So, do tags *really* improve discussions?
I am working at an implementation of the tag-based discussions idea (although not based on bbPress) and would simply like to ask to this community (which, like me is seeing the idea in action):
Do tags *really* improve online discussions (are tags *a lot* better than categories)?
The words “tag” and “category” are merely different specifications of a generalised mechanism for grouping posts. In some implementations grouping is user editable, in others it’s purely an administrator task. The former is often described as tagging, the latter categorizing. It’s most common too for tags to be flat, but categories to be hierarchical, but again this is more of a result of the reason for the implementation.
My opinion is that both tagging and categorisation are the same thing – they’re just examples of grouping, with different control mechanisms.
Grouping facilitates what psychologists call chunking (the formation of memory structures for perception and meaning), so yes, there really is a definite measurable benefit to tags and categories. The interesting bit is how you measure the benefit and separate it from the other factors such as how page layout can make the tags more or less comprehensible.
Currently in bbPress “forums” provide a single level of grouping (akin to simple categories) and tags provide unstructured flat grouping, though I’ve suggested in another thread that there may be an alternative solution which combines both for increased flexibility/benefit.
ear1grey, thanks for the reply and the insights which I enjoyed reading.
I also think that they are the same thing at the user level and that the interface is a key issue.
However, ignoring for a moment the user’s point of view and giving a closer look at how the discussion space is affected by tags and categories could be interesting.
What I am wondering is whether tags can be the enabling detail for a *superior* discussion space. In other words, whether tags applied to discussions are merely yet another “feature” or the starting point for something completely new.
In what way it could be superior. I am not sure.
Theoretically, the space architecture would be dynamically determined by the conversation actually going on (as opposed to the conversation being determined by an imposed and static architecture).
Given enough mass, maybe tags could also make niche discussions possible?
In my mind, tags enable the discussion to a much larger scale and is best employed when the number of topics is extremely large (such as this forum or wordpress.org support). It allows people to group topics by the things that are important to them but still in a predefined category (or forum). While they may be talking about quite a few things (that would be picked up in a search), tags allow the users to define what was important to them. A ‘Coles Notes’ of their topic…so to speak.
I have had some great discussions on the benefits and cons of tags with my wife (as she prefers just categories) and I like the scalability of tags. Either way, with both employed we all win. It is a matter of opinion!
tags can help sort of visualize related terms.. to best explain go to this website and search for something
you will see the results of that keyword and also other keywords that are on the results. mario like you said, may be its important to pay attention to the visual representation and how it could be leveraged.
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