@Justin can you tell me exactly how tags work and how to use them? To add to the Q&A page for newbies (and me;). And we should probably come up with a list of standard tags that we want people to use, if I understand correctly.

Here’s an explanation of categories first:

Category: The primary means of organizing topics. Each topic is placed in exactly one category. Categories have permissions which can restrict which users can create, reply, and see its topics. You can also configure notification preferences per category or even mute them as explained below. Categories are a similar concept to a ‘forum’ on other sites.

Now here’s what tags are:

Tag: A marker placed on a topic to describe it. While a topic can only have one category, it can have multiple tags. New tags can be created by some users. You can read more about the differences between tags and categories.

I’m going to borrow from this article to explain a bit more about why this is so useful.

Consider the typical sections of a daily newspaper: Arts, Sports, Business, Travel, Local, and World. Any given article belongs to just one of those sections, and the content in each section is quite different, such that some people, for example, may only ever read the Sports or Business sections. These are what we call categories.

Categories are established by staff for strong, distinct, and secure divisions between content. But when it comes to categories, more is not necessarily better. You can think of categories as walls. Four walls make a nice room, sixteen walls might even make a nice house. But a hundred walls would present an impenetrable maze.

Tags, unlike the heavy walls of categories, are nimble, flexible and lightweight:

  • You can have thousands of tags, even tens of thousands of them.
  • Users, if you allow them to, can create their own tags to help organize things.
  • Tags don’t imply any kind of security “wall” or permissions.
  • Multiple tags can apply to the same topic, even across categories. If you were running a music forum, you can tag a topic as both “Hip Hop” and “Electronica”. But if you were using categories you’d have to choose one or the other!

That should be enough for users. Then for admin, you may want to read that article to see what options there are for actually controlling what tags are available and option on how to make them work in various ways.

So now we know the difference, let’s talk about using tags in practice.

When you’re browsing the forum, by default, the Discourse homepage will show all Latest conversations in the community but you can filter this list in a number of ways:

  • By category: in the menu line, click the ‘all categories’ title and a list of all the categories appears.

  • By tag: in the menu line, click the ‘all tags’ title and a list of all the tags are used will appear.

  • By level of activity: if you click on ‘Top’ the conversation topics will be listed in order of most activity (views and replies) for a specific time period. You can choose whether this is for all time, or select a specific period such as quarter, month, week or just today.

  • By what’s ‘New’ to you: by default, new topics are those created in the last 2 days that you have not opened yet to keep the list fresh and relevant. New topics show a small blue dot next to the topic title

  • By what topics are “Unread”: by default, unread topics are those that you have previously opened and read for at least 4 minutes, and that have new posts (replies) submitted to them. Unread topics show a number in a blue circle indicating how many new posts are in the topic.

For more info on how to use the forum in general, please see here:

Thank you! This is really helpful. I added some tags to the posts I’m moving. I won’t worry about creating standard tags at some point unless somebody else feels like it. @Justin, what do you think about the current categories and subcategories?

Can it be set up so that everyone can make tags as they post? If that’s possible, is it a bad idea? I think tagging works like that in Stack Exchange sites, but maybe only for participants of a certain level.

I just checked an anything is possible to adjust. Trust levels are a big deal on discourse, but I just adjusted them a alot so i think that even new people can now create thier own tags. Here’s an example in the settings. I don’t have enough experience to know what is good or bad idea …

I’m glad.

OK. I don’t know if this is a good idea or not but it is an option that occurs to me - you could (actually I don’t even know if it is possible but if it is then) give some one or some people permission/capability to add tags also, and if there become too many or ones you don’t like, later delete them and maybe take away the capability when there are enough. Or, could perhaps make one post in a kind of adminy area for tag suggestions, for people to add to for you to consider. Or not, of course!

I just tried to figure it out now and found it a little unintuitive. I think I understand why now. So, in contrast to Sutta Central for example, we have here categories separated into subcategories, rather than sortable just by tags. I don’t know the pros and cons of those choices other than what the sources were saying which I referenced, and I think I rather like that idea anyway of such subcategories. But where it gets tricky is the side menu on the left.

So on the left there, I just see a rather huge list of categories. And I see no differentiation between which are categories and which are subcategories. Furthermore, not all of the categories are even on that menu. For example, the first 3 categories are all there, in correct order, but then the 4th. Landrace Projects, is not on that menu. Only the subcategories within the Landrace Projects are there, but actually, only the first 4 of them, tomatoes ~ perennials - cereal grains is missing! Then the next category is present but again not all of its subcategories.

What I would expect is either just the categories appearing on the left, or, an hierarchical structure with inset subcategories, possibly collapsible. I don’t know if there are such options but something like that would I think make it much easier to navigate that menu than it is. And naturally, with no missing items. It is at least cool that the whole ‘categories’ is collapsible, and that entire left pane, hide-able.

Also by the way at the bottom of that left pane there was… I actually cannot remember, some kind of button that gave me a choice of changing the ‘theme’, and I changed it, I think from ‘air’ (or whatever the default was), to… something else. Anyway once I did that it changed but that option disappeared so I seem to have no way of changing it back! Any ideas? There were many options, it could be nice to try others though if I had one choice I’d rather have the default so I can see what most people’s experience is.

Ah just read that now. If there’s a way that you can see the list of tags then perhaps if you just keep a vague eye on it from time to time then you’ll notice if it ever becomes an issue? But to my rather inexperienced mind, that seems like a reasonable idea to me to be getting on with.

Also, I notice there is so far nothing in the way of categories relating to geography. Since we are a global community focused on adapting food to local environments, I wonder if something geographic might be useful. Now it might be best to just keep that to tags for the most part. But I would think at least for seed sharing, it might be of some benefit, for example in the ‘seed’ category, to perhaps have subcategories for, for example, regions roughly separated by… law? For example, EU can all share, so maybe they get one. UK has made itself into an isolationist island, so maybe it gets its own. And so on? Or perhaps better to follow the advice in the articles I shared and minimise categories by separating into continents, and then using tags for local divisions. So subcategory Europe but then someone can filter them by choosing the tag ‘UK’, or ‘Scandinavia’ or whatever. And we could encourage people to use such tags when they make their posts, especially for seeds. Though it would be really nice if people could also add geographic tags to other posts like their landrace projects for example, s for example, someone in France could see what other people in France are landracing, or even if the tag was only ‘EU’ it would still be nice to search, saving having to search through so many US landrace projects if they’re trying to find what local people are doing. Maybe getting people into the habit of such geographic based tags could be a really useful habit to cultivate for a project such as ours, so rooted in geography as it is.

And, just contemplating that, and the idea of who makes tags - I could imagine a benefit of limiting geographic tags. For example you might have 5 people all living within 2km of each other but one tags ‘London’, another ‘England’, another ‘SE England’, another ‘UK’, and the last ‘EU’! And maybe a person searches only the tag ‘Britain’ and doesn’t find any of them :joy: So if there were only a fixed set of regions to chose from, that might be beneficial. Of course I am only thinking aloud…

It would make things very cluttered create tags or subcategories for each country or region, but yes very useful for seed trading. Maybe there’s another Discourse community somewhere we could look at for ideas. Or maybe we should find out if it’s possible to search members by location, then put them in a ‘group’ together that only they can see. Groups on Discourse seem potentially useful and I haven’t done much with them yet.

Well another option is just for people to make posts. Like in the seed category someone could make a post ‘UK seed swaps’ for example, and people can just add replies.

That way if someone searches ‘uk seed’ it will easily come up. Or via tags (if it were tagged appropriately). But more significantly, anyone who comments in it will get notifications whenever anyone else does. So for example if it’s dormant for weeks or months and then someone offers seeds there, all the participants in the conversation will get notified. In a way it’s like the posts are naturally functioning as a kind of ‘category’ like that.

Of course this depends on how people actually use the forum, and people might just make their own posts each time the way to offer seeds, and let’s hope they mention which country or region they’re talking about in their topic title! Though it might be that the US domination will skew things. And who knows, if the forum is 90% US based, it might even be useful to make one extra category or sub-category for ‘Non-US seed sharing’? It might make those posts either to search and they’d be more likely to specify country in their titles, whereas US people might have a tendency to assume there’s no reason to add their country, and it would be harder sifting through them to find those rare non-US posts. But if there’s only 2 or 3 posts per month for non-US seeds then someone searching for seeds in Uruguay or South Africa or Italy or wherever, wouldn’t have much to search through in a combined ‘Non-US seed sharing’ category. Again I’m just thinking aloud here.

And just to add one more thought - say for example there were a ‘Non-US seed sharing’, then people could perhaps be encouraged by some instruction, to look for topic in that category for their region, and post comments there. Or if there is not yet one, to make one. So the topics are all just entitled by the region, not a specific share. And the comments in the topic then talk specifics. So the topics go on for years like that.

I don’t know if that’s best or just everyone makes their own topics within that category in whatever way they want to. But just mentioning possibilities in case useful.