Reworking the Tagging System

by Bob Jacobs5 min read24th Jan 202112 comments

24

Effective Altruism Forum
Frontpage

I really like the new tagging system. I think it helps organize the forum and I'm really happy the admins have added it. That said, I have some suggestions for how we can make it even better.
 

Deleting the null tags

Right now there are 46 tags that don't have any posts on them. Almost a quarter of the tags are empty. These tags clutter up the tag page without adding anything of value to the forum. I think there should be a rule that you can only create a new tag if you can actually add it to at least one existing post. That way we can prevent unnecessary clutter.
 

No more tags for individuals

There are a bunch of tags for individuals. But why should we have a Peter Singer tag when we can just link to the page of Peter Singer? I find it rather awkward to discuss individuals instead of discussing their ideas. I suspect this might lead to hero-worship or unnecessary psychoanalysis. Maybe this is an unpopular opinion but I don't think we should have any tags for individuals on this forum.
 

Deleting double tags

We have a bunch of tags that describe the same concept another tag already describes. Population Ethics is the same as Population ethics and Patient Altruism is interchangeable with Patient longtermism. These are some obvious examples, but there are some tags that are more debatable, which brings me to:
 

A system for "subtags"

Some concepts are a subcategories of broader concepts. For example: Population Ethics is a branch of Normative Ethics. Maybe we could have a system where some tags are listed under other tags. For example:

This would give a nice overview of the concepts and how they all relate to each other on the tag page. Of course we would still have an alphabetical listing below it in case you want to search for a specific tag that way. This would also make it really easy for the effective altruism wiki to organize their pages.

I also propose that adding a subtag to a post will automatically add said post to the page of its "broader tags". For example: whenever you tag a post with Population Ethics it will also automatically be added to the Normative ethics page and the Moral Philosophy page. However, the post will only display the tags on the lowest level of the "subtag ladder", so a post with the Population Ethics tag will only display Population Ethics and not Normative ethics and Moral Philosophy. This will also prevent some of the tag clutter I've seen on a few posts.
 

A way for non-mods to delete tags

I saw the Population Ethics/Population ethics situation, but I couldn't fix it myself. I think there should be a way for non-mods to delete or merge tags. You could make it a public vote where at least three users have to agree (or something along those lines). That way you don't give too much power to trolls, but also allow tags to be trimmed without the need to pester the mods. If a subtag system is implemented, a voting system could also be used to categorize those.
 

Write a Tag FAQ

Something like the Wiki-Tag FAQ on LW would be fine. I could write it myself, though someone should probably double-check my writing since I'm not a native English speaker. You could have a link to this FAQ on the tag page, so newcomers can have the tagging system and its purpose explained to them.
 

Have a tag activity page

Have a page where you can see when tags were created and who created them. Maybe you can even track when a tag was added to a post. This should make it easier to catch trolls. A link to this page could be available on the tag page. If a subtag system is implemented this page could also display when a tag becomes a subtag and who voted for it.
 

Create a page for tag edits and discussion

When you go to a tag you can click on "history" to see the history of the tag description and on "discussion" to see comments about said tag. Perhaps we could create a page (or two separate pages) that lays out all this information for every tag simultaneously. This way you can have an overview of the history of all the tag edits and discussions. We could put a link to these pages on the tag page.
 

Completing the tag descriptions

There are a lot of tags that are missing good descriptions. I suggest we make a page that gives users an overview of this issue. Users or the mods could signal if a tag: needs a description, is a stub, needs related pages, needs updating, has very few posts, needs relevance sorting, is a merge candidate, is a split candidate, is a Wiki-Only candidate, is a tag only candidate, is in need of description improvements, has high priority, has other work that needs to be done, or should be deleted. Something like the Wiki-dashboard. Maybe people who write a lot of tag descriptions could even be rewarded with some karma to help incentivize completion.
 

Create a discussion thread

Create a discussion thread where people can leave their suggestions/critiques of the tagging system. Put a link to this discusion thread and to "Propose and vote on potential tags" on the tag page.

Perhaps this post can (temporarily) be the discussion thread? If you have more suggestions or want to discuss one of my suggestions you can leave a comment on this post.

24

12 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 10:47 AM
New Comment

Thanks for sharing this post! It's given me a good opportunity to clear up some things about an ongoing Forum project.

I may add another comment later, but a few quick points:

  • The duplicate tags you've noticed are the result of an ongoing project to add an "EA Wiki" to our tag system, described in a bit more detail here (though a full post is forthcoming). They are being hidden from the tag page by mods once every few days as they are added, and will eventually be merged with the other tags of the same name. I last hid a set of outstanding tags on Thursday and will hide the current batch today.
    • The same also goes for the "null" tags you see (there may be one or two cases where someone proposed a new tag without any attached posts and it wasn't part of the Wiki project, but we always remove those tags).
    • There are hundreds of tags being added as part of this merger, so it's had to happen over time rather than all at once.
  • Some of the other things you propose (more emphasis on tag descriptions, a tagging FAQ) will happen soon as part of the Wiki project (which is also something of a "get all the tags in order now that they've expanded a lot" project).
    • Once all the content has been imported and the appropriate tags have been merged, we'll have a massive tagging event where people will be strongly encouraged to edit Pablo Stafforini's initial Wiki content, add more content to tags without much, add new tags to posts, etc. There may be prizes and/or a leaderboard for strong contributors. LessWrong did something similar last year.
  • I think there are some real upsides to having tags for individuals. 
    • If someone wants to read posts about a certain notable person, or posts written by that person, I don't want to assume this is "hero worship" or "psychoanalysis" -- maybe they're just interested in the way that person thinks.
    • "Linking a post to someone's page" in the way you propose would imply it was written by them -- but not all things written about Peter Singer, or about Singer's work, were written by Peter Singer.
    • And of course, not all notable figures related to EA will have accounts on the Forum, now or in the future. Imagine an academic whose career spans decades and who works on many different topics of relevance to EA (e.g. Yew-Kwang Ng). It seems reasonable to have a way to link various posts about that person's work together.
    • That said, tags about individuals may end up not appearing on the central "tags" page when all's said and done -- we're likely to have one page that covers the most common conceptual tags and one page that includes links to every Wiki page, including those of individuals and organizations.

Please let me know what further questions you have; all of that will be helpful as we prepare for the public launch of the project. And I'm sorry that the "under construction" bits of it have led to some clutter on the tag page -- it should be much cleaner once all of this is done!

Oh wow, that's fantastic! I now feel like the tone of this post seems way too harsh. Seeing that most of my points are already being addressed by the mod-team makes me think I should have reached out to you before posting this. I'll make it up to you by winning that upcoming tagging event :)
Thank you mod-team, for your continuing work on this amazing site!

I don't think the post was too harsh. Much better for people to have a low barrier to suggesting improvements to the Forum, in any case.

Anyone with suggestions for the Forum is always welcome to run them by me before posting. In cases where something seems obviously wrong/sub-optimal, there's at least some chance that a technical fix is coming soon or that we're implementing a solution. But again, please feel free to post about these things, too. We should be accountable to our users.

The points of yours I didn't address will generally be handled by the tagging event or are technical suggestions that the LW/Forum tech teams might implement later. I've made a note to discuss your "tag activity" page idea with the programmers this coming week.

On the "way for non-mods to delete tags":

If people find that "bugging the mods" seems like a bad way to get things done (e.g. because we aren't responsive enough), I think a better initial solution is "more mods" or "more time from current mods" rather than trying to build new technical systems.

This won't always be the case. Sometimes, a new system will save a lot of time and have a big ROI. But the "more mod time" response has a few advantages:

  • New tech is slow, while adding mod time can be done instantly. 
  • It's easier and cheaper to add mod time than programmer time on the Forum. 
  • Mods are generally going to be more flexible than technical systems. 
  • Finally, if we get annoyed by repetitive tasks, we can poke the programmers about new systems and provide strong evidence that a task is not a good thing for mods to spend time on.

 I expect duplicate tags to be a pretty infrequent problem once the Wiki merger is done, so this feels more mod-shaped than tech-shaped.

I like the idea of subtags, and it might be worth allowing a tag to be a subtag of multiple otherwise unrelated tags, like cross-disciplinary fields. For example, a tag for Climate Policy could be a subtag of both Climate Change and Policy Change.

Heh, Climate Change Policy Change.

My thoughts: 

  • On LW we have a bunch of pure wiki-pages that are not also tag pages. I think most of the tags that were recently created by Pablo should be moved to just being wiki-only.
  • There already is a tagging dashboard! https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/tags/dashboard
    • This tagging dashboard also comes with the ability to flag tags with various problems and ways to improve them. See the LW dashboard page for reference.
  • Tentatively agree on not having many tags on individuals. I do think a page on Peter Singer or Will is fine, mostly because it is actually useful to have a natural place to summarize and link to their writing, but I would advise against the broad proliferation of pages on individuals.
  • I don't think sub-tags are a good idea. We considered sub-tags a lot when designing the tagging system, and more than 50% of the time when someone tried to create a sub-tag, it turned out to definitely not be a sub-tag, and sometimes diverge from the category it was part of. There might be some hierarchies you can find, but overall I  am really skeptical of enshrining hierarchical concept structures. 

I think most of the tags that were recently created by Pablo should be moved to just being wiki-only.

We have ~150 of Pablo's tags in wiki-only already, and I'll move the most recent batch today.

There already is a tagging dashboard! https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/tags/dashboard

Yes! Thanks to LessWrong's code, we should have a good tag management system up and running soon. (People can use the dashboard right now if they want, but our tutorial will go up a bit later, and we'll be encouraging everyone to use it during our big tagging event after Pablo has finished importing his content.)

I don't think sub-tags are a good idea. We considered sub-tags a lot when designing the tagging system, and more than 50% of the time when someone tried to create a sub-tag, it turned out to definitely not be a sub-tag, and sometimes diverge from the category it was part of. There might be some hierarchies you can find, but overall I  am really skeptical of enshrining hierarchical concept structures.

Maybe we can deal with subtags like tagging posts, essentially tagging tags, and using relevance voting for the subtag with respect to the supertag? If it meets some threshold of net votes or vote percentage, then it is "officially" a subtag, and the supertags will also be added to a post when the subtag is. I'd guess you wouldn't want to automatically remove supertags from a post if they no longer meet the threshold for the subtag they were added with, since that would confuse people.

Yeah, but I think the UI for that would end up being quite overwhelming and confusing. It's not impossible to make work, but I think it would require a lot of work, and I think just having a "related tags" section in the tag description as we tend to have for most tags on LessWrong, is I think the right call.

Regarding sub-tags:

  • It seems reasonable that sub-tags and hierarchies might cause too much confusion
  • However, it might be helpful to make it easier to relate tags together, right now the process is a bit cumbersome. 
  • Suggestion 1 : Instead of sub-tags, it would be helpful to just have a "Related Tags" section where you can search and add a related tag, and have the option to provide a sentence explaining why/how it's related
  • Suggestion 2: Make it easier to link to tags in all forum text (e.g. in comments, posts & tags) by @'ing them or somehow making it easy to link to other tags (and possibly even other users, tags & posts). I think this is probably more useful and would add more value than Suggestion 1. 
  • Has anything like these two suggestions been considered?

These are great suggestions.

Perhaps, instead of the 3 vote suggestions for non-mod edits, there could simply be an option to make a suggested edit (i.e. delete or addition) that only gets implemented if the mod accepts it. Just like the suggested tool on Google docs/word.

Yeah, I agree. There are way too many tags now.