Words of the Past

January 26, 2015  
Posted in News, reference

History is more than informative and educational; it can be very interesting. Some readers won’t be shocked at this notion, but some will. This interesting information came from the Word Lady blog in her post, “Very cool: History of English in 2 minutes.”

Using animation and data from the Oxford English Dictionary, you can view the growth of the English language. Part of this exercise is learning how English has developed by borrowing or adapting words from different languages and regions of the world.

It was especially interesting to learn how much of modern English was already established pre-1200, and equally interesting to see how many words did not endure to make it into modern English. This reminds me of a board game we used to play called Balderdash, where uncommon words were given creative definitions. The words were real, just unlikely that you had heard of them or knew the definition.

Melody K. Smith

Sponsored by Access Innovations, the world leader in thesaurus, ontology, and taxonomy creation and metadata application.

Learn. More.

January 20, 2015  
Posted in News, reference

Learning is not just an action or a verb. Learning can be an urge, desire, and passion for many. Information seeking is not something taught in grade school; it is something ingrained in our DNA. Lifehacker brought this topic to our attention in their article, “Elon Musk on Learning New Things: View Knowledge as a Tree.”

I have a confession. What I am about to tell you, I have revealed to no one before – even my husband of 15 years. However, on some level I don’t think he would be surprised by the news. I need to read all the time. This goes beyond standing in a grocery store line and browsing whatever magazine is at hand. This is reading the back of shampoo bottles in the bathroom, cereal boxes at the kitchen table (when my Kindle is not close at hand), and the SkyMall magazine in an airplane until they give permission for the aforementioned Kindle to come back out.

I need words. I learn new tasks or skills by reading. When you’re trying to learn something new, it can be easy to get discouraged. Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX and chief product architect of Tesla Motors, suggests you approach knowledge as if it were a tree. “I think most people can learn a lot more than they think they can. They sell themselves short without trying. One bit of advice: it is important to view knowledge as sort of a semantic tree — make sure you understand the fundamental principles, i.e. the trunk and big branches, before you get into the leaves/details or there is nothing for them to hang on to.”

I know nothing about Mr. Musk, but given this interesting quote and advice, I will be seeking knowledge of him soon.

Melody K. Smith

Sponsored by Access Innovations, the world leader in thesaurus, ontology, and taxonomy creation and metadata application.

Seasonal Classification

December 30, 2014  
Posted in News, reference

In tune with the season, the American Museum of Natural History is featuring a scientific classification exercise in which they are sharing one scientific find each day. On the first of the twelve days, the find is a partridge in a book of taxonomy. This interesting information was found on the American Museum of Natural History’s tumbler post, “Twelve Days of Taxonomy.”

Developing a taxonomy or classification system organized into conceptually similar categories can help users gain a better understanding of the taxonomy subject area.

Ontologies and other controlled vocabularies help ensure that machine-assisted or fully automated indexing is comprehensive, regardless of what you are indexing. Access Innovations is one of a very small number of companies able to help its clients generate ANSI/ISO/W3C-compliant taxonomies to make their information findable.

Melody K. Smith

Sponsored by Access Innovations, the world leader in thesaurus, ontology, and taxonomy creation and metadata application.

The Gift of SMEs

December 15, 2014  
Posted in Access Insights, Featured, reference

A typical thesaurus construction project for a scholarly publisher, policy clearinghouse, medical institution, or any other client with a technical vocabulary involves the input of a number of stakeholders.

At a certain point—usually about three-quarters of the way through the construction of the taxonomy—it’s vital to get the input of subject matter experts (or: subject-matter experts, SMEs, or domain experts). These SMEs generally work for the client—often as technical editors, but just as frequently in other capacities—although we at Access Innovations are occasionally asked to provide them.

image1Figure 1: An SME in his native habitat

In either case, the SME’s job is to review the emergent thesaurus from the perspective of an expert in the field. Even the best taxonomists can garner a finite amount of knowledge through research, especially in complex, complicated, or highly sophisticated domains; without a PhD in particle physics, your branch on quantum field theory will only be so comprehensive.

The SME is, ideally, well acquainted with the state of research in the field, conversant with the current hot topics, steeped in the journal literature, and familiar with both the stable and fluctuating terminologies used by other practitioners in their discipline.

A vocabulary that’s missing important concepts or terms covering exploding areas of research will not present a good public-facing website for your client’s organization. Imagine browsing a computer science taxonomy that’s missing the term “Big Data” in 2014—would you assume the parent of that vocabulary is competent and up-to-date? Therefore, the SME is vitally important, as the end users who will be searching for content in, for example, a large repository of physics papers will very likely be similar to the SME engaged in the review.

Dealing with SMEs can be an excellent and productive experience; unsurprisingly, this process also involves a number of challenges.

(1) [Most] SMEs are not taxonomists: you have to explain it to them.

Your physicist, oncologist, or social scientist SME (unless they happen also to have attended library school) is probably not intimately familiar with tagging, information retrieval, or taxonomies—at least, not nearly to the extent that they understand their chosen area of study.

Don’t assume that whoever wrangled the SMEs for a call with you explained the project, what’s expected of them, or anything else. Be prepared to give a very short expository talk on why the taxonomy matters, what it will do, and why they’ve been asked to participate.

image2Figure 2: (Probably?) not a taxonomist

The bright side is that SMEs tend to be intelligent, so they’ll pick it up. Just don’t expect to be able to dive right into the hierarchy without explaining the background of the project, the purpose of their input, and what you expect them to do.

This last point is especially important. Explain clearly what you do and don’t expect the SMEs to provide feedback on. You definitely want:

(a)  Input on missing terms/concepts. What needs to be added?

(b)  Input on NPTs. What other names, especially acronyms, can supplement the existing terms? What is the fancy new name for a term that everyone’s using since Dr. Johnson wrote his famous 2009 paper?

(c)   Input on term placement and hierarchical organization.  Do the branches make sense? Are the top- and second-level terms a good outline of the field? (More on this below.)

(2) Some SMEs will be more engaged than others.

Almost predictably, some of the SMEs on a given project will take the minimum amount of time to provide feedback (there may even be some initial grumbling), and you’ll never hear from them again. That’s okay; accept the feedback (asking questions if necessary) and let them go back to their job. For many SMEs, their involvement is an extra assignment over and above their normal workload, so it’s understandable.

Invariably, though, you’ll get at least one SME who gets it—who is excited and engaged and thinks the thesaurus is cool and wants to help. This is exactly what you’re looking for, so make sure to match their level of engagement and enthusiasm. Once they get used to thinking about the taxonomy, they’ll be an invaluable resource.

(3) Disagreements between SMEs and taxonomists

See (1), above. SMEs are not used to thinking like taxonomists, so their ideas about term placement, term formation, and warrant are probably not influenced by things like the ISO and ANSI/NISO standards governing thesaurus construction. They will also not be very sensitive to ambiguous terms, and may be familiar only with the portion of relevant content covering their particular sub-area of expertise. You’ll want to watch out for a few specific issues:

(a)  Literary warrant. SMEs will want to add terms covering their entire field, not just the terms required to index the content in question. When considering terms suggested by SMEs, remember to check the content for warrant; reject any terms that don’t meet your criteria.

(b)  Term placement. SMEs will have ideas that make plenty of sense to them, but violate (for example) the all-some rule. Stand your ground here; no matter how you cut it, “dog food” is not a dog. Be ready to suggest using associative relationships (RTs), and explain why they’re helpful.

(c)   Top- and second-level terms structure. This requires a little more flexibility on the part of the taxonomist; while “Particle physics” is clearly a child of “Microphysics” (as it’s a sub-discipline of that field), if your physicist SME insists that it’s a major enough topic to be a Top Term, you should listen.

(4) Spec creep: how much time for SME review?

A taxonomy, as we know, is a living document that’s subject to constant revision and review, but at a certain point you have to call it complete and deliver the project. This is where your enthusiastic SME can cause problems; they will want to make tweak after tweak ad infinitum. Set a schedule for SME reviews, including a timetable for providing material, getting feedback, integrating that feedback, and returning the revised taxonomy. One more round of changes is acceptable, but if you allow for more, it’ll never end.

Try to allow for about eight hours to process the feedback from each SME. Each suggestion, addition, term move, and deletion needs to be considered carefully, so make sure to allow your taxonomists time to properly weigh SME input.

(5) How many SMEs do you need?

This really depends on the size—and, moreover, scope—of the vocabulary. A thesaurus covering All of Science will require more reviewers than one on Acoustics. If you have many SMEs, try to keep them from stepping on one another’s toes.

(6) Tips on presenting the taxonomy and soliciting feedback

Ideally, you can provide a hierarchical display (naturally, a read-only version) that the SMEs can access; this allows them to see the entire term record, including non-preferred terms (NPTs), related terms (RTs), and multiple broader terms (BTs).

In conjunction with a hierarchical view (if possible), the best mechanism for SME feedback is [still] a spreadsheet with a hierarchical display of terms. (If you can, provide each SME with just the branches of the hierarchy that they’re being asked to review.) A spreadsheet allows the SME to make comments, changes, suggestions, additions, and other input using colors, adding cells, or leaving remarks in adjacent fields. Make sure that the taxonomist can see the feedback at a glance, so they don’t have to spend time poring over the document looking for comments.

(7) You don’t have to integrate every single comment–you’re the filter.

On receiving SME feedback, the taxonomist’s job is not to make every change suggested by the SMEs; rather, the SME’s input is raw material for the taxonomist to consider using. In other words, the SME’s expert opinion has to be run through the taxonomist’s filter to accept, reject, or re-format for inclusion in the taxonomy.

image3Figure 3: A grain (or more) of salt

On the other hand, have respect for the SME’s expertise. Be flexible when you can, and try to accommodate the SME’s point of view wherever possible. Oftentimes the SME will, for example, make a suggestion to add a term that already exists phrased another way (a conceptual duplicate); this can trigger the addition of an NPT, changing the preferred version of the term, or some other action—one that was not intended, but nevertheless turned out to be useful.

image4Figure 3: Best. Present. Ever.

SMEs can be a great gift for any taxonomy project—if you have a strategy, provide a clear set of expectations, and maintain good communication throughout the process.

Bob Kasenchak, Project Coordinator
Access Innovations

Reference Works Available

December 15, 2014  
Posted in indexing, metadata, News, reference

Information Services & Use, a highly respected journal in the area of information science and technology, is sharing in their latest issue, a selection of papers presented at the 9th conference of Academic Publishing in Europe earlier in 2014, combined with a selection of papers of the 18th International Conference on Electronic Publishing mid-year in Greece. For anyone working in the field of Library Information Science, this issue is relevant and available in open access.

Having highly valued content available for review and research is critical. Finding that data fast and easy is also important. That happens with solid indexing against a strong taxonomy. Access Innovations is one of a very small number of companies able to help its clients generate ANSI/ISO/W3C-compliant taxonomies with integrated indexing rule bases to make their information findable.

Melody K. Smith

Sponsored by Access Innovations, the world leader in taxonomies, metadata, and semantic enrichment to make your content findable.

Non-Impressive Word of the Year

December 11, 2014  
Posted in News, reference

In a sign of the times, though I am not entirely certain it is a good one, the word of the year is a term used in electronic cigarette smoking. This news came from CNET in their article, “Inhale Oxford’s Word of the Year: ‘Vape’.”

If you’ve ever used electronic cigarettes, you’ll be happy to know that your demographic is now celebrated by Oxford Dictionaries. “Vape” has been tagged as the Word of the Year. It means “to inhale and exhale the vapor produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device; while both the device and the action can also be known as a vape.”

What words did vape beat out in the competition? There was normcore, defined as boring clothing worn as a fashion statement and slacktivism, which is defined as “informal actions performed via the Internet in support of a political or social cause but regarded as requiring little time or involvement.”

Last year’s word of the year was selfie. It is unclear to me where we are headed for 2015. If a picture is worth a thousand words, I could go for some more photos.

Melody K. Smith

Sponsored by Access Innovations, the world leader in thesaurus, ontology, and taxonomy creation and metadata application.

The Perfect Gift

November 26, 2014  
Posted in indexing, News, reference

Have you started your Christmas shopping yet? The book, Cultural Heritage Ethics: Between Theory and Practice, would be very relevant to the development of cultural and historical taxonomies and thesauri. The way the terms are chosen and organized can have a strong effect on people’s perception of cultures and historical events. So for the history buff or word geek on your shopping list, this might just be what you, or they, need.

As the description reads, “This volume is neither a textbook nor a manifesto for any particular approach to heritage ethics, but a snapshot of different positions and approaches that will inspire both thought and action.”

Interesting reading for students and teachers of philosophy of archaeology, history and moral philosophy – and for anyone interested in the theory and practice of cultural preservation.

Melody K. Smith

Sponsored by Data Harmony, a unit of Access Innovations, the world leader in indexing and making content findable.

Reviving the Past

October 17, 2014  
Posted in indexing, News, reference

Digitizing documents is a daunting task, especially when those documents are ancient. This information came from The Ancient World Online blog in their post, “Oaths and Swearing in Ancient Greece from Knowledge Unlatched.”

The first volume on antiquity to appear online in open access on the Knowledge Unlatched platform is now available. Published by De Gruyter, Oaths and Swearing in Ancient Greece explores the nature of oaths as Greeks perceived it, the ways in which they were used (and sometimes abused) in Greek life and literature, and their inherent binding power.

The important factor of digital indexing is consistency, and what provides consistency? Standards. Access Innovations is one of a very small number of companies able to help its clients generate ANSI/ISO/W3C-compliant taxonomies.

Melody K. Smith

Sponsored by Data Harmony, a unit of Access Innovations, the world leader in indexing and making content findable.

Moving Away from the Book

October 16, 2014  
Posted in News, reference

When library design consultant Aaron Schmidt declared on Twitter that when creating logos and visual identity packages for libraries, he wanted no likenesses of books, it might have been an “aha” moment for many.

Those in the information and technology world understand that more data today exists digitally than ever before and aren’t unaware that there will likely come a time when it will only be digital. Libraries are changing from repositories for journals and books to engaged community centers that offer new services, not only respond to innovative research but helping to shape it. This information came from Inside Higher Ed in their article, “The Data-driven Library of the Future.”

If this is the case, that what is the motivation for people to visit libraries? Maybe the days of checking out a book is soon to be behind us, but libraries can offer places and services for discovery. They can become spaces full of physical and virtual tools that capture the imagination and enable new explorers.

Melody K. Smith

Sponsored by Access Innovations, the world leader in thesaurus, ontology, and taxonomy creation and metadata application.

Knowledge Manager Position Available

October 13, 2014  
Posted in News, reference

To be as helpful as possible to those in the fields of taxonomy, indexing, ontology, etc., we are sharing career opportunities that we find with our readers. Even if you are not in the market for a career move, it is always good to stay on top of what is available and how the fields are evolving.

As much as we would all like to think we manage knowledge, there is an actual job opening open for a knowledge manager in Seattle, Washington. The job would be with The Forest Trust (TFT), an international non-profit organization that helps international retail and manufacturing companies to source responsibly-produced products, meaning products that respect the environment and improve people’s lives. Click here to learn more.

If you are looking to change positions, good luck on your search.

Melody K. Smith

Sponsored by Access Innovations, the world leader in taxonomies, metadata, and semantic enrichment to make your content findable.


Knowledge Manager

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