Kinds of Popcorn: Exploiting You Again

We’re trying to revamp the Popcorn Dialogues site, and it’s making us look at websites in general and PopD in particular in a new light. The current topic is “categories” as we try to figure out the best way to organize the site. We’ll be tagging the posts, so this isn’t about searching for a topic, it’s about how the overall organization of the posts work. The problem is that Lani and I define the site in different ways.

I think of the site as a teaching/research resource and that categories are part of the description of the site: you read the title and subtitle and then you look at the categories to see a breakdown description of the elements that make up this site. So I think the categories should be the different genres we’ll be studying—Action-Adventure, Comedy, Mystery/Suspense, Paranormal, Romance—so that people will see that we’re looking at kinds of stories to analyze them, and then click on a category to see what we’ve done in that genre.

Lucy thinks of PopD as a show, and that people want to access what the episodes are about, so she sees categories as more of an episode guide. She feels that categories should offer a different way of accessing the information on the site, rather than just replicating content material that you can already access through a search (should you know what you want) or a tag cloud (should you just want to browse). So, for instance, we did a series on romantic comedy; that should be one category. If we do a series on British Romantic Comedy, that would be another category; if we do a series of Robert Downey, Jr. movies, that should be a category.

What we’ve realized is that our backgrounds are affecting the way we view the project. Lucy has a background in television production so she sees the site as presenting a show. I have a teaching background, so I see the site as a learning resource. It’s entirely possible we’re both wrong. So of course we turned to you all (you all being the Argh People, the Betties, and the PopD people; this is simultaneously posted on all three sites).

So here are the questions we have:

1. How do you use categories on a blog; that is, what are you looking for when you look at a blog’s category list?

2. Popcorn Dialogues is a website that posts a weekly podcast of two writers talking about a movie they’ve just seen in order to understand story better. If you went to that site, what categories would be most helpful to you? (The podcasts will all be tagged for search purposes.)

Update:
So here the tentative plan:
Categories by genre because that’s how bookstores and video stores are organized, so it’s the default way to search for story.
An Index Page at the top that lists all the movies in alphabetical order with links to their posts.
A Series Page that lists all the series in alphabetical order with the movies under them and links to their posts.
Tags for craft and content.

How’s that sound?

And we thank you for your support.

54 thoughts on “Kinds of Popcorn: Exploiting You Again

  1. When I’m trying to find something on a blog, I generally try the search function to find a key concept–usually author or title, because I usually do this in review blogs.

    So let’s say I’m looking a review of a particular book. I sometimes go straight for the book in Search; other times I go for the author ’cause it gets you other books in a series. I never, ever search on “B reviews” or “Urban fantasy” or whatever.

    Actually, for PopD, I’d like to see a complete list of podcasts by movie, with possible other sorts by date and by leads. Click through to a particular podcast and you might get a brief summary of the movie and the conversation (a paragraph or two).

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    1. I need some clarification on “complete list of podcasts by movie.” Like an index, an alphabetical list of movies we’ve talked about with links to the podcast post?
      Also, why by date? (I’m not arguing, I’m just not sure why that’s useful. [Edited: Oh, wait, the date of the movie’s release? I was thinking the date we did the podcast. We can tag for the year, definitely.)
      We’ll definitely tag the posts for actors, directors, and writers, so that’s searchable.
      The new podcast posts have the movie poster, the release date, the tagline, the writer(s), and a memorable quote (just because they’re fun). Then a short teaser for the podcast followed by our ratings, the podcast link, and the link to the chat transcript. One post per week, not two as before.

      So, Ell, you’re saying you don’t use categories at all, that you go straight to “Search”?

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      1. Yes, list of movies and link to podcasts.
        Yes, date of release.
        I nearly always go straight to “Search”; sometimes I then use tags to get like items.

        On another topic, what about transcribing podcasts? I’ve done some transcription and others probably have as well–is it worth the effort to do that?

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  2. When I go to PopD, which admittedly is rarely, I’ve been frustrated at having to scroll through oodles of content to see all the movies you’ve discussed since my last visit. It would be easier if there were links to the various movies somehow. That way I wouldn’t have to scroll past movies I don’t care about.

    You usually have a post about a movie prior to the podcast, and then the actual podcast post; if I selected a specific movie I’d want to get both of these. But I might also want to just see the pre-podcast posts, or just the podcast posts.

    And sometimes there are interesting posts that aren’t about a specific file; grouping these together (perhaps by topic?) might be useful.

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    1. So if there was some kind of index page with the movies in alphabetical order, that would solve the scrolling problem?

      We’re going to one post per movie, so the pre-podcast posts are gone. Do you think the intro posts are important?

      We put everything that’s not a movie under Everything Else because there’s not that much extra stuff. But we are going back to tag all the posts so searching is easier.

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  3. Usually, I like things by subject matter–so the scifi, action, mystery, etc.–approach, so that if I have a feel of what I need (explosions or love) but I don’t know specifically, I can just click and browse. But Lani’s approach could be useful too–especially if I’m looking for a specific post. Like if I remember a podcast where you talked about how gorgeous Robert Downey, Jr., is shirtless, but I can’t remember what movie it was or anything other than it had Iron Man in it.

    Is there any way to combine the two? Or maybe just go with Ell (by the way, very tickled that some of the first responses are both from “El” people) and make sure everything is very easy to find using a clearly marked search function.

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  4. I’m probably most likely to access a podcast by film name. So a list of films are required. I think of PopD as a learning resource over entertainment. Though it is already both.

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  5. I think I’m a “Putting On A Show” girl. I love the idea of grouping the podcasts by series.

    As a cataloging and organizational nerd, though, I also like the idea of grouping by genre.

    I’m no help. I think you should do both. But I prefer the show.

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    1. Someone who has to design this is going to kick me, but there’s no reason you can’t do both. What you have, essentially, is a documentary (the “show”) and within that documentary, the bibliography/resource list (the category/keyword breakdown).

      These are easily enough cross-referenced (attaching a category to each movie title). Then you can have two separate drop-down menus — one by movie title, one by category. You could easily, if you wanted, have a third “keyword” category, which would be any keyword relevant to that movie (like “Robert Downey Jr.”). So it would look like this in the sidebar:

      Movie Titles
      Categories
      Keywords

      With each of them drop down menus. It’s do-able, and it allows flexibility on the site for both of you, plus for all of us, no matter how we process information.

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        1. I checked with Mollie. She thinks it confuses the purpose of the site and I think she’s right. Plus just too much stuff in the sidebar. The idea is to simplify as much as possible. You put too much stuff over there, people don’t even look at it.

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  6. My first thought was that genres seemed the most natural categories, but then I realized that if you were tackling several movies in that genre, as you did with romantic comedy, that doesn’t narrow it down much.

    But in the podcasts I’ve listened to, I noticed that you tend to focus on different aspects. For example, It Happened One Night had a lot about dialogue and secondary characters. So those might be more useful categories.

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      1. I like this. I have a number of serious references with three or more indexes, just for this reason: e.g., ‘Organisms’, ‘Researchers’, and everything else. Sometimes the specific ones are repeated in the everything-index.

        And, of course, this is all additional to the table of contents.

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    1. Just to let you know, when I read “craft topic” I thought it would be a list of crochet patterns that you were working on while watching the movies.

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  7. I think of it primarily as a resource – its taught me a lot about structure by listening to you guys tear things apart or highlight what was so graceful. But your gushing/bickering/rants are an entertaining plus.

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  8. Is there any reason it can’t be both? It sounds like you’ll be doing one series at a time, so right now it’s American Romantic Comedy, next it will be Action Movies, then British Romantic Comedies, etc. Present each series as a whole, which makes it both an education unit and an entertainment unit, and then tag everything to death, so people can search by release date or actor or whatever.

    I don’t understand the problem, which means I must be missing something.

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    1. We need a permanent set of categories. We’re going to tag all the posts, but we need categories for the page. And categories should be parallel, all of one kind, and there probably shouldn’t be more than half a dozen of them. So listing both genres and series titles would be too confusing because it’s apples and oranges and because we’d end up with about twenty categories.

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  9. I think you’re both right and I’d look for categories based on either viewpoint depending on what I wanted to find. Why not just use both systems? You’d get the best of both worlds then. I could look something up by Action or by Meg Ryan to see which shows you’ve reviewed that fit my criteria. After all, a post can be part of multiple categories. 🙂

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    1. Yes, but categories shouldn’t be scattershot. Two completely different approaches to categorizing a site would be chaotic if mixed together and way too long to be efficient. We have to pick a lane here and decide what PopD is and then categorize it according to that. It’s an event site to discuss story, we just don’t know if we should categorize it by event show (series title), genre (story), or craft topic (story).

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  10. Here are my thoughts kind of random.

    If you do both, just change the heading from categories to “Series” and “Genre”.

    As a participant, I like the Series idea because I’ll probably remember them that way. As in, oh – that was in the Rom Com series, I’ll look there for the Apartment despite the fact that it wasn’t a RomCom. Which brings up my thought of how or when would you classify the genre of the movie – before or after watching it? Based on your opinion after analyzing the story or based on Imdb’s rating?

    As a librarian, I like genre. Also, if I was new to the site and was looking for a particular feeling – laughter, scared, adventure, etc. – I’d look through your list via genre. Genre is had to classify though as many stories have elements of multiple genres. I would suspect that listing by genre many incite arguments of whether a particular movie really belongs there. Finally, genres can be whittled down to a point where you have so many, where would you draw the line? Would you add as you went?

    I like the idea of a master list of movies watched that link to that movie’s summary page of trailer thru podcast.

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    1. The genres would be Action-Adventure, Comedy, Mystery/Suspense, Paranormal, and Romance, and some movies would fall into several categories. Lani was arguing for Drama, and I argued against it. I’d put The Apartment under Comedy and then tag it Black Comedy.

      I really like the idea of an alphabetical index for movie titles, probably as a page. I’m fine with the idea of a series index, too. Not sure how the web experts (Mollie and Alastair) are going to feel about it because the goal was as few pages as possible, but I think that’s the best solution for that. Of course, that’s just me.

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    2. So, in my original post, I meant to type, “Genres are hard to classify…”

      Why did you argue against Drama? Are you not planning on watching it or do you believe it is in every movie? Thank you for not having “horror” on that list, because if you do them, I’ll be absent for those.

      I’m still wondering would you categorize the movie only after you watched it and would you choose what you believe the story to be vs. popular labels?

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      1. I do think drama is kind of an everything term, but I can see where it means “tragedy” or “serious stuff.” I think I lump it in with literary fiction in the life-is-too-short category.

        We pretty much know the category of the movie going in (biggest mistake: making The Apartment a romantic comedy). But we can edit afterward.

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  11. I want the learning aspect of things. I may have this wrong but if one way will end up with a list of movies you’ve reviewed by the date they were released or something, that will be useless to me. For example, I want to access the romcom series. I’m not interested in randomly searching out a single movie review.

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    1. No, we’d tag the dates. So if you wanted to know a movie we did that came out in 1999, you could search for that and it would show up.

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  12. I think it would be more helpful to have things categorized by genre because that’s how my mind works. I understand Lucy’s desire to categorize by series- it makes sense- but it doesn’t break things down enough in my mind. I don’t like clicking on a category and being overwhelmed by it’s content. I think that’s what tags are for. If you categorize by genre, then tag by series, it makes things easy to navigate *and* search.

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  13. Category/genre first of all. I really really don’t like the idea of a “show” arrangement because there are whole categories of movies I am not interested in seeing, and hence might easily not want to listen to at all.

    I certainly like the idea of a movie title index, since if I recall something about a particular podcast I’m most likely to be able to link that memory to a particular movie.

    However, I’d also like to have some tags that will help me to know certain specific kinds of information, such as who the participants are in each podcast, which films were rated highest and lowest by the podcasters, and so on.

    I’d also love to have some place for the kind of meta-analysis that begins to emerge after you’ve watched a whole group of some genre — kind of a “Lessons Learned” section that summarizes your changed perspective on the storytelling basics of that genre. Because I don’t think I could find that type of thing by listening to podcast after podcast.

    The thing I like best about these podcasts is that you’re not just treating them as a “My Favorite Movies” kind of evening — you’re actively working on improving your own sense of WHY you like or don’t like them, and what that has to do with the whole process of story telling.

    Which in turn makes US less ignorant, so three cheers for that. 🙂

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    1. Hmmm. The lessons learned thing is a good one. I’m not sure how we’d do it, but it’s good, especially since it reinforces the idea of the site as a learning resource.
      We have to find a way to add minor lists to the side. Like “Guest Podcasters.”

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    2. Oh, I like the “Lesson Learned” idea!
      I definitely view it as a learning site. The entertainment aspect is just a pleasant bonus.

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  14. I’ve always had trouble with Categories because I just don’t understand blogs very well and how to organize them. Give me a standard HTML site, however, and I will organize the bejeezus out of it.

    Now, I’ve never been to PopD, so take this with a grain of salt, but I think that Categories should be the main overlying topics of your site — just like a Navigation Menu would be on a non-blog site. Baring that in mind I think that setting the Categories as GENRES makes the most sense. As far as the other option, “[if] we did a series on romantic comedy; that should be one category. If we do a series on British Romantic Comedy, that would be another category; if we do a series of Robert Downey, Jr. movies, that should be a category. ” Those all sound like TAGS to me, not Categories. So, Romantic Comedy could be a Category because it is essentially different from Comedy, but British Romantic Comedy is essentially the same (so it would not be a different category). And all actors, directors, and sub-themes would be TAGS, not CATEGORIES.

    Now, all that being said, keep in mind that I’m not familiar with your podcasts. If, in fact, all of your podcasts revolve around 4-5 different subjects and it’s essentially a site for your podcasts, then it would be better to set those subjects as the Categories (I know that I just completely contradicted what I said, but bear with me). If you always podcast on just a few topics it would be easy to organize the site that way, and it would be understandable to people who frequent the site and are familiar with the podcasts. But if you anticipate adding many new topics and branching out significantly then your Categories would soon grow too large and unwieldy (in which case going with the Genre model would work better).

    Clear as mud? 🙂

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  15. PopD isn’t loading right now so I’ll post here. I’m a fan of the grouping by series. I think of the podcasts more as episodes and look for them in chronological order. This might be my perspective because I came to PopD several months into the project, needed to catch up, and had a really hard time finding the movie lists for each time period when I tried to. I suspect I would be equally frustrated if I wanted to look at all the movie posts for say, a British Romantic Comedy series, and had to try and determine which posts applied from a list for the whole comedy genre. Also, the genre thing poses a problem for me because so many movies can fit into more than one genre.

    Maybe a solution would be keeping the Categories by genre as they are now, but creating some sort of index page (think episode guide) that lists the movies in order by series with hyperlinks to the actual posts. Did that make sense?

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  16. PopD is a both, a show presenting the movie (entertainment) and a learning resource. Now, I am watching for the characters arc, the story arc, the scenes, and the conflicts pushing the story. It really is a great learning resource. I find I am watching for all these things in books and movies. I get the “ah, ah” moment when I read it or see it or listening to an audio book.

    I like your Home, Blog, For writers, Books, etc. Then you have the categories for the blog. If there is something on the categories which interests me, then I can go there. The search for link lets me find something specific if I cannot find it under the Genres, Series, Ratings, Upcoming, Chat Room script, etc links.

    The Chat room is interesting. Do you miss anything as you are watching and answering or commenting?

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    1. Nope. We’re watching first, commenting whenever we feel like it. Plus we’ve both been typing for so long it’s like talking.

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  17. I like the teaching viewpoint. I like genres or series; if it’s genres, then I don’t mind that there is overlap, that a movie shows up in more than one genre. Many books can be found in more than one genre; physically they are usually only in one but can be searched for in a book catalog differently. (Kind of like how Laurell K. Hamilton’s stuff is placed in SF/Fantasy, but is also referred to as Paranormal Romance, and in my opinion is exceptionally raw and perverse porn (that goes beyond my own particular perversity).) 🙂

    I like using the tags to denote the series that a movie appeared in, etc.

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  18. Meta-Analysis is Craft Topic. I vote – again, again, yet again – for Craft Topic. Other category breakdowns, meh. I know what I want, and I want what I want.

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  19. I have a M.S. in broadcast journalism and I currently teach, but I have no idea how to set up catagories in a blog, so I’m probably going to suggest something that makes Molly and Alastair pull their hair out, but here are my thoughts.

    I don’t have time to “browse.” I want to go to a website and find what I want, and I don’t go to sites that frustrate me. I am just too busy. So, I think the more ways for me to find the material I want, the easier. I liked the way the US romance through the ages has been organized – chronologically by social era. I think that has lead to smart comparisons. I think if the entries are tagged as they go, by movie title, PopD episode date, series (such as WWI, the 80’s, to allow listeners to do comparisons), genre, and ratings, that would allow all people to access it in as many ways as possible. I can see one listener wishing to look at British commedies and another wanting to look at a specific time frame. It seems to me tags are hyperlinks, essentially, so having a search by these would seem to be the best of both worlds. Right now, I’m frustrated because I just went to the site to find the names of the categories we’ve been using all along and I couldn’t find the playlist page, and I don’t have time to try to figure out where the it went. It seems to me that if you’re going to put something up on the internet, make it use all the doors it offers.

    I also would love to see a fixed page that has an alphaberical list, and on the other side, an overall ranking of the movies by PopD votes as well from 5 pops down to 0 pops, so I could go back and view ones I’ve missed in order of ratings (and to allow new listeners to have a place to see some of the top reccommended movies).

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  20. Regarding the website – the fact that previous films end up in archives only, is a problem for me. I need more than forthcoming attractions in list form.

    I need a list of films completed. That is a help to someone like me who is not a PopD regular.

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  21. Will we also be able to search by rating? I don’t visit PopD regularly and would love to be able to easily find the movies that scored well, as they’re the ones I’d particularly like to watch and dissect (and hopefully learn from). Kind of like the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books Greatest Hits list? (Or maybe this is already there and I haven’t found it?)

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  22. So we have some tentative decisions which I’m putting up at the bottom of the post and here. This is turning out to be a lot harder than we’d thought, but I think it’s worth all the time and effort (and thank you all very much, keep those suggestions coming).

    Here the tentative plan:
    Categories by genre because that’s how bookstores and video stores are organized, so it’s the default way to search for story.
    An Index Page at the top that lists all the movies in alphabetical order with links to their posts.
    A Series Page that lists all the series in alphabetical order with the movies under them and links to their posts.
    Tags for craft and content.

    How’s that sound?

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      1. Mollie’s fighting the index idea. She says people can search by the name of the movie. Give me a reason she’s wrong.
        I could put the ratings in the movie index, but you want them organized by rating, right? I’ll mention it. I’ll get clobbered, but I’ll mention it.

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      2. Well, I’m not asking you to get clobbered. I just remember that Lani had started something of the sort anyway, and there was a way to look at all the movies and their rankings. I think it was a compilation of the votes, but I could be remembering that wrong.
        So, I don’t know if there is a way to set polls up so they feed into some uber database, but if there is a way to do it where people don’t have to jump through extra hoops, it would be neat to see the movies sorted into a final ranking system.
        Why? Because I’d like to see some 5 star reccomendations for movies I haven’t yet seen. (I got lost somewhere between the process essay grading and the argument essay drafts….) I’d also like to know which ones are stinkers, and which ones got lower recommendations to analyze later. (Especially if I was new to PopD and saw that one I’d remembered fondly scored low. I’d want to check out why everyone didn’t love it as much as I thought I did.)
        Finally, I think it’s a neat thing you have going here. I’m never satisfied when I see some “professional’s” ranking on “The Top 25 of all Time” anything. This is a way for a group of smart people to leave their mark after a discussion by two great teachers. It’s better than the IMBD poll, because the point is to look at craft and romance and commedy, not just what you liked the moment you saw it.
        And, Emily wants this too. 🙂
        OH! And, for those of us without Netflix — someone else also mentioned an upcoming list. I really do need that. My librarians try very hard, but I can have a very long wait for some titles, and have missed 5 shows altogether because I was not able to get a movie in time.

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  23. Excellent. Lani and I are reading all of these and we’ll cogitate over tea and make some lists. Probably on Thursday when we’ll have heat again. Don’t worry, we have electric fireplaces, electric blankets, and dogs. But still, work will resume on Thursday.

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  24. In case you still need a reason for the indexed list for Mollie, it is more of a browse than search feature. I can’t search for what you thought on movie X until I know you’ve watched movie X. If I search for X and come up with nothing, is your site broken or did you not watch that movie? The list also acts as a way to reduce information overload by providing a subselection of all movies made to those watched by popd. I can see where it would be a bit of a pain to maintain, but with the right database structure and some code, it won’t be too bad.

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