Are You a Traditionalist?

November 23, 2015  
Posted in Access Insights, Featured, Taxonomy

When I say Thanksgiving, do you immediately think of a basted, golden brown bird on a large platter adorned with oranges, cranberries and sage? Maybe you think of a juicy oven-roasted ham bearing the traditional clove and pineapple scored design baked into its caramelized goodness?

Traditional Thanksgiving Food –

Thanksgiving seems a holiday that’s as American as apple pie, or pumpkin pie for that matter. But actually, there are variants of this holiday all around the globe. Their meanings, dates and customs may vary, but they all revolve around the concept of gratitude and food, of course.

I think of these foods as traditional to the North American Thanksgiving holiday since I am North American. Other countries view traditional holiday foods through their own cultural lens.

For instance, while North Americans and Canadians both celebrate Thanksgiving Day, there are several differences between the traditions, practices and foods in the two neighboring countries. While the basic Thanksgiving foods are similar in name, in practice they are quite different.

For instance, Canadian pumpkin pie is spicy, with ginger, nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon, while North American pumpkin pie is typically sweet and has custard in it.

The North American Thanksgiving holiday has been celebrated as a federal holiday every year since 1789, after a proclamation by George Washington. The event that Americans commonly call the “First Thanksgiving” was celebrated by the pilgrims after their first harvest in the New World in 1621. This feast lasted three days, and it was attended by 90 Native Americans and 53 pilgrims to offer thanks for their blessings.

The First Thanksgiving 1621, oil on canvas by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris (1899). The painting shows common misconceptions about the event that persist to modern times: Pilgrims did not wear such outfits, and the Wampanoag are dressed in the style of Native Americans from the Great Plains.

Despite what we were taught in school plays, for many of the pilgrims, England was just a layover on the way to America. Approximately 40 percent of the adults on the Mayflower were coming from Leiden in the Netherlands. The people of Leiden still celebrate the American settlers who once lived there with a non-denominational church service on the fourth Thursday of November. Afterwards, there’s no turkey, but refreshments of cookies and coffee.

Canada’s Thanksgiving celebrates the harvest and other blessings of the past year and has been an annual Canadian holiday, occurring on the second Monday in October since 1879, when Parliament declared a national day of thanksgiving.

Other countries have their own version of this holiday. Germany sees this celebration as a religious holiday that often takes place on the first Sunday of October. Erntedankfest is essentially a harvest festival that gives thanks for a good year and good fortune. Although turkeys are making inroads, chickens and geese are favored for the feast.

A food decoration for Erntedankfest, a Christian Thanksgiving harvest festival celebrated in Germany.

A variation on North America’s Thanksgiving can be found in the West African nation of Liberia. This country was founde in the 19th century by freed slaves frm the United States. Liberians take the concept of the cornucopia and fill their churches with baskets of local fruits like bananas, papayas, mangoes, and pineapples. An auction for these is held after the service, and then families retreat to their homes to feast.

Kinrō Kansha no Hi is a national public holiday in Japan to celebrate celebration of hard work and community involvement. It is derived from ancient harvest festival rituals named Niinamesai. Today it is celebrated with labor organization-led festivities, and children creating crafts and gifts for local police officers. This is one exception in that food is not central to this holiday and turkey does not have a traditional role.

Tradition has its place in every culture, but more and more new generations are looking to make their mark on the culinary expectations of holidays. “Foodies” like to experiment and cook outside the classification.

What is seen as non-traditional to some will vary to the geographical area and history. I have a friend who through a series of unfortunate events failed to procure a turkey in time to safely thaw and prepare before the family feast last year. He instead prepared some stuffed pork tenderloins and the response from his family was joyous. They have declared this their new “tradition”.

Fusion is a result of mixed cultures and it is represented in food more and more. The gourmet food magazine, Food & Wine, offer alternatives to the Thanksgiving menu and they aren’t referring to just using a Cornish hen vs. a turkey. Out of the kitchen ideas like mushroom lasagna and sausages would make even the most traditional among us give pause.

Wherever you fall in the food spectrum – traditionalist or adventurer – there are many options available both for home preparation and dining out. More restaurants than ever are open on this holiday to give your favorite home chef the day off so everyone can gather and celebrate in their own way — together.

Melody Smith, Blog Wrangler and Extreme Foodie
Access Innovations

National Association of Government Web Professionals (NAGW) 2015 Annual Conference held in Albuquerque, NM, September 23-25, 2015

November 16, 2015  
Posted in Access Insights, Featured, Taxonomy


Conveniently held in our hometown of Albuquerque, the program for the National Association of Government Web Professionals (NAGW) 2015 Annual Conference was sufficiently compelling to warrant our participation. Two of us attended sessions, receptions, and networked with an enthusiastic group of professionals.

A first observation is in the name. NAGW members prefer “Web Professionals” over webmasters. The difference in meaning (semantics) can have a significant impact on how words are perceived.  Master verses professional? I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

They are a very professional group, in my observation, and the meeting focused on the challenges and triumphs of running an essentially entrepreneurial effort in a highly political, bureaucratic environment. City, county, and state governments and agencies, as well as some federal agencies, were represented. Issues included web site organization, discovery, security, mobile venues, measuring success, Section 508 compliance, look and feel, branding, training, support, dealing with citizens, and a host of issues common to all web professionals. Technical sessions at the coding level were also on the program.

Besides challenges, there were plenty of triumphs chronicled by various presenters as well as NAGW’s annual “Pinnacle Awards”. The Pinnacle Awards are divided into the population size of the government entity – small, medium, large, etc. Some of the award criteria included team size, content, organization, design, performance and flexibility, accessibility, standards, and interactivity. It was nice to see a significant number of entrants in each category. It can be intimidating having your work evaluated by your peers, but it can be very instructive, leading to an improved site.

Delving into the politics of government websites is out of my purview. What gets posted to a government website brings with it an assumed imprimatur. Verifying, checking, and getting approvals (often multiple) of every content item is costly and time consuming. Resisting blatant or even subtle propaganda posting can be hazardous to one’s career! Being responsive to a new mayor with their unfunded mandates requires a great deal of creativity and maneuverings. Government departments are often fiefdoms and getting cooperation on design issues, what to name things, and providing access to important, useful content is not easy.

A challenge that I can address is discovery. Ron Pringle, City of Boulder, gave a great and candid presentation, “Improving Search:  Lessons from the Trenches”. His remarks addressed citizen-facing websites versus internal portals. Why do citizens go to their city’s website? To find resources that answers questions like: What can be recycled? What day is trash pickup? Where do I vote? Who is the city council person for my district? Many city websites seem to be geared to wooing tourists. They are awash in pretty pictures, while a simple listing of government services is woefully missing.



Tourism website for Los Angeles, California



Citizens’ website for Los Angeles, California

Search boxes are hard to find. Navigating is often difficult, although some cities’ websites, like that of Los Angeles, California, were highlighted as quite good.

A good place to start is by analyzing search logs. This will tell you what citizens are trying to find.  It beats guessing. The most requested resources should be the easiest to find.  Simple listings and navigation tabs are helpful.

Even a simple listing of a city’s major departments can be difficult to assemble. Do you list an agency by its official name or by what most citizens call it? Should the Solid Waste Management Department be listed as such or should it be called the garbage department or sanitation department on the website listing? Again, what your citizens call a department should provide a clue. Navigation aids should be just that – clues that help citizens find the resources they need. Once to the right resource, the official name of a department can be, and should be, prominently displayed. A drop-down navigation aid on the home page does not have to have the official name or the technical name. Do you want to lead with “HHW” or with household hazardous waste disposal or maybe just waste disposal? Lead with a common, general term and then get more specific. From “waste” a citizen might navigate to “hazardous waste” and “nonhazardous waste”. Under hazardous waste could be a list, but again, use common names and not the scientific name:  “antifreeze” not “ethylene glycol”. Under types of antifreeze, you could then list ethylene glycol along with propylene glycol, etc., as each may have different disposal requirements.


Albuquerque’s citizen website shows “Trash & Recycling” under the “Community” tab

Lists are good, but what about the ubiquitous search box? This is where a good taxonomy is invaluable. It is the foundation of your navigation lists and aids. A good taxonomy provides the basis for sound navigation and rapid, accurate discovery. It does this by mapping the language of the citizen to the language of city bureaucrats. What the citizen calls the garbage department, the city calls the sanitation department, or the solid waste department, or… A taxonomy will bridge this gap. Taxonomies can help resolve the hundreds of acronyms that are so prevalent in government. It provides a reliable connection between the vernacular and the formal, or more scientific, terminology.

I encourage you to investigate the rich resources on semantics, thesauri, and taxonomies found at our company website. I also encourage you to investigate NAWG, if you are a web professional in the government arena.

Jay Ven Eman, CEO
Access Innovations

A Taxonomy of Giving

November 10, 2015  
Posted in indexing, metadata, News, Taxonomy

Blackbaud is known for their applications that focus on financial and philanthropical endeavors. MicroEdge, one of Blackbaud’s products, recently unveiled its outcomes solution that helps funders and nonprofits move from traditional philanthropy to social investing. The Globe Newswire brought this news to our attention in their article, “Blackbaud’s MicroEdge Business Unveils Outcomes Solution for the Giving Community at MESC@bbcon.”

With the shift to social investing, there is heightened demand for measuring funding outcomes and impact. Blackbaud’s outcomes solution is the first platform that brings together funders and nonprofits under one umbrella for improved collaboration and mission alignment. In addition, the solution offers a first-of-its-kind outcomes measurement taxonomy that will continue to grow and evolve with use, getting smarter with each user interaction and creating a living record of social impact.

All records management systems need a system of indexing to create findability. We know that indexing against a strong, standards-based taxonomy can ensure comprehensive search results. Access Innovations is one of a very small number of companies able to help its clients generate ISO/ANSI/NISO compliant taxonomies to produce comprehensive results.

Melody K. Smith

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

Taxonomies and Databases

November 4, 2015  
Posted in metadata, News, Taxonomy

EBSCO Information Services and the H.W. Wilson Foundation are taking their partnership to a new level. In 2014, the two organizations created American Doctoral Dissertations. Now the H.W. Wilson Foundation has agreed to support the expansion of the scope of the American Doctoral Dissertations database to include records for dissertations and theses from 1955 to the present. This interesting information came from Library Technology in their post, “EBSCO Information Services and the H. W. Wilson Foundation expand efforts to build an Open Dissertations Database.”

According to the H. W. Wilson Foundation President, “The overall vision is to provide a free dissertations product that will be updated continually.”

With any database project, it is important to remember the value of a solid taxonomy. How the content is classified impacts the findability of your data. Professionals should look for an experienced builder of solid standards-based taxonomies to associate content for appropriate machine-assisted indexing. Access Innovations 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.

Using Semantic Technology with Taxonomies

November 3, 2015  
Posted in News, semantic, Taxonomy

TEMIS recently announced the launch of Luxid® 7.1, a new milestone release of its flagship semantic content enrichment platform. This interesting information came from Ulitzer in their article, “TEMIS Launches Luxid® Content Enrichment Platform 7.1.

Luxid 7.1 now extends its ontology management features and includes a complete design workflow for Content Recommendation Engines. While Content Recommendation Engines have become a standard feature of information portals, building one and adjusting its output so it provides highly relevant suggestions in even specialized domains remains a challenge. With this in mind, Luxid® 7.1’s Webstudio provides a convenient workspace that enables users to upload their corpus, setup enrichment workflows producing rich semantic fingerprints, preview content recommendations and adjust their recommendation strategy, all from the same interface.

Even with semantic technology powering information management, comprehensive findability is still the core goal. One key way to ensure this is through a solid taxonomy, based on standards, built by someone with years of experience in the field. 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 Access Innovations, the world leader in taxonomies, metadata, and semantic enrichment to make your content findable.

Using N-grams to discover taxonomy terms

November 2, 2015  
Posted in Access Insights, Featured, Taxonomy, Term lists

Words that occur together frequently are likely to encode important concepts. Therefore, simply sorting a list of phrases according to the frequency of occurrence in text is an automatic way of capturing important concepts associated with that subject. Word order is important since meaning tends to be associated with order. Thus, word order must be preserved when creating phrases from text.

The basic idea of N-gram analysis is to count phrases consisting of N sequential words from a document. Sorting a list of all of the phrases of all sizes contained in a corpus of documents by frequency presents a list of candidate phrases. These are likely to encode concepts important in the corpus. Frequency of occurrence will occasionally be correlated with the importance of the concept, though occurrences at the highest frequency level often can be less than helpful. They may well be commonly seen phrases, so they can’t simply be taken on their own; the human element must still come into play.

Concepts are not necessarily captured by phrases of a particular length. Indeed, some concepts might be complex enough to require several sentences to describe them. Therefore, it is appropriate to explore phrases of various lengths when searching for concepts in text. Of course, human propensity for acronyms and economy of communication tends to drive the representation of important concepts toward shorter words or phrases.

Thus there are two opposing forces at work that tend to adjust the balance between representing complex ideas: short sequence of characters that need to be supported by a large dictionary of complex concepts and long sequences of words that can be supported by a smaller dictionary of simpler concepts.

A fine example of this is in the comparison of the Windows and Linux operating systems. There is stark contrast between the point and grunt paradigm of Windows, where enormously complex concepts are embodied into the process of pointing to a simple button in Windows, and the verbosity of Linux, with paragraphs of text used to describe the same operation on Linux.

New ideas can be discovered by finding combinations of words that have not been seen before or that are occurring with higher (or lower) frequency than in the past. Therefore, having the capability of detecting changes in the frequency of occurrence of phrases can be a path toward discovery of new or evolving concepts. In addition, when starting a new taxonomy, useful groups of words can be selected from the N-grams as a starting point for the taxonomy.

N-grams are not only good for discovering new concepts, though. Equally important is the ability to use N-grams to discover concepts that are no longer being discussed. Take a journal on nuclear physics. As early as the 1920s, scientists were hypothesizing on the concept that would come to be known as “cold fusion.” Papers were published on the topic all the way into the late 1980s, when Martin Fleischmann and Stanly Pons drew wide media attention after reporting that their experiment actually worked. The idea was a cause of celebration in the wake of rising energy costs and the need for cheap clean energy.

Had N-grams been run on the corpus of that nuclear physics journal in 1988, “cold” and “fusion” might frequently be seen together–an obvious choice for a candidate term in a taxonomy. Just a year later, however, after nobody could repeat the Fleischmann-Pons experiment, the concept was debunked and quickly considered a joke. Afterward, almost nobody wrote on the concept and it became extremely rare to find anything on the topic in a reputable journal. Running N-grams on the same journal today would reveal it as a concept that may well no longer even belong in the vocabulary at all. N-grams have considerable value in the understanding the evolution of a single concept or an entire discipline.

They can also be extremely useful in limiting concepts in a taxonomy to things that are useful. Say, for instance, I’m building a taxonomy of food for a website and I come to a branch for “Cheese.” There are thousands of different styles of cheese and I could fairly easily get a list of cheeses and add them all into the branch. That’s simple, but extremely time consuming and, ultimately, not very useful. If there is no content on this website about Abondance, an excellent but relatively unpopular cheese, and nobody is searching for content about it, why would it be in the taxonomy? It’ll just sit there uselessly. The answer, of course, is to run N-grams on the site content and the visitor search logs. The cheeses that appear in the results are the ones that could be considered highly useful in the taxonomy, helping to keep it clean, concise and, especially, relevant to your content.

N-grams may not be perfect, but they’re a great beginning to a controlled vocabulary. Their quick analysis is brilliant for going through scores of content, but they still absolutely require the human element to be useful. We at Access Innovations use N-grams in close conjunction with our taxonomists to help bring out the most in our clients’ content.

Daniel Vasicek,Programmer
Daryl Loomis, Business Development
Access Innovations

Making the Content Findable

October 29, 2015  
Posted in indexing, metadata, News, search, Taxonomy

Orchestrating the installation and implementation of a new or upgraded records management system anywhere is a large undertaking. When it involves jail management and effective law enforcement, it is more than a comprehensive job. Automated information systems are an absolute necessity for effective law enforcement. This unique and interesting information came to us from Corrections One in their article, “Detail is key when buying a prison records management system.”

All records management systems need a system of indexing to create findability. We know that indexing against a strong, standards-based taxonomy can ensure comprehensive search results. Access Innovations is one of a very small number of companies able to help its clients generate ISO/ANSI/NISO compliant taxonomies to produce comprehensive results.

Melody K. Smith

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

Class-ism in Classifications

October 16, 2015  
Posted in News, Taxonomy

In the world of classification, how deep do you go? This interesting topic came to us from Robb Wolff’s website in an article titled, “Seven Shades of Paleo.” This article lifted up with humor a common occurrence in any attempt at classifying data. Regardless of whether it is people or products, there is a scale and half levels happen.

Precision and relevance are factors that figure heavily. The critical part of any data, regardless of type or size, is being able to find the content you are looking for with ease and speed. A standards-based taxonomy provides clear and concise order to your data, which enables comprehensive search results. Standards are key to a solid taxonomy and comprehensive indexing.

Melody K. Smith

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

Classifying Video Games to Best Inform Their Audience

September 28, 2015  
Posted in Access Insights, Featured, Taxonomy

Trying to decide what video games to buy and play can be tricky; game classification is one way to better aid consumers in making those choices. Most stores classify games by the console on which you can play. It’s more common online to see games classified by the content of the game, rather than the media it can be played on, but the content some games can be hard to classify based on the content.

Game classification is important for another reason: the cost of videogames is relatively high compared to other forms of entertainment, at least up front. Any gamer will tell you that, for their favorite games, the $60-70 spent was a great investment. However, if you spend that money on a game you end up not liking and you go to return that game, you’ll find that you only get back a fraction of that price. This makes initial impressions very important for consumers, and classification is just one of those impressions.

Let’s look at a popular game this year, Rocket League, for an example.


Rocket League is a game that resembles soccer, but the players are in rocket-powered cars. There is a ball and two goal areas, and teams can range from four to just one person. This game would be classified by some as a sports game, due to the objectives. However, because the players ride around in vehicles and have many customizing options for those vehicles, some would classify the game as a racing-type game. Which of these is correct? Both is clearly the answer, but it can lead to some confusion when choosing how to present the game’s content to a potential customer.

If you decided to classify this game as a sports game, you might scare away consumers who never purchase or play sports games. The same could be said if you’d classified this as a racing game. General classifications, such as “action games” could be used here, but the less specific you get, the less interesting the game may sound. The game is sometimes referred to as a Demolition Derby type of game, but that is the opposite end of the spectrum: far too specific to cater to many types of players.

Another recent blockbuster game, Destiny, tends to defy classification because it combines two very popular types of game: First-person shooters (FPSs) and Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs). It is a game based in space and the objectives basically involve shooting aliens. However, this game also includes many features known as staples in MMORPGs such as character customization, shared-world experiences with many other players, and “loot drops” (in-game currency and equipment) for completing tasks.


This game in particular is divided by players who come from MMORPGs and players who come from FPS games. The MMO players often enjoy the customization and raid activities, while the FPS players stay for the smooth shooting mechanics and a large variety of cool weapons to choose from. Because of this, Destiny developers have tried not to define the game as a shooter or a role-playing game, but rather a “shared-world shooter”. This classification helps to bring in players from many different backgrounds, rather than exclude an entire subset of people who enjoy a certain type of videogame.

Videogames are often also classified by the intensity of the content, or by ratings. The Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) is responsible for rating all games in North America and placing restrictions on games with higher ratings.

Ratings for younger audiences allows parents of gamers to choose what content they want to expose to their children. These games are fun for children and often include educational benefits, as well. Games with ratings of M (Mature 17+) are restricted to young adults and cannot be purchased by children without their parents present. These games usually include violence, strong language, or sexual content. Classifying games in this manner provides customers with feedback on the content of the games and serve to limit exposure to certain age groups.

Trying to classify videogames can be very difficult for retailers, game developers, and publishers but is necessary in order to properly sell games to customers. There are many games out there that appeal to a very wide audience, and many more that appeal to a small subset of gamers. Games, like all entertainment media, must present an initial impression that grabs a customer and compels them to buy and classification is one aspect of that impression.

Samantha Lewis, Taxonomist
Access Innovations

Bob Kasenchak to present as Part of FEDLINK’s Building Web Taxonomies Program

September 14, 2015  
Posted in Access Insights, Featured, Taxonomy

Bob Kasenchak, Director of Business Development for Access Innovations, Inc., will be presenting at the Building Web Taxonomies program, sponsored by the Federal Library & Information Network (FEDLINK). Bob will discuss smart thesauri, how to build and implement them into an existing workflow, and what they can do for analytics and linked data.

FEDLINK conducts an extensive series of programs, workshops, and hands-on training that covers the policy and management of the information industry, as well as resource sharing, and technology. The Building Web Taxonomies program will take place on Monday, September 21, from 11:00am to 1:30pm ET at the Madison Building of the Library of Congress. Registration is required for this free program. More information can be found at or by calling (202) 707-4813 (TTY (202) 707-4995).

“Information science is quickly trending toward smart thesauri and ontologies,” Bob remarks. “My presentation will be detailed but not overly technical. I’m excited to be giving this talk to the FEDLINK audience and I hope they come with lots of questions.”

Bob is one of three presenters at the event. The other two will be Lee Lipscomb, Assistant Librarian at the Federal Judicial Center (FJC) in Washington, DC, and Keisha Fourniller, also from FJC. Designed to inform at all skill levels, from the new librarian to the experienced taxonomist, this program will review web taxonomy development basics and ways to improve current taxonomies.  The program will focus on taxonomy development strategy, structure, and designing a smart thesaurus. Following the panel discussion, participants will join a question and answer session.

Bob’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 joined Access Innovations in Albuquerque, New Mexico, as a taxonomist in 2012. Most recently his duties have included experimental business development, data analysis, and product development.


About Access Innovations, Inc.,,

Access Innovations has extensive experience with Internet technology applications, master data management, database creation, thesaurus/taxonomy creation, and semantic integration. Access Innovations’ Data Harmony software includes machine aided indexing, thesaurus management, an XML Intranet System (XIS), and metadata extraction for content creation developed to meet production environment needs. Data Harmony is used by publishers, governments, and corporate clients throughout the world.

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