I want users of my site to be able to classify their projects by categories.

Both extremes:

  • a fixed set of categories


  • a set of categories arbitrarily edited by users

are not quite good for obvious reasons (fixed set is well too fixed, arbitrarily edited list is going to become well arbitrary).

Is there any known way to allow the users to edit the lists of categories and subcategories, but disallow them to create chaos or for example creating a new too thin categories tailored to a single project, create duplicate categories, etc.?

  • 1
    Stack Exchange does this with its tags, maybe look at that model?
    – Toni Leigh
    Apr 13, 2018 at 14:02

1 Answer 1


I agree with your intuition that a fixed list is not ideal—I'm not sure of your content domain, but it's surely impossible to name every useful cetegory upfront.

The first way of handling this that came to my mind is how Stack Exchange handles question tags.

Anyone can create a tag, but the community can delete them. When a tag is created that is redundant or not useful, the community can delete it, or merge it with another.

I'm not sure what your user model is like, but Stack Exchange lets users earn reputation which, in turn, grants them more privileges on the site. This is a generally effective way of preventing "casual sabotage" from passing users, but still provides the community with tools to keep itself clean.

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