Over the last couple of years, several conversations have arisen discussing the merits of a tags based system - finally Discourse has added first class support for tagging (previously tags were a plugin, now they are part of the core platform). In the process they’ve added some of the ‘must-haves’ that were on our wish list - hence starting the move now
But how will moving to a tags based system help?
There are many benefits, but mainly:
- Focusing on tags (and reducing categories) will make it easier to post threads.
- By being able to subscribe to tags, you’ll not only be able to watch the threads tagged about topics that interest you, but also allow library authors to create a tag for their libraries and easily keep track of the threads about them; effectively using the system as a ‘mini-forum’ for their libraries.
- Tags on the thread listings pages will make it easier for you to spot the topics that interest you most - as it’s a lot easier glancing over the list of tags than reading every single thread title on the page (this will become more useful as the forum gets busier - imagine waking up to two, three or even five times the number of new threads per day).
- You’ll be able to mute tags - so threads about a particular topic that do not interest you can easily be ignored.
Currently we spend quite a bit of time re-categorising threads, and so this was screaming out that something wasn’t quite right with the categories set-up (generally, posting on a forum should be relatively intuitive - it should come naturally). Specifically, the sections causing the most confusion were:
We generally aimed for any thread about any topic that had a dedicated section to be posted into that section, but, understandably, many people posted Ecto, Erlang, Testing or Deployment issues in one of the Questions & Help sections (as they ‘fit’ there too). And the same with Phoenix threads, they were often (again understandably) being posted in the Elixir Questions & Help sections.
So the proposal is to remove the ‘Dedicated Sections’ categories and replace them with tags. To emphasise their closely linked nature to Elixir, they will be put in a tag ‘group’ to reflect this (which will show towards the top of the tag listings page); so they still retain their prominence, and yet threads about them can then be more easily categorised and kept track of. For instance, threads about Ecto when using with Phoenix can go into a Phoenix section or when using just with Elixir in an Elixir section, threads about deploying a Phoenix app, can go in a Phoenix section while threads about deploying an Elixir app can go into one of the Elixir sections, etc
We’re also proposing removing the sub categories of the Questions & Help section (and renaming it to simply ‘Questions / Help’. This should make it significantly easier to post a thread asking for help. Questions / help about Elixir will go in the Elixir Questions / Help section, and those that are related to Phoenix will go in the Phoenix Questions / Help section.
We should end up with something like this:
We’re currently not sure about the Confs & Meetups section and the Adoption & Media section, they may be moved or replaced with tags too… what do you think?
With regards to the look and feel, when viewing a page that lists threads, we’re aiming for 60% prominence for the thread titles and 40% for the tags. If tags are too subtle, then they risk becoming too secondary - and will result in them being used less as less value is (understandably) placed on them. We want to avoid that, and give them a fair shot, and so think we’ve got the balance close to what we need right now (it’s probably closer to 70/30 but we can run with it for now). We’ve actually also made thread titles more prominent by changing the colour and increasing the intensity. Nothing is ‘final’ btw - we’ll continue to tweak things until it feels ‘right’
Hopefully in time Discourse will add more features to the tagging system (many of which we have suggested ourselves). We can see tags becoming a very powerful way to categorise threads which will hopefully make your life easier when browsing the forum (especially as it gets busier) and also help you keep track of things that are important to you (and avoid the things that are not). We hope you’ll like them as much as we do
A few questions for you…
How far do you think we should go in categorising tags on the tags page? We currently have a group for forum related topics (wikis, stickies etc) libraries, and another for topics closely linked to Elixir (Erlang, Ecto, Nerves, deployment) - but should we go further? We could have a group for books, OTP related, functional programming concepts, etc)
Currently the max number of tags per thread is set to 5, does this sound reasonable? (Minimum is one for most sections, and two for Phoenix sections - as we think tagging Phoenix threads with Phoenix despite having a Phoenix Forum will be useful, too).
Currently, since the tag system is only just being more fundamentally incorporated, any registered user can create a tag - at some point we may want to restrict this by Trust Level. On Discourse the default min Trust Level to create tags is TL3, but does TL1 or 2 seem more reasonable?
Finally, can you think of any tags that you think we need to add?