What should the Slant Category ontology look like?

To aid in navigation and tailoring the content to users tastes we want to start organising questions by category. The main question is what should the ontology look like? Here is my suggestion:

I propose 2 levels of strict hierarchy, then flat structure. The Slant admin team would manually control the top 2 levels, then the users would have semi-free-reign over the next “flat” level. It could look like:

  • Technology (Admin controlled)
  • Programming (Admin controlled)
    • Javascript (user tagged)
    • Sublime text
    • Dev Tools
  • Electronics
  • X more 2nd level categories for tech
  • Business
  • X more top level categories

Advantages of this approach:

  • Users don’t have to deal with the UI complexity of managing the hierarchy
  • Still provides the majority of the nice navigation experience of a strict hierarchy
  • Gives admins time to analyse the flat tags and apply hierarchy as it’s required


  • Not as conceptually simple as a straight flat or pure hierarchical approach.

Good idea.

Perhaps also have synonym functionality so items tagged ECMAScript and JScript can be suggested when someone uses the JavaScript tag (both when tagging and later when searching)?

Also a Bayesian prediction based on the user’s previous activity and keywords in the question may help to recommend appropriate tags without the user needing to drill into the hierarchy to find those of interest / saves the trial and error of finding existing appropriate tags by typing.

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These are the starting categories (just one level for V1) we came up with:

Web Tools
Programming Learning resources

Definitely agree with the need for synonym functionality - we’ll need to put some thought into making it clear and escapable (so we don’t give people news about the L.A. Lakers when they just want a nice cut of beef).

Just a thought - we need to decide how strict these categories are, with regards to cross-posting: Should a cross-post be a duplicate of the content, or just a link to it?

  • Reddit decidedly takes the prior approach, which makes it easier to have category (sub-reddit) specific styling, and creates strong sub-communities, since, e.g., /r/news can set different community standards than /r/politics and /r/worldnews
  • The latter approach (basically prefixed tagging, with admin-approved standard prefixes) is more flexible, and prevents the spawning of a billiion ghost towns (sub-reddits), that no one knows of, are difficult to search, and side-steps issues with tyrannical category moderators.

Stack Exchange actually takes the prior approach as well, if you consider the different Stack Exchange sites to be different categories. They avoid some problems Reddit has by essentially having strictly separated admin-decided categories, with moderators migrating topics to the appropriate category. No runaway categories, and strong community standards, but their implementation caused community fragmentation (each stackexchange site has to start from scratch), and their strict separation seems to just piss off their users (“this question has been moved to programmers.stackexchange, where you have no karma”) without providing much utility. Also, not sure if they’ve ever released a cross-site search, but again, that’s really just implementation.

I can conceive of a hybrid approach (where Topics can be cross-posted, but comments belong to a (Category,Topic) pair), but I don’t think it’d work for our content, since edits are pretty tightly coupled to their discussion (both conceptually, as well as in our current implementation).

I’m rather strongly in favor of the prefixed-tag approach, but that does give us the downside of having one massive community, with little room for sub-communities to build their own culture.

Could you have a main category, then links from other categories? So there’s a place where an article lives, but it’s still visible in / navigable from related areas.

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Maybe - that would make category-specific styling easy (though, someone would have to make a decision about what category each topic really lives in)

I guess my question is “is there a need for separate sub-communities with different standards?”. I can imagine a topic, maybe “Most Cringeworthy Microsoft Ad”, that’s up to standards for maybe the “Media” category, but not for the “Software” category - we probably wouldn’t want to remove the Software tag, since it is software related, but maybe we don’t want to highlight it on the Software front page. Do we care, though, that it would mean that this topic would primarily just get edited/commented on by subscribers to Media, and not to Software? What about for topics that do fit in Software, like “Best Media Organization Application”, but now get filled with comments/edits by users coming from the less-strict Media category?

Could you have categories work like tags? Lower level users could only enter a subject into one category, whereas higher levels could enter into multiple categories, or enter a extra category?

I like this. I’d much prefer a solution that resulted in Android people feeling like they have ownership of slant/android & were apart of that micro-community.

This is my preferred approach without really sleeping on it. That said I think we can be clever with the design to result in a micro-community feel without technically architecting it that way like reddit does. I think it’s ok to trade off “feed control” in exchange for an easier ability to cross-post. Unlike Reddit it’s a big deal for us to have duplicate content, well written comparison =! cat gif comments. Perhaps a filter system “show all Android tags, but hide all “media” tags” could be a potential solution.

I’m not sure about this one. It would obviously be a lot simpler and nicer for users if there were a standard set of best practises across all categories.