Hierarchical tags

Tagging is better and more flexible than collections - but if you make possible creation of tag trees, you can combine best from two worlds. You can see one variant if WebResearch (http://www.macropool.com) - user can just select checkboxes for categories, and can see categories as collections. In free-tagging this can be done as "parent/child" notation.
  • I'm not sure of the value of hierarchical tags. What I would like to see, however, is hierarchical saved searches, which one could also use to similar effect. For example, a top-level saved search that finds all records tagged "Primary Document", and a second-level saved search that finds all records tagged "National Archives" from within the set returned by the top-level search (that is, from within the set of records tagged "Primary Document").

    To me, this approach seems more flexible, because it can be used with more than just tags. Or am is there some other advantage to/reason for tag trees that I'm not seeing?
  • jverber -- Zotero already supports using saved searches as a search condition. You can select them from the drop-down in the Collection condition.

    You can also use them in negation with the "is not" operator to find all results that /don't/ appear in the other saved search, use multiple saved searches as conditions to combine results, set up dependent chains of saved searches, etc.

    (Note that while a saved search doesn't let you choose itself as a source, it doesn't currently check the entire chain, so it's possible to set up a recursive loop (e.g. one search dependent on another that's dependent on the first). Mozilla will catch it and throw an error after a couple seconds, but it's still something to be avoided.)
  • Dan,
    Thanks, I didn't notice that... may come in handy :)
  • It's often very useful to have hierarchical tags. For example, if I tag some text piece as "C++", it must also be searchable as "programming", and so on. Are you sure that I must set all these tags by hands? As for me, there is two kind of tags: "general" ("example", "idea" etc.) and tags for concrete disciplines. General tags don't need tree. but concrete - need it, because hierarchy is natural there - "IT" -> "Programming" >"OO programming"->"C++".

    This has another advantage: if I use free tagging, it is hard to remember all tags, but if you show existing in the list, it wiilbe long and not so usable. Tree is much more compact and IS usable, from my experience. To avoid long typing in free tagging you can enter last tag, and application must suggest you possible variants - in my example it would be "IT/Programming/OO Programming/C++" (and, may be, ""IT/Programming/Languages/C++").
  • edited October 26, 2006
    I posted something on next-generation tagging ideas, which also ties to discussions at the SIMILE/Piggy Bank project.


    I think from a UI perspective the flat approach with auto-completition is best. It should scale well to thousands of tags in fact.

    But there may be value too in being able to organize the meaning of tags as well, and that requires something like Stefano's approach above.

    The problem with all this is that tagging really needs to account for the fact that users want to use their own taxonomy. I don't mind including a few tags, and using search to achieve the rest. I do actually get a little bothered by the fact that Zotero imports third-party tags (from the LoC, NYT, etc.) by default, since their classification schemes (at least the labels) often conflict with mine.
  • Zotero is better than nothing... And I also don't like thitd-party tags - the whole idea of tags is having flexible user taxonomy (in fact, I need Zotero as storage for "usual" content, where it don't have any special clasification, so I don't too bothered).
    Anyway, applications for information organization are rare and primitive now (most of them use simple tree for organization - it's shame), so Zotero is a good advance.
  • I suppose setting up the relationships between tags would be easier than complex searches.

    Of course, a simple modification to the way collections work could enable this as well: make it so references in a sub-collection show up in the parent collection as well. (Or it could be an option.) Then add a reference to the collection for C++, and it shows up in the Programming collection. (I found myself wishing it worked that way just yesterday.)

    Then again, since references can be in multiple collections there's only a fine line between tags and collections.
  • I too would love ZOTERO to have a hierarchy of tags possiblity. This and the possibility to pick from a list of existing tags would surely make tagging even more helpful by increasing both consistency and cross-references.
  • The option to do more with tags (like hierarchies or more complex relationships) is something that I think some (many?) would definitely benefit from.

    OTOH the simplicity (and ease) of tags is one of their greatest powers.

    We are touching here on a bigger issue of knowledge/information sharing and management. Simplicity is a prerequisite for an organisational system to be used by lots of people (and not just 'experts'), but rich semantics are needed for powerful functionality (like using automated reasoning in the vision of the semantic web).

    I have a qualified suggestion and a question:

    What other efforts at combining or dealing with this sort of thing are happening out there? Lots has been done with tags. eg: tag clouds, del.icio.us is one (last I looked it was just tagging, little (no?) semantics)...

    Should Zotero be set up to allow plugins to manage tags? Those who want semantic richness or to reference some experts ontology could do that (if the plugin was written by someone :) Services may come to be (perhaps in del.icio.us??) that could be used to manage zotero tags too etc..

    following stefano's ideas in the ling above, maybe tags could have extra info indicating where/how it was created (I guess the general UI may not want to display this info?).

    FYI: There's been a few relevant comments here:
    and here
    and here
  • Dr. Evicko, excellent point that there may be no one-size-fits-all solution. Especially for complex semantics: some people want rigor, but for others this would likely be pointless, off-putting complexity.

    I'm no expert on tagging but my impression is that simple hierarchical and semantic strategies are proving the most popular and useful. Mainly: (1) defining a hierarchy by embedding delimiters in tags, and (2) so-called "triple tags" or "machine tags".

    I'm sure there's tons of academic research too.
  • Again an interesting link, my dear Mr Alex Uw ;)

    I guess I see two courses for zotero:

    - try to keep track of tag format standards and tag management web service standards, and implement as seems appropriate

    - engage or someone become an expert in tag management to guide/advise/make useful and informed systems

    This discussion is part of the second point, but it seems none of us here claim that expertise. I'm pretty keen, but my phd is pretty all consuming at the moment, and will be for the next 6 months at least..

    Hmm.. it strikes me that tag management services/standards are on the way. Zotero could be an interesting place to start that trend..

    Dr. Ian Evicko

    (even if I'm not a PhDr yet :)
  • This is an interesting discussion. I'd strongly support some sort of hierarchical tag structure for Zotero. Even more so if it were possible to sync my tag structure across various programs (ie., the hierarchical tag structure I use for Adobe Lightroom and the one I use for NVIVO).

    This becomes more critical if it ever becomes possible to do tagging of PDFs in a useful way at the level of sections of text, not just whole documents. I think I've given up on using Zotero as a PDF reading and markup tool, partly because of this issue, although I dearly wish it were possible. I've suggested before that tagging the PDF of "Moby Dick" with the tag "whale" doesn't do much good, although if it were possible to tag at the level of selected text, then using hierarchical tags would allow for a close analytical reading of a text. Even if it were possible to do this sort of tagging in an external PDF reader, if Zotero were then able to use those tags, that would be useful. So far none of the PDF reader programs seem to have useful ways to do any of this.
  • Is there a way to do AND/OR when searching for tags? Currently the saved search for my pub list produces no results because I need to search for some tagged one way OR some tagged another way to produce what I want. Because it appears to be searching for circumstances that ONLY have both tags...nothing comes up. Thanks,
  • gdrogers - wouldn't "match any" work like OR?
  • Not sure why...but it's not. It gives me a slew of other items. Thanks,
  • that would seem to be a bug then - can you describe this in detail in a new thread?
  • I, too, would love to see hierarchical/implicational tagging implemented. It would greatly help in ordering and navigating through one's library.
  • I will suggest hierarchical way of organizing collections/subcollections (they are work exactly like tags but for me are more convenient). For instance, I could create collections/subcollections: Sociology – Economic Sociology – Embededness. Then I simply put the Grannoveter’s paper into last subcollection… and the entry is automatically reproduced at the two upper levels. I see it very logical and powerful solution.
  • thanx a lot, Simon! it is really great that Zotero has this option.
    But again… unfortunately, a lot of opportunities are not visible enough in the documentation
  • I also think, hierarchical tags could add more flexibility. As in case of collections it makes sense let a user choose the way of tagging.
  • +1 for this feature request.
  • edited September 26, 2012
    I implemented a component called 'context' that basically additionally allows to add hierarchical tags, i.e. that is context for items in Zotero. It works just like tags but allows for hierarchies.

    If there is anyone interested, I will be pleased to provide the code.

    So far I am however not sure how to do this best because - as you can imagine - this required not only some chances of the Zotero core. Currently I got everything running based on Zotero 3.0.7
  • why don't you bring this up on the dev list -
    or even put up a pull request to Zotero - I don't know how Dan sees this and it depends on the UI integration, but there is certainly no fundamental opposition to including this in regular Zotero.
  • edited September 26, 2012
    A pull request is fine. I think we'd have to see the code and see how it works before commenting.
  • From my experience with Jabref "groups" and Bibsonomy "concepts" I can see two useful additions to the current set-up.

    1. Make collections more flexible, so that on a case-by-case basis the user can define whether a collection includes sub-collections, or (although that would also require adding conditional groups) refining higher collections. http://jabref.sourceforge.net/help/GroupsHelp.php

    2. The other way, looking at tags, would be to allow the user to organise their tags themselves, but in a loosely defined way. So tags can still be 'flat', but users can create relationships between them, using concepts. So, I can have a concept "Projects" and can add tags that define particular projects... Not all-encompassing, but already quite useful, especially if a concept can contain both tags and concepts (which I don't think it can in Bibsonomy).
    http://blog.bibsonomy.org/2010_04_01_archive.html (second entry)
  • Just to echo the sentiment of those who have asked for hierarchical coding (and I've already chimed in once). Much of the literature on qualitative data analysis (which is one of those places where tagging ["coding"] of data has been a central concern for a century) has emphasized the importance of organizing tags into hierarchical tree structures. Combined with a better advanced search feature in Zotero, this would be very useful. It would also save time. Currently, when adding tags to references, I find I need to add tags to articles for province, country and region, for example. Since I don't have much confidence that I will have done this for every article, I find I don't use Zotero's search features much or at all. If I were able to enter just the province, for instance, and have the entire nested hierarchy included as tags, that would be a huge time saver.

    So, in summary, strong support for hierarchical tags.
  • I want to echo the need for hierarchical tags. I also want to add that, if Zotero just supports search by collection names (respecting the recursive collection option), that will effectively become hierarchical tags. It will be especially useful if we have an option in the quick search box to search among collection names. I believe implementation of that will not require too major a change in Zotero's structure.

    (I know I can already search by choosing a collection name from the drop-down menu. But when the number of categories is large, drop-down menus become cumbersome.)
  • edited March 7, 2013
    Regarding implementation of the above idea, one may wonder what should happen to the collection list when the user searches for a term that appears in multiple collection names. The ideal solution is to allow selection of multiple collections. But if that is not easy, we may begin by making the focus jump to My Library, so that items belonging to any collection can appear in the list.

    For such jump not to interfere with quick search for titles and others, search for multiple collections would have to happen only when the user specifically chooses to search among collection names, until a better solution comes along. One idea is to have a dedicated search box for collection names like the one we have for tags.
  • It would be great to have hierarchical tags if one could go into tags and mass-edit all of them at the same time -- (1) mass delete tags; (2) see how many items per tag; (3) create hierarchies within a tag-editing area that would then apply those tags to the items. It's a pain to have to manage tags on an item-by-item or tag-by-tag basis. It is incredibly slow to right click and delete unwanted tags one by one.
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