Should the backend logic for categories be modified to help speed adoption?

+8 votes
Chris -

This is more of a gearhead type question from one IT guy to another.

Currently the site handles categories by way of wiki markup in the bio text.  That works great, but since the hierarchy of categories is still in flux and the structure seems to be morphing quickly, it seems that there's an opportunity for early adopters to get burned. The reason I say this is due to the fact that categories have to be edited manually on each profile, so that if a category that has been associated with many profiles is changed there is the need to now go and touch all of the affected profiles.  

I'm wondering if it might be possible to head this off by having the system propagate changes to a category name to the linked profiles.  With it currently being in the bio text, I know that's probably going to be more of a pain.  Would the category system possibly be more extensible if they were moved to a separate attribute within the profile?  It might make it easier for folks to add categories to a profile as well, since you might then be able to incorporate a drop-down, or if you're feeling saucy, (and the DB can take the load) an AJAX search box.  

The other thought I had on categories was whether it might be possible to add a search function for categories.  It might help if we could tag categories as well, so that if someone were to search for "civil war veterans", for example, it could return not only categories with the search term in the name, but also ones with associated  keywords, as well as possibly "next door neighbor" categories linked to name matched categories.  

I know, easier said that done, but just brainstorming trying to think of ways to help speed the adoption of categorization and preventing some of the pains that may come with it.

in Policy and Style by Allen Minix G2G6 Mach 1 (17.7k points)
recategorized by Chris Whitten
Maybe this is not the right place for this but thinking down the road, a way to potentially get people to adopt categories - once the category structure is in place - is to possibly have a "suggested categories" section that is part of the profile creation. I am not someone who is familiar with the coding needed for something like this - most of what I know I have taught myself - but it seems like it would not be too much of a stretch beyond what is done now for merging profiles. For existing profiles a "category association" search could possibly be developed that people could use on existing profiles - like the current duplicate search. Just throwing some thoughts out.  Not trying to make extra work for anyone, but I really appreciate this site and what it does and I am willing to help out in whatever ways my time and skills allow.

2 Answers

+4 votes
Best answer
I know you directed this at Chris, but I'm gonna throw in my 2 cents anyway (as an IT girl). :)

Part of the reason I have so much faith in the way categories are now is because they work on Wikipedia. Wikipedia's a great place to look to see how Mediawiki features work, because it's huge, so you can really see how things scale. Categories work on Wikipedia because they set guidelines early on, and then insisted that people follow them. That's the stage we're in now. I don't see how early adopters could "get burned". We're developing the standards, so as long as we discuss and establish guidelines before categorising a bunch of people, I don't see the problem. When categories are carefully named in the beginning, they'll never have to change.
by Liander Lavoie G2G6 Pilot (430k points)
selected by Keith Baker
I see what you mean, and I feel the same way provided that we can get in front of it with standards.  I guess I'm just worried that should there be a major restructuring at some point, it will be a huge ordeal to change the profiles of every individual that has been linked up to that point (should category names change for some reason). I guess it just comes from how I've developed (heh, overthought maybe?) things in the past (1. Plan for every possible outcome & 2. If you make it idiot-proof, they WILL make a better idiot) which leads me to worry about things like this.

What do you think about a possible search feature (apart from profile edits) like how we have full name and surname searches currently?
I know what you mean. That's why I'm trying to get people talking about standards now, before the average WikiTreer even starts using categories. Right now only a few of us are really using them, so we still have a chance to get the structure right the first time.

(Sidenote: I lol'd at rule #2.)

I think a search for categories is a great idea. I imagine it wouldn't be too hard to implement, since Wikipedia has it. It's just a matter of searching the site, but limiting it to a specific namespace. I'll talk to Chris about that. A search where you can select namespaces like on Wikipedia will get more and more helpful as we use more of them, like Category and Project.
Although the way that they are implemented appears to be scalable, I'm not sure that other comparisons with Wikipedia are valid...
I've created a category of Ships within a category of Transport but entirely independently of me someone has created a top level category of Railroads.
It would appear logical and tidy for Railroads to exist within Transport but I can't change the current situation because the Category definition of Railroads appears to be outside of my control (locked away in a biography, I know not where) protected by Privacy settings that seem to exist for a different purpose?
If there is an elegant solution to this I would be interested to hear it and learn more of how categories can be managed.
It is true that a difference from Wikipedia is that WikiTreers don't have the ability to edit every profile on WikiTree, because a lot of them are privacy protected. That does make it more difficult if people aren't willing to follow standards or just don't know about them.

Is your example real, or just an example? I ask because there doesn't seem to be a Category:Railroads or Category:Railroad... Do you have a link to the category?

While it's true that you can't edit a private profile to change what category it's in, you can edit the category itself. That means you can edit the text on the Category page, and also what larger categories that category is in. So, you could edit the Railroads category and put [[Category:Transport]] on the page.

Does that answer your question? Let me know if I misunderstood. :)
That was an attempt to remember the details of a real example that I now can't find - I have probably not remembered the precise category name but I remember it being a precise rail related category that at the time I thought needed some parentage.  I tried to work out how to get to control its categorisation at the time and couldn't work out how I could edit that - now I can't even find it again :( doh! (egg-timers disease maybe)...
Thanks Lianne - it was the Trains one that I saw before.
I can only assume that I wasn't logged in before, because now an [edit] option exists where only white space was visible before :))
+2 votes
I dont know much about any of this but I WISH categories could go in a different space from the bio box... I fear deleting them so bad... or for someone else to delete them by accident.
by Lindsay Tyrie G2G6 Mach 1 (18.4k points)

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