Choosing Broader and Narrower Terms

August 31, 2015  
Posted in Access Insights, Featured, Taxonomy

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Photo by Fanghong, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Russian-Matroshka.jpg / CC BY-SA 3.0

As most readers of this blog know, taxonomies are controlled vocabularies in which the terms are arranged hierarchically. Terms representing the broadest concepts are at the top level, and terms representing more specific concepts within those concepts are placed at a deeper level. The result is a vocabulary structure containing increasingly narrower terms, with “narrower” referring to more specific concepts. And where you have narrower terms, you inevitably have broader terms. It’s partly a matter of perspective: Going deeper into a taxonomy, the terms get ever narrower. Turn around and go back up to towards the top, and they get ever broader.

These “hierarchical relationships” are discussed in section 8.3  ANSI/ NISO Z39.19-2005 (R2010) (“Guidelines for the Construction, Format, and Management of Controlled Vocabularies”), which starts with this statement: “The use of hierarchical relationships is the primary feature that distinguishes a taxonomy or thesaurus from other, simple forms of controlled vocabularies such as lists and synonym rings.” (Regarding the implication that all thesauri are hierarchical, remember that practically all modern thesauri are hierarchical. However, there are other things, such as equivalence relationships and associative relationships, that distinguish them from other taxonomies and from other controlled vocabularies in general.)

Logical hierarchical structure is essential to enable taxonomy users to browse and navigate the taxonomy. In addition to the eventual users of the “finished” taxonomy, these users include taxonomists creating, developing, and maintaining the taxonomy, as well as the indexers who hunt for and apply the most appropriate taxonomy terms for the content being indexed. There are also technical considerations, such as “rolling up” of the narrower terms to their respective broader terms for such purposes as customized RSS feeds. Creating a usable hierarchical structure is partly a matter of choosing good terms for the top levels, to serve (ironically) as a foundation for the structure. After that, it’s largely a matter of choosing good narrower terms for the broader terms, and of choosing good broader terms for the narrower terms.

ANSI/NISO Z39.19 discusses three types of hierarchical relationships: the generic relationship; the instance relationship; and the whole-part relationship. These are simply different aspects of the more general – more specific pairings that are the one overriding principle of hierarchical taxonomy structure.

The instance relationship is straightforward: the narrower term is a specific instance (“instance” being a one-of-a-kind kind of thing) of the broader term. Borrowing from the Z39.19 example:

Mountain regions

.. Alps

. . Himalayas

With whole-part relationship, the name is perhaps self-explanatory. If not, some examples adapted from Z39.19 should be.

Nervous system

. . Central nervous system

. . . . Brain

. . . . Spinal cord

Canada

. . Ontario

. . . . Ottawa

. . . . Toronto

In the generic relationship, the narrower term “is a type of” whatever the broader term represents. For instance, a parakeet is a type of bird. Using the customary visual principle (which, confusingly, not all taxonomies follow) of going from left to right as the concepts get more specific:

Birds

. . Parakeets

The classic test for the appropriateness of a generic relationship is the “all-and-some” test. In the example above, in going from broader to narrower, are some birds parakeets? The answer is yes. Now, going in the other direction, from narrower to broader, are all parakeets birds? Again, the answer is yes. Our example passes the all-and-some test.

Now, let’s mess things up (for illustrative purposes only, of course).

Pets

. . Parakeets

Again, going from broader to narrower, are some pets parakeets? The answer is yes. So far, so good. Heading back up, are all parakeets pets? Not yet. There are still flocks of parakeets out in the wild. (No, “a lot of them are pets” doesn’t count.) The example above fails the all-or-some test.

Most of the mistakes I’ve seen in taxonomies and thesauri have to do with hierarchical relationships that would fail the all-or-some test. It might seem like an academic thing, but what it comes down to is checking the logic and predictability of the hierarchical relationship pathways. A term in the wrong place is likely to be overlooked, and it may cause inappropriate or missed search suggestions, as well as problems with RSS feed content.

With many scholarly and scientific thesauri, the terms aren’t well described by the types mentioned above. With disciplines of study, it’s more a matter of nesting sub-disciplines within disciplines. The all-or-some test may still be useful, but you might need to mentally preface each term under consideration with “the discipline of” or “the study of”.

One more thing: Polyhierarchy is good. If you don’t take advantage of an opportunity to pair up a term with a logical term, only because it already has a broader term, you’re limiting the pathways by which the term can be discovered. And you’re limiting the subject area overview and insight that a more complete set of narrower terms would provide.

And now a quiz for you: What’s the opposite of logical hierarchy? The answer: Taxonomic anarchy!

Barbara Gilles, Communicator

Shades of Classification

August 28, 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.

Ontologist Needed

August 26, 2015  
Posted in News, ontology, Taxonomy

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.

The Radiological Society of North American (RSNA) is looking for a Manager: Medical Ontology. This position is to support the indexing and repurposing of RSNA educational content by managing its semantic enrichment platforms and processes and by curating the RSNA’s RadLex radiology term ontology. If you are interested or want to apply, go here.

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.

Organized Information

August 26, 2015  
Posted in indexing, metadata, News, Taxonomy

While not a true taxonomy, a recent look at the history of educational development elsewhere in the world classifies a diverse range of educational ideas and practices that have arisen with the development of mass education. This interesting information came from The News on Sunday in their article, “History of educational development.”

Gathering this depth of information required a strong dependence on search. Precision and relevance are factors that figure heavily in search, yet they are often missing from taxonomies. 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.

The Importance of Taxonomies in Database Management

August 21, 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.

Categorizing the Films

August 19, 2015  
Posted in News, Taxonomy

It is always interesting to me when I find taxonomies of interesting and unusual topics. Even if they aren’t true taxonomies, they are typically classifications of some form or another, and they provide information, which is after all, the goal. The latest find: Data Lab’s recently published “The Four Types Of Tom Cruise Movies

 

This particular author attempts to put all the actors’ movies into four categories: Eyes Normally Shut, Anyone Else’s Best, Cruise Control, and The Maverick. The fun play on the characters Tom Cruise has played over the years is evident in the category labels.

It is important to remember that, as entertaining and fun as this is, there is value in classification. True taxonomies can help manage big data by providing a solid standards-based taxonomy to index against. The results are comprehensive and consistent search results. Access Innovations is one of a very small number of companies able to help its clients generate ANSI/ISO/W3C-compliant taxonomies because of consistency.

Melody K. Smith

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

Archiving Sound

August 11, 2015  
Posted in indexing, metadata, News, Taxonomy

The Macaulay Library at Cornell University is home to the world’s largest and oldest collection of nature recordings. Recently, they uploaded and made available their whole, totally searchable, archive online for free. This very interesting information came from Chart Attack in their article, “The world’s largest natural sound archive just went up online.

In this archive, 9,000 species from across the world are documented in 150,000 audio recordings, totaling 10 terabytes and a run time of 7,513 hours.

The library has been amassing recordings from 75% of the world’s bird species. Collecting the data since 1929, they operate within the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. It took the archivists a dozen years to digitize the collection.

With any digital archiving 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.

The Value Added by Folksonomies

August 11, 2015  
Posted in Folksonomy, News, Taxonomy

As content is organized, the standard approaches include hierarchical or flat. One or both utilize tags to put labels on the content, which makes the information easily retrievable when the user needs access. Tags can be used as a part of filtering search queries or fixed views of a content source. Tags are created in various ways with various methods. An organization can decide to implement tags from the top down, meaning that tags only exist if the organization representative have created it. If tags don’t already exist, this often leads to organizations allowing users to create tags themselves. These tags are called folksonomy tags and are causing many concerns. This interesting topic and question came from the user site, UX Stack Exchange, in their post, “Should folksonomy tags be governed or not?

They have the advantage of being simple and easy to use, and users don’t have to ask for permission upon creation. But that is also part of the problem. Unattended taggging presents a strong risk of spelling errors, incorrect tagging, and no tagging at all.

It costs time to govern folksonomy tags. This time can be seen as an investment to make the information retrieval more accurate. But is it worth the cost?

Maybe there is a hybrid approach to taxonomy and folksonomy. The idea is that making use of both formal and informal methods yields good results. The challenge is for an organization to create a framework within which folksonomies can contribute.

Melody K. Smith

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

Classifying Exoplanets: Where does Earth 2.0 fall?

August 10, 2015  
Posted in Access Insights, Featured, Taxonomy

On the 9th of January, 1992, astronomers around the world rejoiced. For the first time ever, they had definitive proof of a planet orbiting another star. These early observations were extremely limited, mainly focused on noticing the wobble of the parent star, but they opened the proverbial floodgate for exoplanet discovery. A little over two decades later, the list of known exoplanets continues to grow every day, with the number of verified planets well above a thousand, and the number of candidates exponentially more than that. All of these new planets have highlighted the rather humbling fact that, before now, we really knew nothing about the sheer number and diversity of exoplanets within the galaxy.

For a hundred years, it was assumed that other planets would roughly reflect what we see in our own solar system: A number of small rocky worlds close to the star, with a number of large gas giants circling farther out beyond the Goldilocks Zone (where liquid water can exist). The reality is quite different.

We now know, for instance, that planetary migration is common. Large gas planets, which form far away from their parent star (a requirement to keep their gas from becoming heated and stripped away during the planetary formation process), often tend to fall closer to their star over time. These “Hot Jupiters,” as they are called, often orbit extremely close to their star. This tight orbit opens up a world of geologic possibilities for the planet (and its moons). Imagine a planet like Jupiter, which has vast amounts of frozen water. As the planet drifts closer to the sun, the water ice melts and these planets develop oceans deeper than the diameter of earth. Water worlds like this have often been referenced in science fiction, but now they have become known as scientific fact.

How do we go about classifying these exoplanets when each one illustrates how little we actually know? Pluto was only recently kicked out of the planetary club, with its eviction predicated on our defining some of the most basic aspects of a “planet” (size, gravitational impact, etc.) How do we go about sub-classifying the many exoplanets we’re now beginning to find when we can barely agree on what constitutes a planet in the first place?

Should planets be classified on material composition in accordance with historical precedent (rocky worlds vs. gas giants)? This seemed to be effective at classifying the planets in our solar system, but when we know that gas giants can migrate to extremely close orbits, and their frozen gas compositions can change drastically, does this standard still hold up? The reverse of this is also true as we find an increasingly large number of “Super Earths”, planets that are rocky like earth and our inner solar system neighbors, but closer in size to the gas giants.

What about the type of star that a planet orbits? One would think that perhaps that could be the common denominator. But now we know that some planets orbit large hot stars, others orbit old cool stars, and some orbit two stars, while some have been flung out of their orbits altogether to float lonely out in space forever. Large planets evicted from their solar systems in this way aren’t even considered planets but are instead considered “sub-brown dwarfs”, somewhere in the gray zone between planets and stars.

As we have learned about exoplanets, we quickly realized that we knew practically nothing about them. What we now know has shattered our old classification system. Whatever eventually replaces it will need to be far more sophisticated and take into account the vast diversity we now know exists. The Star Trek dream of discovering Class M planets simultaneously seems further away and closer than ever before, and I for one am eager to see what happens.

Win Hansen, Production Manager
Access Innovations, Inc.

The Value of a Taxonomy in Archiving

August 7, 2015  
Posted in indexing, metadata, News, search, Taxonomy

Archiving and storing historical records for the future is an admirable task. The North Vancouver Museum and Archives (NVMA) has been doing that since 1971. This interesting news came from the Eloquent blog in their post, “Online Archives promote Community Heritage.

The NVMA acquires the records of organizations and individuals whose activities document the historical, social, economic, political, and cultural development of the communities of north Vancouver. In addition to extensive textual records, the holdings include photographs, maps, architectural plans, and some sound and moving image materials.

“Increasingly, our researchers come into the archives armed with descriptions they’ve downloaded from home computers,” said Janet Turner, archivist. “They have navigated the Eloquent database with ease, and already know what they want to see.” Other users can go home and search online at their leisure. Data entry is intuitive and the hierarchical structure of the software is ideal for archival holdings.”

With any digital archiving project, it is important to remember the value of a solid taxonomy. How the content is classified impacts the findability of your data.

Melody K. Smith

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

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