A Short Roundup of Recent Taxonomy Books

April 13, 2015  
Posted in Access Insights, Featured, reference, Taxonomy

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-3d-people-around-books-image24579066

© Nasir1164 | Dreamstime.com – 3d People Around Books Photo

Over the past couple of decades, the field of knowledge organization systems (such as taxonomies and thesauri) has matured. This maturation has led KOS experts to write books that consolidate and share the theories, insights, and techniques that have emerged. Below is a roundup of some of the more recent books in the area of taxonomies and related knowledge organization systems.

The Taxobook

One of the most recent books, published as a trio of monographs, is The Taxobook, written by Access Innovations President Marjorie Hlava and published by Morgan & Claypool Publishers. TaxoDiary recently had a blog post about The Taxobook. We’ll reiterate the summary:

Volume 1, The Taxobook: History, Theories, and Concepts of Knowledge Organization, introduces the foundations of classification, covering theories from the ancient Greek philosophers to modern thinkers. This volume also includes a glossary that covers all three volumes.

Volume 2, The Taxobook: Principles and Practices of Taxonomy Construction, outlines the basic principles of creation and maintenance of taxonomies and thesauri. It also provides step-by-step instructions for building a taxonomy or thesaurus and discusses the various ways to get started on a taxonomy construction project.

Volume 3, The Taxobook: Applications, Implementation, and Integration in Search, covers putting taxonomies into use in as many ways as possible to maximize retrieval for users.

The Accidental Taxonomist

This book, by well-known taxonomy expert Heather Hedden, was published by Information Today Inc. in 2010. Here’s the publisher’s summary:

The Accidental Taxonomist is the most comprehensive guide available to the art and science of building information taxonomies. Heather Hedden—one of today’s leading writers, instructors, and consultants on indexing and taxonomy topics—walks readers through the process, displaying her trademark ability to present highly technical information in straightforward, comprehensible English.

Drawing on numerous real-world examples, Hedden explains how to create terms and relationships, select taxonomy management software, design taxonomies for human versus automated indexing, manage enterprise taxonomy projects, and adapt taxonomies to various user interfaces. The result is a practical and essential guide for information professionals who need to effectively create or manage taxonomies, controlled vocabularies, and thesauri. 

Introduction to Controlled Vocabularies: Terminologies for Art, Architecture, and Other Cultural Works 

This book, originally published in 2010 by J. Paul Getty and revised in 2013, focuses on controlled vocabularies for the world of museums and cultural studies. Author Patricia Harpring is managing editor of the Vocabulary Program at the Getty Research Institute, which maintains some highly respected thesauri and other controlled vocabularies, including the Art & Architecture Thesaurus (AAT), the Union List of Artist Names (ULAN), the Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names (TGN), and the Cultural Objects Name Authority (CONA). Co-author Murtha Baca is Head of Digital Art History at the Getty Research Institute. Here’s the Institute’s description of the 2013 revision:

This primer on the characteristics, scope, uses, and methods for building and maintaining controlled vocabularies for art and cultural materials explains how vocabularies should be integrated in cataloging systems; utilized for indexing and retrieval; and structured to group synonyms and arrange concepts into categories.

The updated edition reflects recent developments in the field, including new national and international standards, current trends such as Linked Open Data, and revisions to the Getty vocabularies. The glossary and bibliography have also been updated.

Structures for Organizing Knowledge: Exploring Taxonomies, Ontologies, and Other Schema

This book, published in 2010 by Neal-Schuman Publishers, was written by June Abbas, whose research focuses on the development of user-centered digital libraries, institutional repositories, and knowledge organization structures. In the Preface, she outlines the three major sections of the book:

Traditional Structures for Organizing Knowledge—Part I looks at structures used in libraries, such as MARC records, subject headings, and classification schemes, as well as traditional structures that may not be as familiar, such as those from natural science. The historical  contributions to the organization of knowledge from fields such as library and information science, philosophy, natural science, and cognitive science are examined. Exemplars of how the structures have remained the same and/or have been adapted for use in the digital environment are also included in this section.

Personal Structures for Organizing Knowledge are the focus of Part II. These are systems developed by individuals in both home- and work-related contexts. Several research streams from library and information science (knowledge organization and human information behavior) and human–computer interaction (personal information management) are introduced, and research in each area of personal knowledge structures is explored.

Socially-Constructed Structures for Organizing Knowledge, or those that are beginning to merge as the result of individual and collaborative uses of social bookmarking and social cataloging Web 2.0 sites, are examined in Part III. Research focused on these new environments is becoming more prevalent and providing information professionals with a glimpse into how people organize their own collections. 

Metadata

In 2008, the American Library Association published the first edition of this book by Marcia Lei Zeng and Jian Qin, two experts in the field of knowledge organization systems and in the metadata connected with those systems. The second edition is scheduled to be released in 2016. Here’s the ALA’s description of the new edition:

Metadata remains the solution for describing the explosively growing, complex world of digital information, and continues to be of paramount importance for information professionals. Providing a solid grounding in the variety and interrelationships among different metadata types, Zeng and Qin’s thorough revision of their benchmark text offers a comprehensive look at the metadata schemas that exist in the world of library and information science and beyond, as well as the contexts in which they operate. Cementing its value as both an LIS text and a handy reference for professionals already in the field, this book

Lays out the fundamentals of metadata, including principles of metadata, structures of metadata vocabularies, and metadata descriptions

Surveys metadata standards and their applications in distinct domains and for various communities of metadata practice

Examines metadata building blocks, from modeling to defining properties, and from designing application profiles to implementing value vocabularies

Describes important concepts as resource identification, metadata as linked data, consumption of metadata, interoperability, and quality measurement

Offers an updated glossary to help readers navigate metadata’s complex terms in easy-to-understand definitions

An online resource of web extras, packed with exercises, quizzes, and links to additional materials, completes this definitive primer on metadata.

Organising Knowledge: Taxonomies, Knowledge and Organisational Effectiveness

This book, by knowledge management consultant Patrick Lambe, was published by Chandos Knowledge Management in 2007. In the book’s introduction, Lambe offers an overview:

In the first half of this book we’ll challenge a number of assumptions about taxonomies and the work of taxonomy building, and relate this work to organization effectiveness and knowledge management.…

In the second half of this book, we take a more practical approach and guide you through the steps involved in a ‘typical’ taxonomy project. Here we challenge the assumption that taxonomy development can be done in the abstract, by a consultant, sitting apart from the information and knowledge world of the organisation it is intended for. Very few taxonomies can be developed in that distant, unengaged way.…

To close, in Chapter 10 we take a forward look at issues and challenges on the horizon for knowledge managers. What do the semantic web, folksonomies, ontologies and social tagging mean for taxonomy work? Will we need taxonomies at all?

Those of us involved with TaxoDiary believe that taxonomies, thesauri, and other controlled vocabularies will continue to be relevant to knowledge management and information retrieval. And we look forward to seeing new insights and approaches, and new books.

Barbara Gilles, Taxonomist
Access Innovations, Inc.

Tools for the Trade

April 13, 2015  
Posted in News, reference

I am a writer. I write a variety of content. Writing for TaxoDiary is just one avenue where my words take shape. I also write about employee engagement, communications, healthcare billing, medical coding, human resources, and when time allows, I splurge with some good ole fiction writing to spur the creative juices. I say all this to provide context as to why having a new variety of theasauri truly excites me.

The bookstore on Writers Helping Writers is like a candy store for me. A thesaurus for emotions? Yes, please. A thesaurus for positive traits? And another for negative traits? Thank you, yes.

As you can tell, there is no suppressed indifference to my knowledge of these books’ existence. In fact, I am giddy with excitement or should I say, I have enthusiasm for what is to come.

Melody K. Smith

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

Grammar Violations

April 8, 2015  
Posted in News, reference, semantic

We all know them. They are the grammar police. The person in your circle of friends or maybe on your Facebook feed that can’t ignore mix-ups like irregardless and regardless or vica versa and vice versa. For that matter, maybe you are that friend. The misuse of words, whether it be accidental or a true misunderstanding of the meaning, makes the hairs on your neck stand alert and makes you ready to proclaim a guilty sentence and subsequent punishment on any offender. This interesting and slightly humorous topic came from io9.com in their article, “Trying To Stop Words From Changing Their Meanings Is “Literally” Useless.”

What if the word is being used in a definitive way that is wrong but the masses have decided it should be the definition ir..err regardless (pun totally intended)? Some English-snobs are concerned that the misuse of “literally” to mean “really,” will do just that. But is it the first occurrence of that happening?

What, if any, role has the evolution of natural language processing and semantic technology had in this phenomenon?

Melody K. Smith

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

Intern Position Available

March 16, 2015  
Posted in News, reference

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is seeking applications for a paid internship at their Washington, D.C. office. The internship will be in Library Services in the Applied Research and Methods (ARM) team. The deadline for applying is March 18, 2015. The position is slated to start in May or June.

Student interns may have an opportunity for a permanent position based on a successful intern experience and successful completion of degree requirements.

The GAO assists Congress in making informed decisions by providing information on policy and program issues, as well as by providing recommendations to make government more effective and responsive. Their work is designed to address four goals:

– to help Congress address current and emerging challenges to the well-being and financial security of the
American people;

– to help Congress to respond to changing security threats and the challenges of global interdependence;

– to help transform the Federal government to address national challenges; and

– to maximize the value of GAO by enabling quality, timely service to Congress and by being a leading practices
Federal agency.

Interns will work on various assignments within an Administrative Professional and Support Staff (APSS) office. Interested individuals can apply here.

Melody K. Smith

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

Libraries Revisited

March 13, 2015  
Posted in News, reference

Libraries seem to belong to a past generation who did not have access to the internet or to other data sources where mega masses of information could be accessed quickly and easily. Of course there have been changes, but we in the business of information science know that the value of libraries hasn’t diminished, just changed. The latest research findings indicate that the future of libraries falls into three categories: The library as a place, the library as a connector of people, and the library as a platform for getting patrons the information and the contacts they seek. This interesting information came from the Pew Research Internet Project in their article, “The Next Library and the People Who Will Use It.”

Libraries may not be the Gothic ivy-covered buildings of our past, and they may not be buildings at all. However, what has not changed is the desire to learn and seek information. As long as libraries can keep up with the digital progression, they can remain relevant to generations to come.

Melody K. Smith

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

And the survey says…

March 12, 2015  
Posted in News, reference

The Ancient World Online (AWOL) blog is looking for academics who have used open data in their teaching to share their experiences. By conducting a mini-survey to understand which portals, tools, or repositories academics use to retrieve open datasets, they can better understand how this information is being used in teaching and learning in higher education. Have you taken the AWOL User Survey?

The results of this survey will be published and shared on their blog when complete. This interesting opportunity was brought to us by The Ancient World Online in their post, “Survey: Use of Open Data in Higher Education.

AWOL is a project of Charles E. Jones, Tombros Librarian for Classics and Humanities at the Pattee Library, Penn State University. The primary focus of the project is notice and comment on open access material relating to the ancient world, but also includes other kinds of networked information as it comes available.

Melody K. Smith

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

Digital Commons Library – Open and Free

March 11, 2015  
Posted in indexing, News, reference

The Digital Commons Community Library now provides a way of exploring bepress’s scholarly communication resources by subject matter — free and open access. (A note in case you didn’t recognize the name: bepress was formerly the Berkeley Electronic Press.)

The topics are varied to meet your research needs. Some of them are copyright, journal publishing, law, and staffing. There are resources about institutional repositories and scholarly communication, recordings of webinars, examples of collections, blogs, brochures, presentations, and other materials. Scholars and students from a wide range of disciplines will find the works useful.

Developing a classification system organized into conceptually similar categories can help users gain a better understanding of the subject area. It is important to remember the value of a solid taxonomy and its role in the search process. How the content is classified impacts the findability of your data. Access Innovations has extensive experience in constructing taxonomies for academic publishers, and can provide solutions that are ANSI compliant.

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

« Previous PageNext Page »