I am often asked, “Where can I find out more about software and taxonomies to reuse?” There are a number of attempts to organize taxonomy resources on the web. Some are more up to date than others. 

Software information

The old standby was maintained by Leonard Will in the UK. He builds thesauri for a living and has a great section on software offerings at this URL – http://www.willpowerinfo.co.uk/thessoft.htm

This site contains information about what thesaurus building resources were available and where to get them and a bit of information about how they worked. The Willpower site is still very useful. I have not found this information elsewhere online; I guess one of us should do that. Anyone want to work on it together? 

In the past the Wills were responsive whenever I sent a change they made it. The Willpower site says it was last modified 2010-08-10, but, here are a few updates.

  1. The Data Harmony Thesaurus Master information is from 2002. So go to www.dataharmony.com instead for that information.
  2. The current American Society for Indexing thesaurus software listing
  3. The Thesaurus Management Software page was last updated 2003 and has some interesting leads to follow in spite of a lot of broken links.
  4. http://www.wandinc.com/prod_tools.aspx lists only the companies that they have a business arrangement with. 

Reusable taxonomy information

A second venerable source is the Taxonomy Warehouse, built by Synaptica and later purchased by Factiva part of the Dow Jones company. I noticed that it has been heavily populated of late by two other sources of taxonomies for sale through Taxonomy warehouse. They carry the approximately 35 taxonomies listed from the Wand Company and 72 or so from Cengage Learning, plus other resources. Both of these have taken large taxonomies and split them into smaller branches for sale and re-purposing by customers. 

Other sources are not as well known. There is the CALL – Center for Army Lessons Learned – that lists a few government thesauri. Tesauro lists about 100 Spanish language thesauri. TaxoBank lists about 200 so far and encourages people to submit their works either for sale or for free distribution. It is a social site enabling the community to add and find out about controlled term lists of all kinds, taxonomies, thesauri, authority files, etc. and to share or purchase them directly. 

Of course, there are the standalone word resources, dictionaries and synonymies themselves such as http://thesaurus.com/ which switches faces to the same content using different URLs. One site, many URLs can reach it, for example, http://dictionary.reference.com/ is different colors but reachable using either URL.

Roget’s thesaurus is now online in many places. The words are the same but the presentation and searchability are different. 

Here is a site to AVOID.  http://dictionary-and-thesaurus.net/?s=kp06p1625aqnhbm1o8h415mm60 has a really annoying pop-up asking for your cell phone number before you can proceed to look anything up.

No list would be complete without mention of WordNet from Princeton University, which is widely used as a lexical dictionary in semantic systems. It shows the gradient of words and meanings in a continuum.

What all of this really shows is that for people who spend their time organizing information, their tools are not well organized or discussed. I imagine it is because the vendors like me want to be fair and balanced; they are the most knowledgeable and have seen the most options. They do, however, need to make a living and may have biases, even if only subconsciously, to their own services. I do not think there are any writers or listers who are not vested in some way. University faculty are looking for research funding. However, Marcia Zeng of Kent State University, creates excellent and unbiased resource lists. Taxonomy Community of Practice is run by Seth Earley who uses it effectively to promote his services and software. Meeting organizers like Information Today, sponsor of Taxonomy BootCamp meetings, puts many consultants on the podium.

Perhaps the association sponsored groups like the SLA Taxonomy Division, composed of over 200 taxonomy practitioners, and the American Society for Indexing Taxonomy SIG, may be the most balanced opportunities around. The ASI one is convened by Heather Heddon, who wrote a book on taxonomies and builds taxonomies. ASIS&T (the American Society for Information Science and Technology) has lately sponsored a series of webinars on taxonomies; those webinars have been very well received. First, Joseph Busch of Project Performance Corporation (they build taxonomies) and later Marjorie Hlava of Access Innovations (they build and implement taxonomies) were instrumental in developing the series.

Is there a trend here? You bet!

The take away? If you want the real story, ask several people who do this work for a living. They work where the rubber meets the road.

Marjorie M.K. Hlava
President, Access Innovations

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