Levelling Up Our Tagging Game

An unresolved problem here on community.lsst.org is how to make tags useful.

A useful tagging system should have a relatively small, controlled set of tags. Tags are best when they’re grouping posts that might be hard to otherwise group or organically search for. Tags aren’t useful when they’re only a proxy for highly technical nouns. It’s far easier to just search for those types of words.

The problem with Discourse’s implementation of tags is that you can’t pre-formulate a controlled tag vocabulary. Tags can only be created in conjunction with the existence of a topic using that tag. As a stop gap, I’ve allowed anyone to create a new tag in conjunction with that post. The assumption was that I could later go back and re-organize these organic tags into a consistent, useable set.

I’m realizing that this model will actually fail. Anytime I, as a moderator, edit tags on a post, the entire topic is considered ‘edited,’ thus bumping it back up on people’s feeds. This discourages me from addressing tags because I don’t want to create artificial topic list churn.

My proposal, which I’d like feedback on, is that we

  1. Turn off permissions for regular users to create new tags for their topics,
  2. Create a wiki post containing the canonical list of tags
  3. When a topic appears that could use a new tag, a moderator (such as myself) will add a tag from the canonical list to the topic. If the tag has already been used previously, of course, the ‘regular’ user is free to use that tag normally.

Is this a good model to overcome the technical limitations of the tagging plugin? If there is support, I (or anyone else) can create the canonical Tag List wiki topic and begin designing the tag system.

Of course, people should be able to suggest new tags as wiki edits or comments on the canonical tag list post.

Gregory and I are still of the mind that categories are important for segregating sub-communities to make people feel comfortable that they’re not spamming the world. (And I’ve already created a couple in that direction, although this topic is a more extensive discussion of the possibilities.) Tags should not try to substitute for nor be redundant with a useful category hierarchy.

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That’s absolutely the point.

Okay, I need to think more about this. I do believe you’re right, but I also believe that done wrong it could harm the usability of the site.