Where have we been?!
If you've kept an eye on our progress with the development of the new version of freshmeat.net, you may well be wondering what happened to us. We were rolling along toward launch at a steady clip, everything falling into place, then suddenly fell silent a couple of weeks ago. What happened behind the scenes? Here's the "scoop":
Conversations with our beta testers produced some terrific, well-reasoned criticism and suggestions regarding our plan to replace the Trove categorization system with freeform tagging. The most urgent concern was that important information about projects could be lost by flattening the multi-level Trove hierarchy to a single collection of tags.
What does it mean when a project is tagged "Linux"? It means one thing for a project made to run on Linux-based systems. It means something quite different for software for MS Windows which reads Linux filesystems. The Trove system allows these distinctions. Our original proposal for tagging in fm3 did not, making it impossible for users to reliably filter the projects in this example.
We held a staff meeting and hashed out our ideas on how to handle this. After brief detours through the flu, dog walking, and banana consumption, we have an implementation for you to try.
When we looked at how Trove has actually been used by fm2's contributors, we decided that just five of the top-level categories contained most of the useful information:
We decided to split the tagging system into five namespaces, one for each of these general areas. We hope this will allow project authors to expand categorizations as needed while keeping some definition to their filing and making the distinction between software written in Java (programming languages tag "Java") and a C++ IDE with special handling for Java code (topic tag "Java").
(As a personal aside, I lobbied to have the "Translations" category transferred to fm3. scoop pointed out how few projects use it on fm2, but I reminded him how many of you have complained that you can't add as many languages as you need for your projects on fm2. With fm3, you can add as many language tags as you want. Get out there and use it, and don't make me look silly! :)
To present this new information, we've created a series of tag clouds on project pages. When you first load the page, you're given the project's topic tags (if any). If you need to know more (and further information is available in the other tag namespaces), clicking the tab for each broad category will bring up the appropriate tags.
On the frontpage, we don't need all of this information. The frontpage is for speedy browsing (and clicking through to learn more). Here, we show just three tags associated with the specific release announcement, three of the project's topic tags, and one of its license tags. For each of these groups, we include those tags which are most popular globally (across all projects). Hopefully, this will put the most general information in the taglines, letting readers quickly tell what they're seeing.
We think this new system will let us import the most meaningful categorization data from fm2 and maintain a healthy and growing way of organizing projects in the future. Please give it a try and let us know how it works for you.