Categories And Indices

Categories are a classic wiki mechanism, dating back to the early days of Wards Wiki. On the OUSFG Wiki, we also have indices; these are a bit of an innovation, but are certainly related to the 'roadmaps' that exist on Wards Wiki.

For reference:

CategoryA page (itself needing minimal content) called CategorySomething, to which pages in that category link; browsers can easily enumerate the pages in that category by looking at the Back Links to that page.
IndexA page simply carrying a list of pages on some topic.

The nice thing about categories is that they distribute the work needed to maintain them over the editing of their member pages; it is simply necessary to tag a page with the relevant category link to categorise it. Contrast this to indices, which require specific effort to create and maintain.

The nice thing about indices is that they can be focused; a category list will necessarily include all the pages in the category, whereas an index can just link to the highlights. Amongst other things, this may make life easier for newcomers.

There has been some conflation of the two concepts; people have taken to writing index-like lists on category pages.

I didn't start the habit of writing indices on category pages, but I have taken it up, mainly to ease the pressure on the Backlinks facility of using backlinks to get from a category to all pages in that category. Since someone seems to object mightily to this, I suggest that if people are going to insist on keeping them separate, we at least have a link on the Category page to its corresponding Index. -- WJR

I don't know if the practice of having indices on category pages is a good idea or not. One way of looking at it is that it rather defeats the point of having separate categories and indices, but the other point of view is that it shows up the pointlessness of having separate categories and indices. When the mythical new Back Links Implementation arrives, Back Links searches will be so much faster that the maginal utility of the index part will decline; even then, perhaps the best place to but indices is on the category pages. -- TA

Thinking about this more, i see two separate forces at work. Firstly, the current slowness of the Back Links search makes it useful to have what is essentially a cached copy of the search results on a category page; this is purely pragmatic, and can (and should) be eroded away when the Mythical New Back Links Implementation arrives. Secondly, the broadness of a category search makes it useful to have indices if the category is huge and sprawling. Note that it's not just size; there may be a million pages in Category Author, but we won't need an Author Index, as it's unlikely that any small subset of them will be more important in any absolute way (that's not to say we couldn't use a Cyberpunk Author Index, New Wave Author Index, etc). So, we should (a) keep on maintaining copies of the backlinks lists for the time being (remembering to timestamp them) and (b) make indices when a category gets too big. Arguably, none of the categories are yet sprawlig enough to need indices (with the possible exception of Category Wiki - Oh The Irony!). -- TA

Let's hear other people's thoughts on this!

Category Wiki

Sun, 23 Mar 2003 22:01:00 GMT Front Page Recent Changes Message Of The Day