAronsson
It is possible that Ward or one of his lackeys already does this just as experimental data collection. In the mean time, this page is a RefactoringCandidate
that I am somewhat afraid to mess with, being a source of "category noise" me own bad self. -- MartySchrader
Pushing categories had at least these effects:
- it made visible how many people had contributed to WardsWiki (homepage count went from 300 to 2000).
- it showed that some kind of overall refactoring of this wiki was still possible
- it paved the way for the unification of the two categorizing systems (finally done by their inventor StanSilver)
- it practically established the use of CategoryHomePage (now showing 3300+ users)
- it forced Ward to implement RecentEdits (because of 5000+ minor edits)
- it forced Ward to implement page deletion (at the point of 200+ misspelled and categorized pages, aiming at a total of 500-800 garbage pages)
- it forced Ward to implement "find pages of this category" with a nightly copy of the database, instead of scanning the "online" copy. (Category searches were preventing people from editing pages.)
So I think it was well worth the effort. -- HelmutLeitner
Look at WikiTopics
for the other categorizing system Helmut is referring to. -- francis
[I'd say that RecentEdits and page deletion happened entirely independently of categories. -- JeffGrigg]
Would it be so horrible for some pages not have a category? Presumably, these pages are being linked from and to in a relevant manner. Pages without a category may simply be 'unripe'. In other words, the problem isn't a problem. Let us be patient, without ReinventingTheWheel
. -- ToddDerscheid?
The primary argument here isn't against categorizing pages, it's against creating arbitrary categories for pages that don't have an obvious category. The key word is "Every". Few would argue in favor of P
ageOnWiki. It says that while categorizing is often good, some pages don't have a natural category and should be left alone. They can and will be found by links and searches.
I believe that:
- everyone is in favour of some categorization,
- some pages really should be categorized,
- some pages really, really should not be categorized,
- if you can't figure out what category a page should have, don't simply invent one - leave it alone.
It is not a contradiction for a person to agree with PleasePleaseDontCategorizeEveryPageOnWiki
and to add categories to pages.
I am reminded of a quote by MichelFoucault from TheOrderOfThings.
Categories only under this line if at all, unlike PageName