In philosophy, a category is defined by an ontology which defines what tests or distinctions are valid. For instance if there is such a thing as "an apple", there's a way to find out whether a given object is an apple, or not.
A self-organizing __category, e.g. expressed in Kohonen maps, presents semi-structured as a list of topics or list of issues. For example a 1995 map based on the (then only ten million) pages on the World Wide Web of all issues in collaborative software.
all issues map for equivalent for openpolitics.ca itself and all OP issues map for open politics itself.
In politics and law, categories are observed or imposed by people with power and then formally defined into existence by acts of will by leaders and legislatures, for instance for tax purposes. Debates over categories can be extremely divisive. Attempts to categorize persons are quite often explosive, e.g. the use of psychiatry to designate some person as a danger to society, or not.
In political philosophy, a person may announce an arbitrary tendency, e.g. "Marxist", "Green", be validated by a more collective self-assessment, e.g. political personality quiz. Attempts to characterize another without their permission are also common and have well-studied outcomes:
membership in a category or an organization that identifies as consisting of people in that category, but it is just as common to be identified without such formal membership.
In software there is no way to avoid applying a category to every scrap of data. All of binding theory is dependent on some unambiguous means of determining which data is to be handled how.
A wiki page category organizes content and signals transitions between types of pages. If there is a permission structure (not part of wiki in principle) it will be guided by the category system, but usually not exclusively.
Categories however tend to commit a web service to a strong ontology. Standardized header tags, e.g. technorati tags, and consistent control verbs will require only a weak ontology. If there is no need for any standard tags at all, then, usage can evolve using ordinary wiki links between pages.
The use of weak ontology and ordinary links and unpriveleged tags is called a folksonomy.
In open politics itself, formal categories do not replace but complement formal header tags and footer tags. Some of the categories are derived from combinations of those tags detected in software. For instance, lack of hard disclaimers and a page history recording that users approve versions of a page indicate that the page was published. This can all be detected automatically.
Most wiki software supports some category feature that does not rely wholly on page names and naming conventions; tikiwiki supports a categories feature, and a similar structures feature. However, there are several overarching categorization systems that could use these technologies for different reasons, and they should be used with care as they constitute a strong ontology that refers to permission structure directly. By contrast:
The weak ontology standards set by the GFDL corpus plus the issue/position/argument and other methods employed, tend instead to rely on rigorized page names or at least rigorized prefixes or suffixes, such as the use of date suffixes, or prefixes that indicate a well known POV or style, e.g. open letter, the term:by. Seeing such a name instantly categorizes the page in the mind of anyone who is familiar with the conventions. These methods are far more widely used in wikis than the formal structures, which evolved later in mediawiki and not at all in most wiki software. Even Wikipedia only employed categories very late in its development, using header tags and the list of convention before categories existed. It got to a rather vast size and worked well with only these tools.
A category scheme for openpolitics.ca itself is evolving to support a wide variety of needs, of which the most significant are:
- organize all issues for transparent debate
- provide for diverse point of view on these issues, including copies of source documents, work in progress, draft press releases, whistleblower claims, and other information which is necessarily disputed or hard to verify
- set standards for other political wikis that put open politics in force to follow
Because open politics itself is a relatively new idea, use of categories in openpolitics.ca is not set in stone. It may become difficult to keep the diverse viewpoints all represented in such a scheme.