Classifying and Sorting Content

The Ulwazi Programme attempted to put together an online resource around the local history and knowledge of the people of the eThekwini Municipality. To do this, we trained participants in digital media production as well as online content management. An important aspect of this work was sorting and classifying information, to make it accessible to both the end-user as well as indexable by search engines.

Gathering content through methodologies such as oral history and field research is only the first step in creating an accessible and useful body of information. In order to make it easily navigable and retrievable, it is important to apply classification and sorting principles in a logical and consistent way. This ensures that the content follows a set hierarchy and is presented in a way that is most appropriate for the intended users.

Why Classify Content?

Classifying content for the web involves very similar disciplines and systems to those used in bricks and mortar libraries, with the Dewey Decimal System being one of the best-known examples. When using this system, each book is assigned a number based on its content, which dictates its place on the shelf. This system works well for physical texts because it allows for very specific classification that is universally understood and used. 

However, with online content,, a slightly different approach is needed. Digital content tends to evolve more organically as  files can changed, added to and updated as needed.Yet, it still requires the same rigour and consistency in hierarchy. When conducted properly, the process of sorting content also ensures that search engines can properly index the site. This is necessary for the content to be displayed as results in search pages, and helps to increase the readership of the site and its general profile online.

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Storing and Distributing Content Online

One of the key aspects of the Ulwazi Programme, was to make available local, indigenous information online. We trained participants in digital media production as well as content management using a number of tools.

There are a number of ways to store information online so that it is accessible to a variety of users. Each of these uses different systems and software, has its own nuances and applications, and one may be more appropriate than another depending on the type of project. More than one of these approaches can also be used simultaneously depending on the specific project requirements.


A database is simply information that has been organised using digital tools so that each piece of content can be individually accessed and managed. Each item within the database is defined according to a number of set criteria, allowing users to retrieve and present content in different ways. Databases hold data that has been categorised and made accessible. However, without other software such as a Content Management System (see below)  this data is not easily accessible as it is not filtered and presented in a user-friendly way.


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Recording Content on Mobile Phones

Africa needs to move from a continent that consumes media to one that produces it. With limited traditional media skills and budgets available for large-scale production projects, the answer may lie in our hands. Many modern mobile phones have the capability to fulfil a number of different media-recording and publishing roles, as such, can be vital tools for developing a digital media industry.

Mobile phones can be used to tell Africa’s stories to the world

Mobile Phone Capabilities

With the rise of smart phone technology, it is possible to carry around one device with the combined functionality of an audio recorder, video recorder and digital camera. While premium (and costly) brands such as the iPhone are often the first examples of smart phones that come to mind, there are also a range of more affordable options that offer comparable performance at a greatly reduced price. These include a number of handsets running the Android operating system (e.g. Samsung) as well as devices from brands like Huawei, ZTE, Sony and LG. 

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