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I just had an interesting idea for an alternate category scheme. Right now, the main page has things organized by discipline. Now, a discipline is an area of study, and since humans study most everything, it makes sense that a list of disciplines would result in a list of starting-pages to most everything.

But we could, in addition (in an alternative "official category scheme" have the names of things themselves listed--of course, the most general of them. So, rather than Astronomy, we'd have space or [the universe]? or something like that. Rather than Philosophy, we would have being, goodness, knowledge, and a number of other basic topics studied by philosophy. Etc.

One interesting consideration about this idea is that, as in the case of philosophy, very many (perhaps all) disciplines cannot really be regarded as the study of just one thing--i.e., probably, for no discipline there is no one general category, C, such that the subject studied by that discipline is accurate and exhaustively described as 'the study of C'. Therefore, Wikipedia arranged by topic would have to include many more entry points than the present HomePage does, in order to be (more or less directly) connected to the same material that the top-level discipline articles connect to.

This consideration was inspired in part by an article Nupedia's Zoology editor wrote about Zoology. I replied that it seemed to be a really wonderful article about animals, and that we ought to rename the article "Animal." She agreed. A different article, about the study of animals, will be written about Zoology. This then raised the question as to what the top-level article should be for Nupedia: "Animal" or "Zoology"?

Of course, the issue arises here on Wikipedia as well.

--Larry Sanger

I think it wouldn't be that bad to add it as an alternate scheme, but I wouldn't rework the whole thing to use it. Disciplines represent a "natural" (at least among the well-educated segments of our society) way of looking at things; its just a fact that human knowledge is divided up that way. Having Wikipedia structured roughly along those lines helps people find things and to know where to put things.

On the other hand, the point about Animal vs. Zoology I think is good: "zoology" includes not just the object of study, but the people who study it, the history of the study, failed ideas, untested hypothesises; while "animal" is just the object of study. -- Simon J Kissane

Older discussion (probably needs refactoring)

As an example I've put Wikipedia pages into NuPedia's category scheme on the [Category Schemes]? page. A short history of this, then. The Nupedia category scheme is really intended to be a way to organize review groups, not necessarily subject areas (i.e., it's intended to organize people, not content); but, as it turns out, it is also not a bad way to organize subject areas as well.

I devised the category scheme very roughly according to the way universities divide up academic departments. I tried, above all, to be exhaustive; if there is some area of human knowledge that cannot be placed in this category scheme, I'd like to know. The supercategories ("FoundationalDisciplines," " NaturalSciences," etc.) are all reasonably coherent concepts, and in most cases it's clear enough that a category definitely belongs in one supercategory rather than another.

On the whole, I think that as a category scheme it is a lot more coherent than, say, the Dewey Decimal System or the LibraryOfCongressClassificationScheme?. But of course others may differ. Feel free to devise your own category scheme and place it on the CategorySchemes page! -- Larry Sanger

I'm sorry, but the current organizational scheme that's been used on the homepage just makes me cringe every time I look at it. It seems as if there's no sense - that they're merely random points into the database. I tried to provide a simple three-grouping system to help at least organize it a little, but it appears to have been reverted out. There are few clues as to how to fit new topics into the organizational scheme... How can you tell if some technical topic belongs in TechnologY rather than ScienCe? ArtsAndEntertainment?? is an extremely broad subject area; CountriesOfTheWorld extremely specific... -- BryceSorryAndConfusedHarrington

Science includes the principles behind things, but technology includes their uses. A lot of topics will straddle the two, but for a top-level classification I don't think there's a problem. I do agree, though, that there are way to many top-level nodes. Off the top of my head, I would propose a different system:

Understanding the way the world works - PhiloSophy, MathematicsAndStatistics, NaturalSciences Understanding what's actually in it - BiologicalSciences? (?), HiStory, GeoGraphy? Making stuff for practical use - TechnologY Making stuff for its own ends - ArtsAndEntertainment?

The point of having a computerized encyclopedia is not to face some of the traditionnal dilemma of the Editor-In-Chief: meeting the deadline, having a fixed list of articles, publishing a fixed work, having only one table of contents.

I think that apart from quite rational CategorySchemes we should encourage many apparently non-sensical categorizations and make them available through a variant of the CategorySchemes and/or of the PatentNonsense page, like this one:

  1. Things written by BryceHarrington
  2. Things having kept a wEiRDcAPITALIZATion?? in wikiwiki
  3. Things whose name is badly spelt by most
  4. Things whose shape or color has a cute name in shwahili
  5. Birds that cannot fly
  6. Subjects alluded to in more than two of the above categories
  7. People not wanting to be classified as things
  8. Objects not wanting to be called by any other name
  9. Objects that can be thrown at someone you despise
  10. Savoir-vivre manuals
  11. Mirrors, Queens and Rabbits
  12. Miscelleaneous and Dinosaurs


As you can see, I've been tweaking our HomePage category scheme. It probably needs further tweaking, if we're going to follow a nonredundancy rule; e.g., countries of the world is a subcategory of geography. This is something we should perhaps discuss. LMS
Perhaps AstroNomer could explain why Planetary Sciences should be distinguished from Astronomy? For simplicity, I propose to continue regarding PS as a branch of Astronomy. We could, for example, regard Oceanography? as a separate science from Earth Sciences, but again, simplicity seems to recommend that we keep relatively few broadly-characterized categories. Disagree? --LMS
In some Universities in the US, there are Planetary Sciences departments separate from the astronomy departments, and, though they use some of the techniques of astronomy, they also are able to "go there" and observe directly (trips to the moon, unmanned mission to Mars and other planets, the recent landing in an asteroid). They study things as the geology of planets, or the meteorology of others...In a way, I'd say that [earth sciences]? is branch of Planetary Sciences, more than P.S. is a branch of astronomy. There are even some (I hope few) planetary scientists than get offended is someone called them astronomers...

All that said, it is possible than putting it at the top of the hierarchy was a bit extreme, and I'm not moving it back till some pl. scientists joins the wiki and moves it back.

Also, I think there should be a link to Planetary Sciences from [Earth sciences]? -- AstroNomer

The Dewey Decimal System is really more appropriate for a library of books, not an encyclopedia, but still gives an interesting (if old-fashioned!) perspective.
Or the Library of Congress catalogue scheme perhaps. I assume that it's Public Domain, being produced by the US government.
Love the new biography category, this will help us to tie things together really easily. sjc
Yep, I like it too! Good idea! --LMS

Hello ! Are new contributions to be posted at the top or bottom of the page? I'd like to propose a TopicMaps approach for the general structure. That is basically a subject-centered non-hierarchical concept, so we won't have to bother much what is top and what is down. And it's very close to the wiki growth concept. The distinction pointed below between concepts, themes, classes or categories(also called universals) and individual objects like you and me and Van Gogh's "Les Tournesols" could lead to something different of the usual encyclopaedias structure.

BernardVatant (will try to give some attention to the French section)

14 Sept. 2001 What do people think about the category scheme of the Open Directory Project (http://www.dmoz.org/). It is the basis that many of the large commercial web directories work from, and so is familiar to many people. --Sunset
I really like the ODP category scheme (it seems to be very carefully worked out), but I think there's a fundamental difference between a category scheme for a set of web links and one for an encyclopedia. --LMS
I guess this answers an earlier question from BernardVatant: New posts will be added at the bottom of the page. :) - Sunset
Right, sometimes I think it's simpler to do rather than to say. :-) --LMS

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Last edited October 3, 2001 5:17 pm by Malcolm Farmer (diff)