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Questions, advice, and experience regarding web granularity, web names, etc.

Initial question: What should the granularity of webs be? How many webs is good: a few? tens? hundreds? The motivating situation is that I'm setting up a TWiki site at Wesleyan University and the initial ideas for webs range rather widely in granularity. They include:

  • a web about life in the Wesleyan community (shopping, entertainment, medical care, neighborhoods, etc.)
  • a web for information sharing and collaboration within an interdepartmental program
  • a web consisting mostly of pages of links to resources for individual technologies (Perl, Python, HTML, CSS, Apache, Wiki, Usability, etc.)
  • a web to discuss the use of digital media on campus

Should the discussion of Digital Media be part of a broader Technology web? From my experience using various Wiki sites and my guess about how a Digital Media web might differ in orientation and content from a Technology web, I can see arguments both ways. This seems to be near the dividing line where it isn't obvious what to do. Comments welcome!

[By the way, should this topic have gone here in Codev or in Support? Probably another border case, but I'd like to know since I'm still unclear about the difference between the two webs when it comes to questions about managing a web.]

-- MitchellModel - 02 Oct 2002

My personal preference is to keep the number of webs as few as possible and use TopicClassification for subgrouping instead. Two main reasons for this: 1) Don't have to remember which web such-n-such an article was seen way back when, 2) avoids unnecessary prefixing: Main.This, Users.That & Groups.OtherThing.

-- MattWilkie - 02 Oct 2002

A way to approach this is to ask what is gained by distinguishing two webs. One is the cognitive simplification of not having to wade through lots of stuff you're not interested in when looking at an index or changes page or the results of a search. This could be addressed with index, changes. and search pages that support filtering by category. (Are there any such things in TWiki? Is there anything you can actually do with a TopicClassification other than click its name on the TopicClassification page to see all references to it?)

A second issue is change notification, a very nice feature of TWiki. Webs appear to be the only "unit of granularity" for signing up for notifications. I don't want to know every time someone does something on the TWiki site, I want to know when someone changes or adds a page in the area I'm interested in. Again, change notification filtered by TopicClassification could help here.

So I started thinking about using TopicClassification. I found the following pages interesting in this context:

It seems like people have poked at various schemes for subdividing TWiki sites and even experimented with some actual implementations (such as the use of categories for TopicClassification on this web). However, I don't see any support for or discussion of categories in the standard TWiki installation or plugins. Also, I'm not sure that one dimension of categories is enough -- a lot of times I want to distinguish pages based not only on topic but on "type": discussion, list of links, documentation, ordinary content, schedules, etc.

If I did use something like this web's WebForm I would want to force users to choose a category (and, if I added it, a type) for each page they create. Otherwise people won't notice that they can set these fields or they won't bother.

I would be delighted to have someone point me to stuff in the standard TWiki installation that would help me subdivide my site for purposes of browsing index and change pages and for searching. Name collision is also an issue (I nearly killed someone a few years ago when they started adding pages named things like Q1Plan, BudgetIssues, etc. to a Wiki used by > 100 software developers distributed among > 20 projects, when their page applied to a three-person project. Not everyone is sensitive to namespace issues!)

-- MitchellModel - 03 Oct 2002

Continuing my research into this (and my discussion with myself :-), I just discovered the discussions on hierarchical web organization and navigation TaggingRelatedTopics is a good jumping-off point, with links to the main pages of this wide-ranging discussion, but since that page covers so much other ground, I'll repeat the main links here for convenience:

Lots of good ideas and implementations scattered around those pages, but it's hard for a new TWiki master to tell from all that what's possible in the current production release (Dec 2001), what will be in Beijing, and what is really just research. I still don't know what I should do for Wesleyan's TWiki. Of course until I see how it gets used I won't really know whether the fundamental issue is LotsOfSmallWebs or the more general one of wanting HierarchicalNavigation. And, to reiterate comments I made above, it isn't just navigation that raises issues of granularity, it's also search, indexes, change lists, access control, and even name collision.

-- MitchellModel - 04 Oct 2002

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Topic revision: r9 - 2008-08-14 - RafaelAlvarez
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