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Monday, May 20, 2002

Blog Notes 4: Categories

No Audience is Interested in Everything You Produce

XML gives Weblogs the capacity to be organized into categories. It's good news and bad. When authoring an article (or one of those littler bloglets), the author is confonted immediately with a series of usability questions like:

  • If I put this piece in several categories, does that reduce the meaning of each category?
  • If the piece is on the home page and in a category, why would anyone ever go to both?
  • If the piece is only in a category and not on the home page, how does anyone know?
  • If the piece is only on the home page, what are categories for?

In other words, the use of xml/categories forces every Weblog Author or Editor (perhaps the word is Authitor) to consider the audience from a structural perspective each time a piece is developed, particularly in the early weeks of the development of the blog's basic style.

There seem to be few conventions and the act of producing a weblog changes your perspective on the subject while the thing unfolds.

We imagine that there are a variety of useful approaches and are waiting eagerly to try Stapler 2.0 which strips headlines out of the XML so that the headlines can complement the category decisions by pointing to material not on the current page.

Categories are extremely useful for knowledge-management applications. They give an 'Authitor' the ability to tell a specific group of readers that all of X sort of material will appear in x section thus allowing the development of discrete conversations about subsets of the overall architecture.

When forming categories, the producer of a Weblog (Authitor is a wee bit clumsy, don't you think) needs to ask whether the weblog will be viewed as a magaizine/newspaper type of periodical with discrete subject areas or whether the subject areas overlap. In our case that means forecasting whether the Usability audience is interested in Web Services and so on. It means asking, about each item, is it relevant to categories x through z?

No Audience is Interested in Everything You Produce

XML creates the opportunity to keep that question open for a while as the blogger develops a real time feel for audience structure and composition.

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