Introducting categories into Discourse

As you may have noticed, our forum is currently a list of latest topics, in some cases with some tags:

This was intetionally implemented like this, as in the beginning, categories would be mostly confusing and empty, dictated by us, without knowing which directions the discourse (no pun intended) could evolve towards. Now it may be the right time to organize what we already have into some rough categories. Take the Ubuntu Community Hub as an example of what is possible:

On the left we have categories and a few subcategories, on the right we have the latest topics.

Important to know here is that:

  • One topic can be in one category
  • One topic can have multiple tags
  • We can protect categories (e.g. only the “Staff” can write announcements or FAQ), we cannot (?) protect tags
  • People can subscribe to individual categories (e.g. only get updates about announcements)
  • First selecting a category could make it more difficult to open a topic, but could also help find an answer before asking. It would also require some moderation to move topics to more fitting categories.

So, if we wanted to use Discourse also as a “Blog”, or integrate some content into our website, having protected categories as a container would be a good idea.

The question is: which categories should we have? My first proposal would be:

  • Announcements (or News, or Blog) (protected)
  • FAQ (protected)
  • Installing preCICE (and adapters)
  • Using preCICE (both API and configuration)
  • Official adapters (no subcategories, only tags)
  • Tutorials and Simulations
  • Site feedback

Applying this categorization on a few of the latest topics:


Everything we currently have in the “FAQ” tag, spread among categories. Maybe there is a way to avoid manual labor here.

Installing preCICE and adapters
Using preCICE
Official adapters
Tutorials and Simulations
Site feedback
  • This topic

My categorization can definitely be improved, this is only to get us started. What problems do you see? What changes would you suggest?

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Following the same argumentation as we had in the beginning to not enforce categories too early, it might be good to also start with very coarse categories now and refine them later.
Your first shot is already a very good one in my opinion :+1:

Potential minor problems

  • There is some overlap in “Installing preCICE and adapters” and “Official adapters”
  • There is some overlap in “Official adapters” and “Tutorials and Simulations”
  • FAQ is somehow another layer.


  • “Installing preCICE and adapters” -> “Installing preCICE”
  • “Installing adapters”, “Official adapters”, and “Tutorials and Simulations” for the moment in one category “Official adapters”? and refining later.
  • Just keep the label FAQ for the moment and do no category here?

This way, we are actually also pretty close to the structure of our documentation. Not sure though if this is a must.

What do we do with new topics that do not fall within one of these categories? Do we need to sort them? If yes, do we need a “Misc”?

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@uekerman I have similar feelings about the overlaps you identified, but I am not completely sure if these suggestions would work.

In my experience, people often report issues with building adapters that are actually issues with installing preCICE. This is why I wanted to group them together. For some people at this early point, installing preCICE and installing adapters may seem as one thing.

Edit: Maybe we actually don’t need to enforce a clear separation. We can move things around if needed.

This could actually work, maybe renamed to Official adapters and tutorials. Our tutorials are tutorials for the adapters anyway.

A question would be: if one has numerical issues with their own (sometimes exotic) simulation, where should they write?

Sounds reasonable. We will not be able to protect this, but maybe we don’t really need to, we can always moderate (if we remember to).

There is also the default “Uncategorized” category, which we use right now. I would expect that people open topics in the closest possible category and then we move them if needed.

In “Using preCICE” in my opinion since they directly use the API of preCICE?

perfect :+1:

I had in mind “Simulations” as a “complete system” category, but indeed, just “Using preCICE” would be better, at least if the category “Official adapters and tutorials” would be seen before this one.

Then, “Using preCICE” would essentially be “Using the preCICE ecosystem”, not just the API/precice-config.xml: In many cases, people couple an “officially-adapted code” with an in-house code. People usually don’t know which component is causing an error, even though a numerical error would not be adapter-related (although maybe solver-related).

So, we are currently converging to:

  • News
  • Installing preCICE
  • Official adapters and tutorials
  • Using preCICE
  • Site feedback
  • Uncategorized

To me, the structure is evolutionary: a new user would start with seeing if we are an active project, then installing preCICE, then trying a tutorial, then using preCICE for a real simulation, then giving feedback to the community. We keep the “Uncategorized” visible for unclear topics and try to sort them.

I’m converged :blush:

That is indeed the main issue. My hope is though that the categorization could also nudge users to think in these categories: Is it an installation problem, is it an incorrect usage of preCICE (API, config) or is an adapter problem? Let’s see and learn whether this works.

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Update regarding the tags: we can actually have tag groups, which can give us some more settings. I created a tag group “Protected” and added faq in it. Everyone can see this tag, but only the “Staff” can add it to posts.

I added the first categories with some description, you can find them here:

The default view is still the latest posts.

If we like this structure, next step would be to move topics to the various categories.