OpenWetWare talk:Information management/Tags

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  • Using "tags" (similar to sites such as delicious or flikr) so end-users could help categorize protocols with minimal effort. This idea was suggested by Ishan.

Proposed implementation

In thinking about this issue some more, I think Austin might be right. We may want to initially try to use Categories as tags and see how that works. It seems like the easiest thing to do as it requires no new functionality in MediaWiki. It seems that the easiest way to enforce this is to only have a single layer of categories and no subcategories. We could also avoid tags like E. coli protocol. For example, the page Preparing electrocompetent cells would get tagged with Category:Escherichia coli and Category:Protocol so that it would fall under both categories. This would enable users to collect together pages in different groupings. Someone viewing the category Escherichia coli would see equipment pages, protocol pages, material pages, and information pages. I think for our purposes, this might be a more useful application of categories. This would also have the advantage that some pages whose categorization is ambiguous could be labelled with multiple tags. For example, Miniprep could be tagged with Category:DNA and Category:Escherichia coli and Category:Protocol.

Some useful categories off the top of my head (please edit)

  1. OpenWetWare
    • for community related pages
  2. Protocol
  3. Equipment
  4. Material
  5. In vivo
  6. In vitro
  7. In silico
  8. DNA
  9. RNA
  10. Protein
  11. Escherichia coli
    • and one for every other species
  12. Reference
  13. Mimulus
  14. Course
    • to indicate class-related pages
  15. BE.109
    • to indicate pages related to a certain course
    • note that BE.109 should not be a subcategory of course because there might be pages that are useful for BE.109 and thus tagged as BE.109 that are not actually true Course pages.
  16. Organization
    • to indicate pages that are maintained by a certain organization
  17. ICSB SC
  18. MIT
    • and one for every other institution
  19. Wittrup
    • and one for every other lab
  20. Microfluidics
  21. Flow cytometry
  22. Microscopy
  23. Measurement
    • would something like this be useful for collating measurement methodologies? I'm not sure
  24. Safety
  25. Quality/data management categories (to dynamically generate to-do lists)
    • Needs attention
    • Needs formatting
    • Needs content
    • Needs categorization
    • Great page

Later, if this scheme proves useful and maintainable, we could consider trying to customizing the mediawiki software further by renaming Categories to Tags.

Such an approach may also help the generation of tailored Special:Recentchanges pages.


I really like this idea, though I am concerned about the implementation and usefulness to the user. Just for clarification I'm going to call what you've descibed above "categories" and make a distinction between that and "tags." In tagging a user has a set of labels that are specific to them, so they can create a categorization scheme that is most useful to them personally. For instance, I may want to tag only the e.coli protocols I actualy use as "E.Coli" and then I can click on that tag and bring up my personal list of favorite e.coli protocols. just to be clear, this is different from categorizing in that I only bring up things I have labeled, not every protocol categorized as "E.Coli". The reason I like this better is that I think it will be more useful to the user, and as a result, the user will be more inclined to bother categorizing things (in other words, I think it scales better).

OK, so tags may be more useful to the user, but what about generating protocol pages for the larger community to browse through? Its clear how the categories scheme allows dynamic generation of protocols pages, i.e. if Category = E.Coli and Category = Protocol then include a link in the E.coli protocols page. Well, tags enable something similar (and perhaps better), they can aggregate all the tags associated with a page and look at the most popular tag and assign the page under that label on the main protocols page. Or more complicated things like creating heirarchical categories simply by clustering the tags on pages, see Flikr's biology clusters as an example. The big downside to using tags in my opinion is that it will require some serious changes to the software to implement them in a way that is convenient for the user. --JK

Also, it's worth noting that since each article has its own URL, we could do this in the framework of existing tagging sites such as -- could at least be a way to easily explore if this whole thing is useful anyway.

There has been a some discussion about implementing tags for wikipedia, so maybe we could get some development help?

I like the tag idea a lot but until we find a nice way of implementing it within OWW, I think the usefulness of categories merits implementing them.--BC 17:49, 22 February 2006 (EST)

Semantic MediaWiki extension seems to accomplish a lot of this:

--Ilya 13:31, 26 April 2006 (EDT)