Magazine article Information Today

Taxonomy Boot Camp: Bringing It All Together

Magazine article Information Today

Taxonomy Boot Camp: Bringing It All Together

Article excerpt

Want 200-plus taxonomists hanging on your every word? Call them the "gods of the information age." That's what Bob Boiko did in his keynote speech at Taxonomy Boot Camp (taxonomybootcamp.com), held Nov. 5-6, 2013, in Washington, D.C., with the overall theme of Bringing It All Together. Boiko, founder and CEO of Metatorial Services, Inc. and senior lecturer at the University of Washington Information School, went on to say that although we recognize information as a critical asset, nobody actually manages to leverage it very well. He thinks information should be central, between people and technology, driving the system. Too often, it's not. Moreover, when looking at information architecture, the back end of engineering and the front end of design should put the screen, where taxonomists rule, in the middle. An "information-centric view" balances systems and art.

Taxonomists are in the naming business. According to Boiko, it's naming that unites all aspects of the information age. Taxonomists know when things are the same and when they're different. Information people need to muscle their way into the information architecture discussion to balance design with engineering. The ultimate job of taxonomists is to transform information into something usable and valuable. Making ideas become reality is "a massive naming opportunity," and it's one that taxonomists should embrace.

Basics and Beyond

After Boiko's opening keynote, attendees broke into two distinct tracks--one for those just getting started and one for experienced taxonomists. Taxonomy Fundamentals, a half-day workshop presented by Marjorie M.K. Hlava, president and chairman of Access Innovations, Inc., walked participants through several steps in creating taxonomies. Hands-on exercises in card sorting demonstrated how differently things can be grouped, depending on the audience and the ultimate use of the taxonomy.

Those who opted for the Beyond the Basics track heard about taxonomy development at FMC Technologies from Ahren Lehnert and Kim Glover and how they developed a faceted approach to taxonomy that would encompass the worldwide operations of this oil services company. They settled on nine major facets-- computer systems, content types, geography, organizations, processes, products, projects, services, and topics--with subfacets under each. Nancy Murray described how JSTOR creates multiple thesauri for its multidisciplinary digital content. John Magee took the agricultural metaphor of "tilling the fields" to describe Cengage Learning's approach to the 20-plus taxonomies it uses for its textbooks. …

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