June 1, 2010 – We received an email urging us to read the email threat at the Taxonomy Community of Practice. We did some poking around and identified a discussion on Yahoo’s finance “group” discussion here. We worked through the Yahoo thread and figured out that a person is working to deal with a taxonomy for business information. The person wants to tap into the capabilities of the Semantic Web. The need is for a tool to handle or help with this challenge.

The response from the consulting firm was to point to a commercial product from a vendor specializing in software that makes it possible to control the assignment of terms across different enterprise systems. In most outfits with Microsoft SharePoint, for example, anyone can assign a term. The problem with this approach is that terms are often idiosyncratic, repetitive, too general to be useful, or evidence other problems.

Our view is that the person needing a controlled term list, classification code list, and a system may want to focus on looking at what is available and has worked for decades. Once an existing model has been identified, the work of tailoring that list to the specific needs of an organization begins. Automated systems such as the Access Innovation’s Machine Aided Indexing or MAI system can help. But the key to making software work is the involvement of subject matter experts with controlled vocabulary experts knowledgeable in the specific discipline.

Short cuts or licensing a system inappropriate for the critical first phase of a taxonomy or controlled term list project is likely to produce findability challenge for users who have to use the system.

Margie Hlava