Categorizing Wikis

August 5th, 2006

Since I’ve joined the editing of the New Orleans Wiki, I’ve waffled about just how to use categories. I have an initial tendency to use categories almost like tags — listing significant topics contained in the article. Maybe not quite as extensively as I’d use tags, but perhaps still a bit over-enthusiastically, in light of what I’ve recently read in the Wikipedia guidelines.

To my understanding, it comes down to an issue of browsing vs. searching. Since categories work best for browsing for information, they should be used more narrowly and strictly than tags would be. Wikipedia recommends against creating a category with only one article in it, but since the New Orleans Wiki still has so many potential directions to grow, I’m of two minds on this. I have to agree that clicking on a category link and finding only one thing is pretty disappointing and makes a wiki (or any website) look bare, so I guess whenever possible it’s best to look for the most fitting broad category when new territory is forged until there are enough related articles to merit their own. But now and then I think it’s worth bending the rules (and maybe creating a new category is incentive to think about more articles).

I’m still interested in the uses of tagging — such as the folksonomies they create. It might be interesting to see how relationships between articles and topics develop that way, but I haven’t been able to find anything about tagging in wikis. Then again, maybe it’s not really necessary, since articles that cite each other “tag” each other in a sense.

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