2017 Main Conference Talk
When I talk to Information Architects about taxonomies it often seems that we’re not talking about the same thing(s)–which, given the goal of vocabulary control, is pretty ironic.
It turns out that organizing pages on a website for navigation and organizing hundreds of thousands of pieces of content for discovery are deeply related but extraordinarily different activities; this suggests that different demands (e.g., construction and design strategies) are required for each.
Increasingly, though, IAs are required/assumed to have competency across the various types of taxonomies, including those (until recently) primarily in the purview of library and information science.
In this high-level talk I suggest that there are, broadly speaking, three types of taxonomies:
- Taxonomies for Website Navigation tend to be small, user-centric, and fairly shallow;
- Taxonomies for E-commerce tend to be larger, feature polyhierarchy and synonymy, and tend towards enabling filtering and recursive search (perhaps thesauri or ontologies);
- Taxonomies to Organize Large Volumes of Content tend to be large-to-enormous in scope, not necessarily organized for browsing, and constructed with an eye towards automatic text categorization (almost certainly thesauri and maybe ontologies);
- .. each of which come with different strategies for construction, implementation, and user interaction.
Naturally, there is some overlap between categories (otherwise what fun would it be?).
Although conceptual in nature the talk includes practical take-aways for taxonomy construction.
Topics include top-down versus bottom-up approaches, user and/or SME input, options for structural types and term formation, using existing vocabularies to jump-start projects, and automatic text processing techniques.
About the speaker(s)
Bob Kasenchak’s interest in information science began while working at Schwann Publications in the late 1990s. Publishing a quarterly phone-book-sized classical music catalog featuring carefully controlled synonymic records and standardization of terms suggested the necessity for hierarchical data structures in the service of organizing information about composers and musical works. After a decade studying and teaching music, Bob spent 8 years designing and developing information projects at a leading taxonomy firm before joining Synaptica in 2019.