The need for a Taxonomy Structure

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Wikipedia defines taxonomy as follows :

Taxonomy (from Greek verb τασσεῖν or tassein = “to classify” and νόμος or nomos = law, science, cf “economy”) was once only the science of classifying living organisms (alpha taxonomy), but later the word was applied in a wider sense, and may also refer to either a classification of things, or the principles underlying the classification. Almost anything, animate objects, inanimate objects, places, and events, may be classified according to some taxonomic scheme.

Taxonomies, which are composed of taxonomic units known as taxa (singular taxon), are frequently hierarchical in structure, commonly displaying parent-child relationships.

The term taxonomy may also apply to relationship schemes other than hierarchies, such as network structures. Other taxonomies may include single children with multi-parents, for example, “Car” might appear with both parents “Vehicle” and “Steel Mechanisms”; to some however, this merely means that ‘car’ is part of several different taxonomies. A taxonomy might also be a simple organization of objects into groups, or even an alphabetical list. In current usage within “Knowledge Management”, taxonomies are seen as slightly less broad than ontologies.

In a nutshell, the purpose of a taxonomy is to help people find information. The faster and more efficient the better. You’ve probably encountered taxonomy without even knowing you have. If you have ever worked with a large quantity of documents or e-mails at home or the office chances are you have already created a taxonomy structure to store your information ( using folder structures most probably ).

Now a simple taxonomy structure is adequate when you are using it, however think of the possible complications if you were to ask someone else to look for information in your taxonomy structure. His/Her lack of understanding of the thought process behind your hierarchy could lead to considerable irritation while looking for a particular e-mail or document. If you multiply this problem with the total number of employees in your organization you’ll begin to understand the need for a single taxonomy framework.

Search engines on the web are great for mining content, unfortunately since they dont own the content, the relevance of the content returned isn’t of a very high quality. Which is why corporates expect a far higher level of relevance when using internal searches for content as they expect a tagging system in place. This is what a taxonomy structure uses to define its content hierarchy.

In future posts we’ll tackle the issues regarding creating and implementing a taxonomy framework in your organization.

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