[Design] Re: Tags, hierarchies et al.
mimi at osafoundation.org
Tue Aug 30 13:07:22 PDT 2005
See comments in-line...
>> Thanks for the pointer to the thread. I think Chandler's
>> interpretation of this whole debate is to get rid of the distinction
>> between TAGSs in Flickr and Delicious, labels in Gmail, Categories in
>> Outlook and Entourage, Smart playlists in iTunes AND FOLDERS in most
>> email clients, sets in Flickr and explicit playlists in iTuness.
>> Tags, Labels, Categories, Smart playlists, Folders, Sets and
>> Playlists are technology-centric. They focus on distinctions in
>> functionality and software behavior.
> I think that makes sense. Here is why. I have been thinking about
> what the cognitive difference between tags and categories is. As an
> input mechanism, tagging is just an association (it could be a
> descriptor, a category, or any other type of association). Its
> whatever comes to mind, without any editing.
Yup, I see that.
> In contrast, a category, is the right group that the item belongs.
> Its a subset of what a tag is. Since the focus is on the "THE one
> right category", it can be a complex task sometimes (you have to
> reject all the other associations, and focus on one).
Yes, and most UI's that provide users with Category-izing affordances
make it very hard to add new categories ad-hoc. You have to go off to
some separate UI to "edit" the category list.
> When people talk about tagging, i notice that they emphasize that
> its easy, because there is no one right answer. The tags themselves
> still tend to be categories. When I look at tags on del.icio.us/
> flickr, a lot of times those are possible categories. So in
> practice, one difference between assigning tags or categories might
> simply be whether you assign one or more.
> Another difference: what happens to the item when you tag /
> categorize it. Assigning to one category generally implies I am
> done with the item. In contrast, assigning one tag does not imply
> that you are done with it. In del.icio.us / Flickr you can assign
> as many tags as you want. Once you are done, the item is at the top
> of the list - you can edit it anytime you want. But in a folder
> system, once you categorize an item its gone from your field of
> view, its hidden in a folder somewhere. I think this is important -
> people seem to want one or the other. Some people want the item to
> go away once you tag/categorize something, others want it to remain
> in field of view. One thing that we are trying in our sorting
> software is to always show the last three items you put in a category.
Yes, and this is exactly what brings us back to the very thing we
worked on at the first Sprint, the Triage workflow in the Dashboard
view. We want to make the notion of where you file an item whether
it's via a Tag, a Category or a Collection (the closest thing we have
to a Folder) INDEPENDENT of whether it remains in your view
(Chandler's Triage workflow where you decide whether an item is DONE,
Needs to be dealt with NOW OR Can be deferred until LATER).
In other words, users should not have to do the rather intricate task
of categorizing or filing items just to be able to make the
relatively simple decision of whether an item should stay in view
(Requires further actions NOW) or get out of their view (Requires no
further action or Can wait until LATER). Feels like overkill.
Tagging, Categorization, and ultimately Foldering into some kind of
Structure of Categories (Faceted or Hierarchical) should be done on
an "as needed" basis.
> There are other several other minor differences. But coming back to
> my original point - the differences in the system are not
> fundamental to tagging / categorization (meaning assigned tags
> often seem to be categories). For example, I can easily imagine a
> categorization system that allows multiple categories, and the item
> remains available. It is a question of UI affordances.
Yup, it feels like to me that a lot of data management systems are
over-architected...with too many fine distinctions that users don't
necessarily care about...and under-designed in that genuinely easy
user affordances for making use of the various "types" of tags,
categories and folders are lacking.
>> I guess the important distinction in my mind's eye is not so much
>> between a folder or a tag...but more between:
>> 1. Explicitly creating a group of items in a top-down manner (ie.
>> collecting them into a folder or playlist) versuss
>> 2. Implicitly creating a group of items in a bottom-up manner (ie.
>> tagging or labeling and then creating a smart playlist or smart
>> folder based on that tagging)
> The top-down, bottom-up distinction is important. I went back and
> read some of the cognitive anthropology work. In real life,
> categorization or learning categories is definitely made up of
> small, local decisions. Think of the way a child learns categories,
> say living versus non living. Her parents make small local
> observations about objects she encounters. Together this adds up -
> she gets the living-non living difference. Real life categorization
> is really small, local, independent observations (all the different
> associations that arise when we encounter an object). The
> categories arise out of that choas of small, local observations -
> our minds are able to the analysis and synthesis to find categories
> to organize those observations.
That's a very powerful analogy, much more compelling than describing
people handling their email ;o)
> Look forward to discussing more of this with you when you are in
> the South Bay. And feel free to post this to the Design list/ wiki.
>> This reduces the debate down to UI affordances (ie. drag and dropping
>> items into some grouping mechanism, be it a Gmail label or an Eudora
>> folder VERSUS labeling an item as belonging to some label or folder).
>> Consequently we could easily imagine a world in which there was some
>> functionality that collected items into some BUCKET, and users could
>> fill that bucket in a number of different ways: bottom-up or top-
>> down, but that they DIDN'T need to worry about what kind of bucket it
>> was (ie. tag or folder), unless it was a human-centered distinction
>> (ie. a Project bucket versus a Location bucket).
>> Anyway, looking forward to talking with you more about all of this!
>> (Would you mind if I posted this exchange to our Design list?)
>> Thanks, Mimi
>> On Aug 29, 2005, at 10:47 AM, Rashmi Sinha wrote:
>>> I came across your Virtuality presentation slides: http://
>>> Very interesting, though I am not sure I got everything. We should
>>> catch up sometime - I am fascinated by what Chandler is doing.
>>> This thread on my blog might be of interest: http://
>>> I am really curious about Gmail tags are really being used. Are
>>> people jerry-rigging folder systems (as the last comment suggests).
>>> Wonder if there is any data out there about this.
>>> Rashmi Sinha, Ph.D.
>>> Uzanto Consulting
>>> Co Program Chair - BayCHI
> Rashmi Sinha, Ph.D.
> Uzanto Consulting
> Co Program Chair - BayCHI
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