R, Scientometrics, Knowledge Management, and Social Network Analysis

On Taxonomy

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The following is taken from Susan Hanley:

What is a taxonomy?
A taxonomy is a collection of relevant topics and subtopics arranged in a hierarchical or networked structure. A library card catalog is a classic example of a taxonomy. The hierarchical structure on Yahoo is another example.

Why is a taxonomy important?
In a portal or content management system, an effective taxonomy helps users to navigate to documents in which they are interested without having to do a search (although, in practice, most studies seem to show that users use a combination of taxonomy navigation and search when both are available). Taxonomies also allow users to see documents in a context, which helps the user assess whether a document is relevant for what they are trying to accomplish.

How do I get started building a taxonomy?
Three key skills are required to effectively build taxonomies. The first, and probably most important, is content organizational skills – a combination of data modeling and library science. The second is some knowledge of the domain to be modeled. The third is knowledge of the end user of the applications that will leverage the taxonomy. In general, when there are trade-offs to be made in taxonomy design, design for the end user of the content, not the contributor.

During visits to other organizations before I started the Knowledge Management Initiative in my organization, I learned that many of the taxonomies developed by external consultants or taxonomy specialists have been very under-utilized, if not forgotten. The taxonomies were undoubtedly looking good, but apparently it is too complex or too alien for the users. So, in developing the taxonomy for my organization, I tried to get as much feedbacks as possible from the people in my organization, making sure that it is not only complete but more importantly understanable and usable.

During KM Singapore 2008, I met Graham who stressed the need to keep the taxonomy simple, he also shared that it is not even necessary to call taxonomy as “taxonomy”, why not simply call it as it is: folder structure. Of course taxonomy is not only a folder structure, but at least this will prevent people from considering it as too complex of a thing.

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Written by Mathias

October 20, 2008 at 4:01 pm

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