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Content Revamp Part 3: Tagging

Posted by Gaiiden, in GDNet 28 November 2011 · 818 views

The Series:

The addition of tags to the Invision suite of products is, in our view, one of the more significant steps forward with their latest version of the software. Tagging has proven itself over the years to be a very useful and efficient means of organizing massive amounts of information. In our original system, prior to the advent of tagging in general, we had a list of categories nested several layers deep that was used to sort out articles into specific groups so it was easier to find what you were looking for by drilling down to more and more specific topics. In addition to collapsing this all down into a few high-level categories as I discussed in my previous entry, we can now leverage the tagging system to help you fine tune your search for information.

Closed Tagging System

I should say right up front that we're going with a closed tagging system rather than an open system. This means that we will have a predefined list of tags for you to select from, and you will not be able to enter in your own tag names. The reason we are going with a closed system is because the Invision tagging system is still very much in its infancy, and as such the tools they have in place for moderating tags is practically zilch. My main concern in terms of moderation is what I call "tag fragmentation". You can come up with all sorts of different tags to refer to the same subject - for example: DirectX 11 can be referred to as DX11, DirectX11, DirectX 11, D3D11, etc. I'm sure you can see where I'm going with this. If people use multiple tags to refer to the same topic, it essentially "spreads out" that information rather than consolidating it like a tag should. We want you all to be sure that when you click on a "DirectX 11" tag you're getting all the tagged information on our site related to DirectX 11.

We've polled the moderators as well as other staff to compile a starting list of tags and will be building from there. We will announce an informal method for suggesting new tags directly to us, and hopefully down the road Invision will add the ability within a content piece to submit these suggestions in a more formal fashion. My dream system would be giving you all the freedom to tag things however you want and us having a moderation panel that lets us see how many items of content are being tagged by what words and then merge tags together, much like we can merge forum posts, to consolidate the various tags under one tag. While typing in your tags, you will be given suggestions of already-existing tags to choose from. Are you listening, Invision? ;)

Tagging/Prefixing Forum Posts

Tagging in the forums works in two main ways. The common method is to add tags that describe the content of your post. This is done through a drop-down list that will provide you with a list of tags to select from. In case you're worried about getting presented with a huge long list of tags, not to worry. While we will indeed maintain a large global list of defined tags for eventual use in places like journals and articles, each forum can override this huge list with its own select set of tags. This is also so that no one in the OpenGL forum is somehow tempted or able to tag something as "Direct X". The tags selected will appear listed below the topic title on the main forum page and the topic thread page.

Another option is to select a topic prefix. You see these in the forums already manually created by users like [XNA] or [PAID]. These will be text labels that show up before the topic title in the forum listing and can be colored to match certain prefixes to make it easier to pick out different forum topics. Currently you set these prefixes using the first tag you attach to the thread, meaning this is also a closed system, although you are free to choose your prefix. However some forums may have a predefined selection if prefixes to use rather than allowing you to choose one out of the tag pool, mainly to keep prefix clutter down and make prefixes more easily identifiable. Some forums may also require you to prefix topics, while others may not.

Both tags and prefixes are clickable and will bring up a search result listing all forum content tagged in a similar manner.

Tagging Other Content

Currently only IP.Content, the Invision application running our articles system, is the one lacking tagging support; however Mike Tanczos has written some custom tag code that we will be using until Invision ties IP.Content into their tagging system hopefully sometime next spring.

Until then, and possibly after depending on how the tagging system in general has evolved, Articles and resources will also have an open tagging system although it will be moderated by me to match up with the predefined tags we have already for the forum system, all other tags will be considered suggestions. Clicking on the tags listed with an article will bring up a list of similarly tagged article content, however from the search page it is one click to run the same search on forum topics, which is why these tags will be moderated to match up.

Journals will continue, for the present, to have an open tagging system as these tags are currently only used within that individual journal. So when I tag posts as "Weekend Reading" and you click on that tag link it will only bring up posts with that tag in my journal, not from other journals and not from the site in general. IP.Blog, the application behind the journal system, supposedly is tied into the Invision tagging system so this may change rapidly after we update the site and bring onboard any new features Invision has for this application's latest version.

Tying It All Together... Eventually

As the tagging system continues to roll out and evolve we will continue to weave it into our site so that tags become the basis for searching and finding specific topics around GameDev.net, with our high-level categories being the initial guide-post towards what you are looking for. With one tag you'll be able to find articles, resources, journal posts and forum topics. I personally am really excited about finally being able to regain some type of real organization to our huge and varied resource database ever since the categories method grew beyond its capacity and usefulness way back in the early 2000's, augmented at that time only by a better search engine thanks to Google. This is an update that has been too long in coming and it's finally almost here!

Coming Up Next...

Nope not done yet! Next entry I'll go over the improvements we've made to the way articles are being delivered, as well as helping you to find other content in case what you selected wasn't quite what you were looking for.

Seems like you guys are doing a shit load of work, keep it up :)!
This will be great.

Some questions:
Are tags allowed on either a per-topic or per-post basis?
Are tags done by the original poster, or is everyone allowed to modify them?
Are users allowed to remove or 'un-tag' their earlier choice, especially in the case of a mis-click?

And most importantly:
Could a for beginners tag cloud be placed very visibly on the For Beginners forum? Perhaps with tags like "books to read", "languages to learn", "programs for beginners", "Schools" and such? These questions are asked on a daily basis, with some coming up 3-4 times daily. ANYTHING that stems that tide would be useful.

It would be great if the community at large could direct where an individual thread gets tagged, perhaps the thread being influenced by the individual posts as it morphs through the discussion lifetime. That would be quite an endeavor, but cool nonetheless.

However it works, it could be a great solution for the many people who simply post without searching.
Tags are defined on a per-forum basis and are set on individual topics, journal posts, etc.

We are looking into the future idea of allowing members with sufficient reputation to edit other people's tags. When I say "looking into" what I mean is that once we shift through our initial priority items that this is absolutely on the agenda. Moderators will be able to edit tags initially so hopefully they can tag some of the most recurring questions for people.

We're going to have a crude "Similar Topics" listing when people reply to a topic that we are augmenting the forum with (it is a simple add-on a third-party developer wrote), but we also know that IPS (our forum software creator) is going to be putting more serious efforts in attempting to show similar topics. In an ideal world, you'd get a list of similar topics showing up somewhere the moment you finish putting in the subject line of a new topic.

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