Interest/Feasibility check for Forum Thread Tags?
This was from a "hmmm" moment while browsing recent ads for other RP sites and remembering this more recent-ish Tumblr question, but what do y'all think about forum thread tags?

We're a writing community, and a few other forums have a tag system, and writing sites like Archive of Our Own (AO3) also have a tagging system, which, I noticed, makes finding specific things a little easier/quicker than the ol' search tool (which, I still use religiously xD)

I have no idea how to implement tags, however, that Tumblr question/answer led me to believe that it's possible to add them? :O . Obviously, tags couldn't be retroactively added to already archived threads, but, it'd be useful for all future things going forward xD

Edit just so it's all in the top post x3 — Things I would suggest:
  • Limit tags to IC boards and LASKY areas. This would prevent abuse from bots, other non-accepted accounts/malicious individuals, accidental newbie usage in the wrong areas, and players from cluttering tags with OOC threads when they are meant to function for searching for actual RP material.

  • Make tags so they're searchable. Basically, they'd be an alternate way to search stuff by, like how we can currently search by Thread Title, Thread Message, or Username. This could also allow more leeway in tags. For example, someone could search "Fort Kingsbury" in thread tags, and the search engine could pull up all threads that have those key words, be they "Fort Kingsbury (CdC)" or "Casa di Cavalieri - Fort Kingsbury". Or, someone could do "tNPC," and have the search engine pull up "Bob (tNPC)" or "TNPC Karen".

Here are my thoughts though!
  • Tags could be a more useful way to find SPECIFIC things.
    Even when Thread Subtitles were implemented, you could not search by them. As well, Thread Subtitles were always erased /removed when the thread went to Archives. Looking for a [P] thread where a character was supposed to be involved but never replied, but their name was mentioned in the subtitle? You couldn't find it. Looking for a certain event that was easily visible/tagged in the subtitle? Couldn't find it, couldn't even look for it if it was in Archives.
    • The re-implementation of Thread Subtitles could solve a few of the suggestions I've listed in the bullet points below, however, the case still remains that you cannot search by Thread Subtitles, as well, some things are not feasible to throw into Thread Subtitles.

    Using tags could help with finding specific plots, characters, NPCs, areas/locations, etc. that the search function is unable to, both on active, inactive, and LASKY forums.

    Yes, you can type in key words, but, the search thing is just going to search for the key word in the title or subject areas. That key word may be: someone MENTIONING a character's name, or could be someone ACTIVELY using a character. You get both, whether you actually want one or the other. Tags would allow for people to search via the actual plot or NPC, vs. someone just off-handedly mentioning it in their IC post.

  • Tags could be used for tracking pack/board events/plots AND personal player events/plots.
    Using DCG's Lancaster Stockshow as an example, all threads that dealt with the LCSS could have used a thread tag instead of being forced to put it in the title (especially when it can either make titles longer than necessary or, take up limited character space). This could be done with all pack/board plots, mini plots, and personal player plots.

    I think this would be especially useful for mini/personal player plots since those don't get newsposts about them, and seldom get updated with their own wiki page. If someone wants to follow along, they typically have to do some hardcore snooping and wizardry with the search engine to find things. Of course, this only works if the player creates a tag and remembers to use it for every related thread, BUT! If they do, easy way to follow and read!

    Alternative examples could be that it could be an easy way to find cultural pack events that happen often too. For example, NC's Call to Court, or CdC's Apprentice Ceremonies. They're not events that may always get a big Newpost about them, but, it might make for easier ways to track previous ones if they all have a thread tag vs. painstakingly trying to find every one of these events through key-word searching and HOPING you get an actual event thread vs. someone just making a reference to the event. As well, sometimes, those key words aren't actually used in the event itself, which, can make finding these things even harder.

    Even back when we had thread subtitles, you couldn't search by them, so, by having tags, it'd be an easier way to search for stuff with a simple click (or tag search?) so long as the thread actually has the tag on it. And, of course, re-adding the thread subtitles will certainly making finding event/plot threads (and [P] threads with certain characters) easier at a glance when scrolling through ACTIVE forums (they always disappeared when moved to Archives), but, I think tagging will help for just searches in general.

  • Tags could be used for tracking usage of NPCs.
    In particular, the usage of pNPCs or bNPCs, or, potentially tNPCs as well. Despite their wiki pages' disclaimers, players do not always update wiki pages when they use a pNPC in a thread. As well, not all players will call out using a pNPC in their OOC comments either. By using tags, it'd be easier to follow/find threads where the pNPC is used. This could work for bNPC usage as well, and could also make tracking usage of tNPCs easier as well.

    Other usages would be for y/cNPCs or maybe even (communal pack) animal NPCs. By allowing character names to be used as tags as well, you could use this for characters that are NPC'd in a thread (ex. when players do ROs between their two played characters). Again, players don't always call out these NPCs in their OOC a comments, but, perhaps, if a tag system is introduced, they may be more inclined to toss the name in the tags if it's an easy enough system to operate and use?

    I know that I like to follow cNPCs sometimes, and are interested in threads where they're actually present in. The search system can work to some degree, however, it, obviously, doesn't differentiate between a NPC being actively used or if their name just happened to come up in the thread. A tagging system could help with finding actual instances of the NPC character being used vs. merely mentioned.

  • Tags could be used for tracking relationships.
    I am a guilty Shipper and like to follow my favorite ships x,D

    As of currently, the search engine cannot search by multiple usernames being in the same thread. I can search by one character, and search the other character's name and hope to find a thread, but, more often than not, I'm going to be diggin' for a while to differentiate between actual character/character interaction vs. name-mentioning. This is particularly so when wikis/thread logs are not updated for like 90% of the characters on this site.

    This also goes for Character/NPC ships, which, have the same issues as above/NPC thing I brought up x,D

    This is an entirely guilty thing to suggest tags for, but, since we're a writing community, and I'm sure there are other shippers out there too, I figured this might be a useful use for tags x,D

  • Tags could be used for tracking usage of Areas / Location.
    By this, I DO NOT mean searching for threads within certain ACTIVE territories/sub-forums.

    I DO mean this for smaller areas within those territories/sub-forums.
    • Examples being: Halcyon Mountains, La Estrella Roja, Biff's Bar, The Rest Stop, Casa di Cavalieri - Fort Kingsbury OR Fort Kingsbury (Casa di Cavalieri) OR Fort Kingsbury (CdC), etc.

    Additionally, these sorts of tags would be especially useful after a thread has been sent to the Archives. Most players may not directly call out that the thread was in Salsola territory or in Sticks and Stones. With the use of a tag, they could do that, making digging through or reading older threads easier to be like, "Oh, this happened here!" Or, just for searching for threads that happened in certain areas in general.

    I don't know how useful this would be to other players (it'd be useful for me xD), but I think it could be helpful none the less, particularly for Loner Band-owned areas that are open to players to visit/play in.

  • Tags could be used for tracking Packs and Loner Bands.
    Similar concept as above re: locations. Once things get moved to Archives, threads lose all identity of location unless players specifically notate or call them out in the thread itself.

    Players could search for all IC threads related to DCG or could search for all threads related to Bete Noir or the Troupe, for examples.
I would 100% use them if it was implementable! I'm also a shameless thread stalker and it would be amazing to just... see all my ships threads in one please >:)
boy howdy would I like this.. it would help me know what happened where for the most part at a glance which is super handy for writing up archives or, you know, stalking people's characters.
Oh my god the NPC usage one-- the viability ;-; Intuitive tagging systems would immensely help with my scatterbrained self with updating historical stuffs for DCG? I for one would *love that*
Agreed that this would be immensely helpful. I think that I would especially find use for NPC & Area/Location tags!

The only thing that makes me go "hmm" (aside from coding it) is where the tags would show up. If they'd be at the front of the thread title, like the [P], [AW], etc. tags, and you're marking ALL THE THINGS + have a lengthy title, I could see it looking really cluttered really fast. It could also incidentally make seeing any [M] tags more difficult to spot. But there are probably all kinds of ways/places that tags could be displayed, yeah? Maybe under the thread title or something?
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(10 September 2021, 08:07 PM)Mandi Wrote: [...] where the tags would show up. If they'd be at the front of the thread title, like the [P], [AW], etc. tags, and you're marking ALL THE THINGS + have a lengthy title, I could see it looking really cluttered really fast. It could also incidentally make seeing any [M] tags more difficult to spot. But there are probably all kinds of ways/places that tags could be displayed, yeah? Maybe under the thread title or something?

From what I've seen on other RP forums, they show up at the bottom of the post they're tagged in (in a section between the post and the signature). On writing archives like AO3, they show up at the very top of the fic/work.

I'm not sure how they could be implemented on 'Souls since I don't know any of the back-end stuff, but, my thinking was more that they'd show up in the thread itself vs. in actual thread titles/subtitles when you're sitting in sub-forums (because, yeah, the CLUTTER xD). Basically, the purpose is an additional search function, not being another thread identifier (like a thread title, title tag, or subtitle would be).

They could maybe show up in their own section at the bottom of each actual thread? Either that, or, when you open up a thread, they show up in their own section below the thread title? Or just at the bottom of the post (not thread) that they're created in. Doing them by-post would allow more control by participants to add their own tags.

(Off-topic, but, with an additional section like the above added into thread creation stuff, we could also maybe make a M-tag section/check box that auto-includes the M-template and allows to say what it's for xD If checked/filled in, the section would show above the thread tags)

Edit: These are examples of how we could make it look? Though, again, I don't know if this is even feasible on this forum xD

How it could look in the subforum:

How it could look in the actual thread (if not shown under each post)

How it could look in the actual thread (if done per post)
Ooooooo this looks so fun! I think this would certainly make reading other people's threads A LOT easier since you can track them more easily. As it is, I have a hard time reading anything that isn't in the SL forum just because there's SO MUCH happening and it's hard to know what's happening in other packs because I don't know background or anything. It would be a lot easier if I could look up a couple characters (say I was following the Odalis/O'Riley/Solomon threads and forgot which area they were in or they moved to another area etc and I wasn't in the know. I could just look up their names and see ALL the thread they were in!)

If y'all decide to do this, let us know if you need any help! I don't know if there's anything I could do, but this seems like a big undertaking and I'm a very fast learner! I'd be happy to take some time to help y'all any way I can. :D
Um, yes, YES, YAS! I am so on board for this, especially for pNPC usage! This would be extremely useful.

Sorry I'm not adding much in the way of input here, but just putting my hat in for the "yea" crowd.

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(13 September 2021, 02:11 PM)Juni Wrote: It would be a lot easier if I could look up a couple characters [...] and forgot which area they were in or they moved to another area etc and I wasn't in the know. I could just look up their names and see ALL the thread they were in!

I know you said "a couple [of] characters", but, just in case you didn't know this trick in general, if you use the search engine and do:
--> Search by Username
--> Type the username and select it from the drop down
--> Go to "Search in Forum(s)"
--> CTRL + Click all the forums you want to search in
--> Make sure "Display Options" is set to "Threads"
--> Hit "Search"
The search engine "should" give you all of the threads that that particular, single character has REPLIED to :O

Obviously, it's rather limited, and won't 1) give you the stuff that is ONLY directly related to a certain plot(s), 2) you can't narrow it down to threads between ONLY certain characters, 3) you can't see which threads ONLY have certain characters involved with them, and 4) doesn't give you the threads that that character never replied to (ie. they forgot, or it's a new thread), BUT, at the very least, if you're willing to hunt through all of that character's threads for certain plot things, you can do so xDD
I am still not convinced that any problem that tags purport to solve couldn't be solved by expanding search.

Many of search's weaknesses (not searching subtitles, subtitles disappearing) were specific to phpBB. And many of tagging's strengths are incredibly reliant on player participation and compliance. Players who never mention what subterritories their threads are in may tag them with subterritories... but they still might not. Same with NPC use mentions, etc.

All it really takes to group everything from a plot together is for every thread to include "Plot Name" in the OOC description of the first post. Sometimes this happens. Sometimes not.

Tagging also introduces numerous issues.

Duplicate tags. AO3 has a literal army of tag wranglers stringing together related tags so all 50 misspellings of a character name reflected in the character tag and every combination of romantic and platonic ship tag that character is involved in still show up in the canonical tags (e.g. even if someone tagged their fic "Rukia Kuchichi" it would show up properly under "Kuchiki Rukia").

Tag systems are most susceptible to duplicates when it lacks or has a very slow tag suggestion system, but auto-suggesting tags can be a very intensive operation for servers and compounds the more tags there are.

Tagging standards. Tumblr-style freeform commentary tags are cute, but are categorically unhelpful with regard to categorisation and search. I may be simple to suggest that only noun-descriptor tags should be allowed, but removing violating tags can be cumbersome work. There's also plenty of discussion to be had on whether things like content warnings, specific scenarios ("meet cute"), etc, belong in tags or not, whether such threads should be required to have the appropriate tags, and so on.

I know no one is really suggesting compulsory tagging, but threads without appropriate tags when tagging exists presents literally the same problems and weaknesses that exist in search.


I can see where a specific tag field may prompt players to file a thread under various labels they may not think to include otherwise, but I also feel like a searchable "thread description" or "thread keywords" field with examples would perform a similar nudge and would be about 1000% easier to implement, technically.

The primary difference between this and tagging is that it is still a text field-based solution and words included in the text field are not treated as individual "tags" which themselves are linkable categories. Keywords included in a thread description field wouldn't generate handy links that collect all instances of that keyword, but it's a way simpler solution that utilitises existing features of the forum.
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My suggestion was intended solely for Names (which the selfish shipper thing could fall under), Locations, and Plots, as I find the other "free-form" (ex. "lol SB killing another NPC"), scenario, and warning tags that Tumblr and even AO3 allows are very unnecessary for Souls, and/or offer no value for searching actual written content and are usually just OOC fluff. Warning tags, I feel, aren't needed when players make proper use of the M-template for M-rated stuff, or, are considerate enough of their fellow players that they usually add it at the top in an OOC comment already. As well, I don't see players wanting to find all "rape" tagged threads to read, as much as they might for a pNPC.

I think that players would be as apt to use Tags just as much as they would be to use Thread Subtitles. It would be a field that is always optional, but is there for use for those that actually wish to use it. There will always be lazy individuals who will not use it, but, it's not for the lazy that I'm suggesting for. As well, in regards to spelling, the current search engine does not accommodate for wrongly spelt words or names either; it finds you what you typed in. If you type "Sasola" instead of "Salsola," it looks for "Sasola." If a person puts Wolf's name as "Wulf" and you search for "Wolf," it won't find any instances of "Wulf."

REGARDLESS of all of that though:

(14 September 2021, 07:14 PM)Kiri Wrote: [...] a searchable "thread description" or "thread keywords" field with examples would perform a similar nudge and would be about 1000% easier to implement, technically.
I'd be 100% for this alternative suggestion, as it serves the same purpose as a Tag, just, not clickable, which is fine. Individuals can always make those searches manually on their own. In the end, it's a separate field that a player could still fill out that puts it apart from the "entire post" search option. It would still have a few of the possible issues/abuses as you listed for Tags, however, I think that's unavoidable regardless, as well, I think your suggestion would remove some of the larger issues that Tags would introduce (i.e. slowing the server down, duplicates, etc.).

My main thing is just being able to have a searchable field that separates, for example, cNPC "Sidekick" being listed/called out/noted as being physically present/used in the thread from a character simply mentioning Sidekick's name in dialogue or thinking about them. Basically, if they're filling out that field, it's for a reason, and not just a casual mention within their writing. Having the search engine being able to search a separate field such as that, I think, would be very helpful and serve the same purpose as the examples I listed of how Tags could be used.

I think including an extra field such as that, reintroducing Subtitles (with ability to remain in place even after archived), and expanding the search engine would definitely help for those that are on the hunt for stalking certain characters/NPCs, plots, or finding certain threads.

All in all, I think these additions to the Search and Post Creation areas could help with finding content and following plots and stuff for players, pack leaders, and staff alike:

  • Reintroduce Subtitles (that stay even when archived)

  • Introduce "Thread Keywords" field with suggested proper use of it. Alternatively, make it "post keywords", and allow it per post to allow players to include their own keywords. For example, a big pack thread, and a player wants to have their NPC noted for "keywords". When someone uses the search engine, they can decide whether results show by post or by thread like how it can currently for searched content.

  • Ability to search for multiple users involved in a thread

  • Ability to search Subtitles

  • Ability to search "Thread Keywords"

  • Show search results where the "Participants" field is viewable (like how they are for "Active Threads")

  • Quick search link that actually shows all of the threads a character has replied to (vs. only the threads that they've created, which is the current "Find all threads" option). Even if players can technically do this on their own via how I listed previously, I don't see the harm in adding that in since that's usually what people would want anyways? :O

This is all, of course, if these are possible and aren't a headache to implement! If it's not feasible or requires a shit ton of workarounds and stuff to make these work, no biggie!
Misspellings and term variants (characters with nicknames, for example) are a bigger issue with tags VS text search because tags are actual "objects" in the database, so each misspelling creates a new tag, which bloats the list of tags (causing issues with auto-suggest) and which requires manual upkeep (deleting and merging duplicate tags).

With text search, misspellings just don't come up in related searches, but they aren't polluting your master list of search terms because there's no such thing.

I think I can add back thread descriptions/subtitles fairly easily, but having that field separately searchable would be harder. By default, the content of any additional text field would simply be rolled together with the "full post" content, so searching "Character" would not differentiate between that term in the post body VS thread description.

There aren't a lot of ready-made plugins to expand or customise search, and I've been extremely reluctant to install what most other boards use, which is XThreads, a huge juggernaunt of a plugin with a lot of different features. I think XThreads overreaches in a lot of areas and its complexity makes it difficult to understand and build on top of, not to mention that it's not well maintained or documented. I would much rather have 50 plugins that each handle a tiny feature VS 1 plugin that does 50 things because reliance on such a plugin leads to disaster if something in it breaks, or it has some vulnerability, and sudden you're out 50 things. As always, the fewer core modifications we make to the board, the less of a huge pain it will be if we ever have to move again.

This is all to say that any extension of the search would likely require I write all the modifications from scratch, which is time consuming af, though still preferable, maybe, to dealing with XThreads.

So as to your wishlist,
  • Reintroduce Subtitles -- Should be fairly easy to do.
  • Ability to search Subtitles -- Requires custom development and is likely difficult.
  • Introduce "Thread Keywords" field with suggested proper use of it. -- Requires custom development.
  • Ability to search "Thread Keywords" -- Requires custom development and is likely difficult.
  • Ability to search for multiple users involved in a thread -- Requires custom development, but should be theoretically straightforward
  • Show search results where the "Participants" field is viewable -- Requires custom development, but should be theoretically straightforward[/b]
  • Quick search link that actually shows all of the threads a character has replied to -- I think I looked into this briefly at some point and it was a surprising PITA, but should still be doable.
The bigger question is do we want these things more than a new skin this year, or.
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I'm definitely okay with no tags, particularly after you explained the issues and headaches that come with them! 'Souls just isn't the place for something of that magnitude with that much work needed to maintain and keep it in working order! We're a writing site, but, we're not a giant writing site like AO3, nor are we a site that runs on a pre-built forum site like Proboards. 'Souls is a hobby run and used by like-individuals, not a job where this is our main focus day-in, day-out, earn a pay check.

@ Searchable Thread Subtitles; yeaaaah, that kind of defeats the purpose of what I was trying to go towards Dx

@ XThreads; ugh Dx Yeah, agree to not have to rely on 1 giant, questionable plugin that could break a lot of things at once. Better to not be able to use just one thing, rather than render a giant chunk of 'Souls unusable @___@

@ New Skin vs. New Features; could definitely set up a poll if you think the new features could be something you're willing to put the headache into to try to figure out/implement (since you're the reason why 'Souls is even afloat at all and isn't on a crappy Proboards site instead xD <333)

Both things, I feel, have various things that could make them more desirable than others. We've had the current skin since November 2019. We've been without the features I suggested for 18+ years. We've done fine without changes to either, so, a poll would help see which people want more of! A new face lift or more forum features!

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