metafilter >> hodgepodge October 1, 2007 8:14 AM   Subscribe

Why aren't there categories in MeFi? AskMe has categories. MeTa has categories. Why not the blue?
posted by desjardins to Feature Requests at 8:14 AM (46 comments total)

Because unlike the "help me with this problem" range of questions which sort of break down into a fairly-decent taxonomy, MeFi posts are all over the map -- even if they do show up in some broad categories frequently -- and there wasn't much of a purpose served in trying to wedge them into anything. MeFi and AskMe serve different purposes and categories are useful in one of those and not the other.

There is a counterargument that you could use categories inMeFi to more easily highlight (or purge) posts you wanted to accentuate (or ignore) and I think mathowie has said in the past that he's not that interested in making more spin-off sites and having category sections like that might be going that direction. That's just my hunch, I don't know what his impetus was for not creating categories originally except that in 1999 I don't think they were as prevalent as they are now.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:19 AM on October 1, 2007


We have tags on the Blue. It's social, amorphous and user-defined categories.
posted by klangklangston at 8:26 AM on October 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


Huh, I respectfully disagree. I don't see the point of categories in AskMe at all. Do people really only read questions from particular categories?

I think the benefit of categories in MeFi would be an adjunct to the tagging system. Tags aren't consistent, so the 154 Radiohead posts out there might not all have the "music" tag, but they would obviously go into a "music" category if one existed, thus making them easier to find all the posts related to music than if you were only able to search by tag.
posted by desjardins at 8:30 AM on October 1, 2007


Further on what jess just said:

One of the subtle problems that comes with the introduction of categories is the introduction of a mroe explicit emphasis on the imbalance distribution of posts across those categories. We've seen that argument a few times in AskMeā€”even had it argued that there should be a subsite or special treatment for e.g. tech questions because there are so many of them proportionally. I'd be kind of concerned about seeing that same sort of essentially invented issue coming up with the blue as well.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:32 AM on October 1, 2007


I do understand the point of categories in MeTa - I assume it's more for the admins, like "HEY THERE'S A BUG" vs. "let's have a meetup."
posted by desjardins at 8:33 AM on October 1, 2007


cortex - then what is the point of categories in AskMe?
posted by desjardins at 8:34 AM on October 1, 2007


Other general interest sites use categories so it is certainly possible. Categories could be the logical first step to allowing user screening of the site. "Show me posts categorized under history, culture, and technology, do not show me posts categorized as news or politics." This idea sparks considerable controversy here. I'm for it.
posted by LarryC at 8:35 AM on October 1, 2007


desjardins, to some extent the answer comes down to "ask Matt", but as I see it the strong-typing of categories is a little more useful in AskMe because the ability to contribute answers to threads may actually correlate pretty strongly to those category types, so someone looking to do some reading-and-answering would be able to use those helpfully to increase the actual utility of the green.

With the blue, there's no direct need like that: commentary doesn't need to be useful in the same sense.

Of course, with the advent of tags and things like yahoo pipes and such, the category functionality may have a bit less sparkle to it, but so it goes: I'm not sure there's a strong argument for categories being added to mefi, even if the existence or not of categories on one subsite or the other isn't exactly the stuff of prophecy.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:42 AM on October 1, 2007


Do people really only read questions from particular categories?

Oh hell yes. I have my RSS reader set up to only read the categories I want - though mainly that involves filtering out the computers and tech questions.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:42 AM on October 1, 2007


jess and cortex: with all due respect, you are thinking of "abusefulness" before usefulness.

For example, I can see a lot of benefits of RSS on categories.

Whereas "Not making more spin-off sites" and "Invented issue coming up" can be controlled easily.
posted by bru at 8:49 AM on October 1, 2007


But with anything that's a significant change to site functionality, we're going to look at it very cautiously and conservatively before even considering throwing it in there. Changes to the actual content of the front page tend to be slow in the coming; if Matt has something he really wants to do, that may change things a bit, but if it's something coming in as "why don't we do this", the natural question is "why do it"?

I'm not saying categories are a bad idea, per se, but the arguments in favor need to be clear and compelling and well-tested before anything is likely to be considered.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:01 AM on October 1, 2007


jess and cortex: with all due respect, you are thinking of "abusefulness" before usefulness.

Features for MeFi at large have to be both useful non-abuseful to be implemented in a community this large.

One of the other issues that I see is that setting up categories at this point would do two things that I see as unuseful

First, adding categories would create a big never ending debate about what categories to include. When mathowie rolled out AskMe (I'm not sure of the timing on this exactly) he and an expert friend of his sat down to figure out what categories to have and the site started with those. This helped drive what actually wound up in AskMe. There were no categories like "hypothetical future worlds" or "favorite things" and this was by design which leads me to the second issue...

Setting up categories would seem to imply some sort of subtle or not so subtle shifting of topics into those categories. "Here are your buckets, please put things into them!" So, either you have 1000 categories in which case they're not that useful as a taxonomy or you have 10-50 in which case it's like saying "these are the things we want you to talk about here" which isn't something I think mathowie has ever wanted, and I know I don't care much about the idea one way or the other, I can just explain why it hasn't seem to have taken root..

While it's important to have AskMe be backwards searachable, the same isn't as true for MeFi. If you want to find good old music posts, the music tag will have most of them. Users can also tag posts by their mutual contacts so in many cases you may be able to add tags if they aren't there. Admins can add tags so you could get one of us to add them. Basically MeFi isn't supposed to be a knowledgebase the same way AskMe it, it's supposed to be more serendipitous. Adding categories at this point would be duplicating work done on the backtagging project, to a large degree, not add a lot of functionality and allow further splitting of the site into factions.

Basically MetaTalk exists partly to talk about the balance of what appears on MeFi so if there's a compelling argument that people only want to read MeFi posts on folklor or sports or politics, to name a few topics that have come through here lately, the current site strategy is to come here and talk about it, not only read or only exclude the topic you love/hate.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:02 AM on October 1, 2007


Oh, so this is why you guys haven't shut down the latest Radiohead post. You're in here.
posted by Eideteker at 9:03 AM on October 1, 2007


We haven't shut it down because mathowie likes radiohead.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:07 AM on October 1, 2007 [3 favorites]


We do have categories, you can put you post in any category you want, as long as that category is "Something I found on the Internet".
posted by blue_beetle at 9:08 AM on October 1, 2007


"We haven't shut it down because mathowie likes radiohead."

Ah, then when I am king, he will be first against the wall. *adds mathowie to his little black book of people who like Radiohead*

Also, I'm totally bummed the actual song from True Stories is not on youtube.
posted by Eideteker at 9:12 AM on October 1, 2007


(But not bummed enough to rip it from my DVD copy of the movie and then figure out how to post that to youtube.)
posted by Eideteker at 9:13 AM on October 1, 2007


I'm not sure if this question is the stated "Why aren't there categories?" or something more like "Could we maybe get categories on MetaFilter?" which is going to be something more open to discussion. I feel like we've been answering the first question and replies make it seem like we were asked the second.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:15 AM on October 1, 2007


For example, I can see a lot of benefits of RSS on categories.

Keep in mind, you can already get RSS feeds for various tags and combinations, for example [1,2]
posted by delmoi at 9:17 AM on October 1, 2007


Err, wait. It looks like the tag search RSS only works with single tags.

It would be really cool to be able to subscribe to feeds for complex tag queries.

Also, you should use atom rather then RSS.
posted by delmoi at 9:21 AM on October 1, 2007


I thought the only category was "best of the web."
posted by phearlez at 9:30 AM on October 1, 2007


I'm not sure if this question is the stated "Why aren't there categories?" or something more like "Could we maybe get categories on MetaFilter?"

Before noon the only relevant question is "Where's the coffee?"

I'm noticing that I often have a backdoor way of asking questions, because I assume someone else has already thought of the same thing. What I meant was, "I'd really like to have categories on MetaFilter, but I assume there's some compelling reason they don't exist, so what is that reason?"
posted by desjardins at 9:35 AM on October 1, 2007


I don't know nothing about no imbalance distribution or strong-typing, but maybe this is why they're not going to happen: Who's going to back-categorize 10 zillion posts?
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 9:52 AM on October 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


Cortex.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:59 AM on October 1, 2007


I back-categorized your mother, Blatcher.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:01 AM on October 1, 2007


aaaaand... cue derail.
posted by desjardins at 10:07 AM on October 1, 2007


check one:

[ ] best of the web
[ ] post should be deleted

posted by [@I][:+:][@I] at 10:58 AM on October 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


Bad idea. Why do people keep wanting to add bells and whistles to the nice, clean, functional MetaFilter front page? Use the tags, that's what they're for.
posted by languagehat at 11:08 AM on October 1, 2007


I back-categorized your mother,

That was outta line.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:09 AM on October 1, 2007


jessamyn, cortex: thanks for your complementary answers, I understand better the scope of the question.
The number of categories is not really a problem (for example, any kind of news always fit in the limited number of sections of a daily newspaper).
But I agree with this excellent reason: "MeFi isn't supposed to be a knowledgebase the same way AskMe is, it's supposed to be more serendipitous".

delmoi: I should have checked first, thanks; now I did; it's possible to look for a tag, then find a second tag in the right side column and click on "+".
posted by bru at 11:54 AM on October 1, 2007


Zero harm intended, Brandon. Apologies. Ask dersins what exactly my mother is doing in mathowie's basement some time; the mom jokes lay thick on the ground around here sometimes.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:22 PM on October 1, 2007


Do people really only read questions from particular categories?

Yes. Well, not in my normal, several-times-a-day reading of AskMe, but if I've been away for days or weeks, I'll just look at what I've missed from one or two categories.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:48 PM on October 1, 2007


It's all good, no harm, no foul
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:51 PM on October 1, 2007


Brandon, this is MeTa. You're supposed to call him names.

yer doin it wrong
posted by desjardins at 1:21 PM on October 1, 2007


I'm doing your mom wrong, desjardins. In every category.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:25 PM on October 1, 2007


Categories:
[politicsfilter]
[favoritebandsucks]
[youtubefilter]
[politicsfilter]
[jonsonfoundsomethingweird]
[politicsfilter]
posted by nasreddin at 1:49 PM on October 1, 2007


introduction of a mroe explicit emphasis

I, for one, feel we could do with a more explicit emphasis on Marilyn Monroe.
posted by Sparx at 2:01 PM on October 1, 2007


cortex, if you can hang around my crazy mom long enough to do her, more power to you. Don't forget your tinfoil hat.
posted by desjardins at 2:07 PM on October 1, 2007


Also, we need a new category in MeTa just for DaShiv-related posts.
posted by desjardins at 2:08 PM on October 1, 2007


There should be a clickable way surfaced on the front page of Metatalk to see the list and browse categories there, though.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:57 PM on October 1, 2007


For a second, I read that as lickable way and thought "hey, good iea."
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:13 PM on October 1, 2007


Mmmm, lickable surfacing.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:57 PM on October 1, 2007


Will it stand up to gale force licks?
posted by breezeway at 7:23 PM on October 1, 2007


Who's Gale Force?
posted by CunningLinguist at 7:31 PM on October 1, 2007


[news]
[video]
[non-USEN sports]
[celebrity geek]
[weird ass shit]
[hama7]
posted by shoesfullofdust at 7:49 PM on October 1, 2007


also
[look at this dead guy here]
[I put this word in search, and look what I found]
[i'm too cool for categories]
posted by garlic at 2:39 PM on October 2, 2007


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