Taxonomy and Records Management

Taxonomies, as hierarchical vocabulary structures, clearly define relationships between words and concepts. If a taxonomy is implemented and governed properly, there is a high degree of control over how terms are added, modified, and deleted. Terms used for content tagging can also be controlled in how they are selected and applied. Similarly, records management is a discipline requiring high control over documents meeting legal compliance. An ARMA fact sheet defines records management as “the systematic control of records throughout their life cycle.”

Strangely enough, taxonomies and records management remind me of the Panopticon, a prison imagined by the English social theorist, Jeremy Bentham. Let me explain. The Panopticon is a circular architectural structure with an observer in the middle able to keep surveillance over many prisoners at one time without the prisoners knowing who was being watched at any given moment. This allowed for great control at great economy.

As a liberal with world views shaped by films of the 1980s riddled with paranoia about governmental control and espousing an anti-Orwellian future as imagined in 1984, the concept of control of any kind stirs my blood. The Panopticon could very well be the source of Tolkien’s Eye of Sauron, presented in film as aloft in a tower—a kind of all-seeing eye with a 360 degree view. However, and here’s the connection, the control of records in an organization supported by a taxonomy structure can mean the difference between being fined millions of dollars and providing information during a legal discovery process. This by simply managing which information should be retained, retrieved, and/or disposed of properly and in a timely fashion. There is the bridge between the Panopticon and taxonomy and records management; now to build the bridge between taxonomy and records management.

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Subject Matter Experts and Taxonomy Development

I was recently in a meeting where it was said that a lack of subject matter expertise is a disadvantage in taxonomy development. This is understandable; it makes sense to assume that the more domain expertise a taxonomist has, the better the final information product will be. However, my experience has shown that this is not always the case. So exactly how does the role of subject matter expert (SME) fit into taxonomy development?

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Cleaning up the Other Bucket

The Other category: also known as General, Miscellaneous, My Stuff, or, too often, the shared drive.

The Other category is the junk drawer for all those taxonomy terms that just don’t seem to fit anywhere else. Reaching into it is taking a chance as you never know what you may find—the yo-yo you can’t seem to throw away, a pair of rusty scissors threatening to impale you when looking for loose change, batteries, baggy ties, the old cell phone with numbers in it of people you don’t even remember. When it’s time for cleaning up, you can either throw it all away or sort it out and put everything in a more appropriate place. Continue reading

Search as an Application

Challenges of Search

I just returned from a conference in Rome where I presented a session on search. The basic premise is this: Search is not a utility. Search is an application. Search needs to be thought through and integrated into the process that it is meant to support.This does not mean that there is no place for basic search – the plug and play utility model that tools like Google Search Appliance leverage. In that case, search provides a valuable function in helping people access large stores of unorganized content.As much Google bashing as I do, I am a frequent user of Google Desktop. Hypocritical? I don’t think so. GSA is appropriate for what I use it for – searching through email messages and my hard drive for certain types of information. Sometimes I find what I am looking for and sometimes I don’t. But this is because of the relative effort I place on organizing my content versus the time it takes to do so. It’s easier for me to search as I do and risk not finding something than it is for me to organize all of my email. On the other hand, I have a more structured method for the information that I place higher value on – proposals, SOW’s, client project documents and conference presentations.

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