StanSilver introduced Categories and Topics to tag Wiki pages; that way, an interested reader could use a ReverseIndex to see related pages. Originally, categories were intended to indicate page form, and topics to indicate page content.
However, the difference between the two was too fine-grained (and indexing page forms was not found very useful) so the distinction did not catch on. Categories and topics were used interchangeably, almost always to indicate page content (with more categories than topics). Eventually, a few people decided to clean things up by changing all topics into categories.
But "Topics" never really took. The majority of users saw no need to distinguish between Category and Topic, and therefore did not do so. Leaving that issue aside, why is categorization a bad thing? It allows one to search by topic (or category, if you will). Does it have a negative?
This is Wiki. Everything has a negative.
Topics vs categories never really did take. I don't know why; I immediately recognized the difference the first time I saw them here. But if someone already used a category where there was supposed to be a topic; I just went ahead and used the category. Seems to be the smartest thing to do, unless someone wants to go correct everything... -- MattBehrens
That "'Topics' never really took" is a TragedyOfTheCommons. The negative is that using both categories and topics for the same purpose violates DontRepeatYourself and detracts from the CollectiveIdea. Intentions were not understood and abided, so now intentions are unclear and overlapping. Topics have been rendered a BrokenWindow or a FalseStart?. From the dictionary:
It could be said that the fact that "'Topics' never really took" points to a complexity problem - YAGNI. Additionally, it could be said that DontRepeatYourself argues for a common tag, and not distinguish between Category and Topic unless necessary. Wiki is full of broken windows. There are countless suggestions on how to write/behave. Since no idea can be forced on the community, only the best ideas (as perceived by the community) are adopted. This should be seen as a strength of Wiki.
It could also be said that the least effort idea was adopted - and least effort is not necessarily best. This and other broken windows exist on wiki because people (myself included) are sometimes too lazy to FixBrokenWindows, or to understand the intent of an abstractor. I don't draw the conclusion that quality prevailed; only expedience. -- RS
I was just guessing when I set up categories and topics: categories for form; topics for content. It turns out in practice that the form of a page is not important enough to index. People don't want to know where all the discussion pages are, or where all the definition pages are. -- StanSilver
Yeah, but IMHO you guessed right with categories and topics. What's so complex about differentiating subjects of discussion from divisions in a classification scheme? The difference was clear to me. But I acknowledge the issue is foregone now: the wiki herd has chosen its direction and moved. Does that make it just? How far should that conclusion be extrapolated outside of wiki? -- RS