Faceted Search Design – Ordering Facets

I’ve been lurking on the IAI’s mailing list for some time now, but recently someone posted a question that I just couldn’t resist answering:

We are getting ready to roll out a new faceted search option and I’ve been asked to make recommendations regarding the order of the facets and their characteristics.  I am having a hard time finding specific information about standards or best practices.  I repeatedly come across Stephanie Lemieux’s recent article, Designing for Faceted Search, stating that both facets and values should be based on importance.  While this is great, can anyone point me toward supporting information or is this something that is just understood?  Are there general guidelines for when to list characteristics alphabetically versus when to list them in descending order?

Ok, good call on the poster’s part – I had been vague in my article (Designing for Faceted Search, originally published in KM World), mainly because I had a broad audience and a word count limit. But I supposed that I should clarify a bit…  Here’s my response: Continue reading

Podcast on Folksonomy & Taxonomy in the Enterprise

I had the great pleasure of doing a podcast a few weeks ago with Paul Miller, podcaster for Nodalities (magazine & blog), on hybrid approaches to folksonomy and taxonomy and their role in the enterprise.

We discussed the now tired debate of folksonomy vs. taxonomy, and focused on the strengths and applications of each approach. I covered how organizations are leveraging social tagging and what some of the pitfalls are in the enterprise context.

I also talk a lot a few of the hybrid approaches to taxonomy & folksonomy:

  • Co-existence
  • Tag-influenced taxonomy
  • Taxonomy-influenced tagging
  • Tag hierarchies

I cover some interesting examples and tools (ZigTag, Flickr & Library of Congress), as well as the new directions in “intelligent tags”, like MOAT.

You can hear more about these approaches at the Semantic Technologies conference next week, where my colleagues Paul Wlodarczyk and Richard Beatch will be presenting on the topic on my behalf. Listen to the podcast…

Follow me on Twitter: @stephlemieux, @earleytaxonomy

Forest for the Trees: How Taxonomy Design Is Like Systems Engineering

Thanks to my wife, I’ve been learning a little bit about systems engineering, a form of engineering that addresses the complex interactions of multiple systems. As she says, you need to consider systems engineering when the interrelationships between systems are as complicated as the systems themselves. For example, to reduce automotive traffic you need to research social behavior, road design, business, and the environment. To study ergonomics you need to study the human body, computer design, application design, and user efficiency needs. And don’t get me started on the U.S. healthcare system.

The very first step of systems engineering is to understand the full scope. Ground transportation isn’t about cars and trains, for example, but about the entire surface of the earth: population clusters, topography, climate, and distances. Taxonomy starts this way too, with facets like people, documentation types, product lines, and access levels.

Or at least it should. Sometimes it’s easier to look at a single component of your world and tabulate it in isolation — department offices, account records, HR data — and imagine someday expanding to something larger. But this doesn’t work, not in the long run.

Continue reading