ypsi taxonomy

When I re-launched MM.com in ’04, I could have taken my time, thought through the kinds of posts that I’d be making, reflected on the common themes and how they might best be grouped and organized, and then, from that, come up with a list of terms to use in categorizing them. I didn’t do that though. Steve, my friend who helped me get the site up, asked me for a list, and I, without giving it too much thought, whipped something up. In hindsight, it was a stupid move.

The classification terms I’m using (see the list in the right hand column) don’t make sense. There’s no rhyme or reason. Some categories have hundreds of entries. Others have just a few. Some overlap. Some obvious ones are missing… As it is, I write a post, look over to that list to see how I’m going to classify it, and then, nine times out of ten, I end up getting pissed. Nothing ever fits nicely… I know I could do the work now and change it, and then go through the archives and straighten everything out, but I’m too lazy. I’d rather be writing about my stupid obsessions than making this site more usable… The thing is, however, I don’t want the same thing to happen with the new site, the community reporting initiative me and my local blogging buddies are presently calling project Spitting Cat.

Unlike my little site, this new one needs to be highly functional. People from the community need to be able to find things quickly and easily, and if we can’t provide that, we might as well not even waste our time. The bottom line is, if we really want to create positive change in Ypsilanti, we need to provide good, honest information that’s easy to navigate (share, and comment on). We need for people to be able to find what they need easily and quickly, whether it’s the voting record of a particular council member, or the most recent conversation taking place on the Ypsilanti Master Plan.

In order to do this well, and have our work be meaningful, we need a classification system that works. And that, I think, is going to be one of the most critical tasks that we’ll face. (My hope is that my friend Theresa, the web architect, will champion this particular task, but I haven’t asked her yet.) So, with that in mind, I’d like to ask for your thoughts and ideas. Here are a few of mine:

Irregardless of hierarchy and such, I believe that the following subjects need to be represented somewhere in our categorization scheme: higher ed (EMU, Washtenaw, Ave Maria), the City Council, the School Board, the local press, the police, local retail, local blogs, local activism, Ypsi history, environment, industry, taxes, the Historic District Commission, the infrastructure, the “Cool Cities” initiative, entertainment, state government, interviews, events, various areas of town (Water Street, the south side, Michigan Ave, Normal Park, etc), code enforcement… OK, I’m sure I’m missing some, but that’s a start. Let me know if you have any ideas as to what else should be included, how we might want to group/subdivide these, etc. Also, if you’ve got any examples of sites that deal with similar information, leave the links in the comments section. I’d love to check them out.

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  1. Posted April 17, 2005 at 11:32 pm | Permalink

    I would suggest that the taxonomies be driven by folksonomies.

    Start out with the broadest possible categories that make sense, then allow people to classify things in a free-form way that makes sense to them. Watch for common and related tags, and then turn around and make those categories.

    This Salon article covers folksonomies and why they’re working well for del.icio.us and Flickr.

  2. Posted April 18, 2005 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    I should add that I’m using “suggest” in a fairly passive way. It’s not so much a proposal as a request that the concept be considered. Getting some help a real information architect would be beneficial in coming up with a taxonomy.

  3. Posted April 18, 2005 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    And if you don’t go “all the way” with tags, at least make sure you can and do put all posts into all appropriate categories.

  4. Posted April 18, 2005 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    Clearly the only system that would make sense in the long run is the Linnaean Method of classification.

    If, for example, you covered this month’s council meeting, your article could be “Ypsilantia Councilus Maynardia Aprilius”.

  5. Posted April 18, 2005 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    seriously, mark, this is an example of something i think we could all make a similar post about on our respective sites, and then put all our results on the wiki and start sorting them out there.

    i guess the issue of metatags or whatever depends partly on how much content we end up generating, but it’s probably a good idea to be on the safe side at an early stage, as you said.

    (goes over and checks out mark’s “Other” category)

  6. Ken
    Posted April 18, 2005 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

    Yeah! And what does foul mouthed singing Muppets have to do with architecture? I feel duped!

  7. mark
    Posted April 18, 2005 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

    Clearly I’ve gotten in over my head.

  8. mark
    Posted April 18, 2005 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

    And, Ken, weren’t you the one a few months ago that was complaining that there weren’t enough architecture posts?

  9. Ken
    Posted April 18, 2005 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

    It was me complaining and I was impressed to see three all of a sudden. But then I realized that one was about Muppets.

  10. Posted April 18, 2005 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

    Will the number of OCD posts always remain a prime number? That would make me more comfortable.

  11. emee
    Posted April 19, 2005 at 2:51 am | Permalink

    Dude, you did NOT just use the word “irregardless”.

  12. mark
    Posted April 19, 2005 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    I don’t know about prime numbers, Steve, but all OCD posts are thoroughly checked, rechecked and scrubbed clean before posting.

    And, yes, Emee, I just checked and apparently I did use “irregardless.”

    And, Ken, anytime you want to send an architecture post, I’ll put it up on the front page for you.

    And, speaking of architecture, wasn’t the Muppet set design linked to from my last post just incredible?

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