Saturday, October 3, 2015

Lists and implicit prioritization

  • One problem
  • with lists is that
  • something has to be first
  • and something has to be 
  • last.
This fundamental property of lists is useful for priorization, but problematic when all items should be weighted more-or-less the same or when items can't be organized ordinally. For me, this problem has come up most often when listing authors on academic papers. I've co-written several papers on which each author contributed equally, but nonetheless someone had to be listed first (more than once we resorted to coin flips to figure out author order).

For academic papers there might be a somewhat straightforward solution. Authors usually list their affiliation and contact information just below their name. You could use this same space to list their role with respect to the paper. This could be an indicator of contribution level (primary, secondary, etc.) or explicitly refer to roles (intern, mentor, editor, coordinator, implementor, designer, evaluator, etc.). Obviously you'd want to allow authors to add multiple tags, duplicate tags, or ignore them altogether.

I'm not sure this generalizes to all lists, but it's a start.

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