Navigating Taxonomy Challenges
We all face taxonomy challenges every day. We start as toddlers: the blue blocks go in one place, the yellow blocks go in a different place. The round things go in one place, the square things go in a different place. If you watched Sesame Street, there was a daily taxonomy challenge: “One of these things is not like the others”—which of the four things does not have a characteristic in common with the other three?
When you go to the grocery store, will you find Ketchup (or Catsup) in the aisle with Sauces or with Salad dressings? Or is there a broader category (in taxonomy parlance, Broader Term, or possibly Top Term) called Condiments that encompasses all three things? Will you find Pickles in the same aisle? Are Pickles a Condiment, a Canned vegetable, or a Side dish? Online shopping is even more dependent on taxonomy. Will you find Toilet paper in Paper goods or Health & Beauty? Or Cleaning supplies, perhaps? It all depends on your point of view. A shopper might search for Toilet paper in one category, and if unsuccessful, will abandon their cart and try another vendor—and therefore take their business elsewhere. The savvy online store has it listed in all three places, or at least links to the entry from the three possible alternatives.
As Sesame Street taught us, it’s not so hard to categorize tangible things. And once you understand the taxonomy—even subconsciously (Pickles are found in the Condiments aisle at my grocery store)—you can navigate easily and find the things you need efficiently. A step up from the challenges of tangible things is categorizing concepts or ideas.
The skilled taxonomists at Access Innovations, Inc. successfully navigate these kinds of challenges on a daily basis. Is Nursing the same as Health care worker? Good taxonomists know the answer—Nursing is an activity, Health care worker is a professional person. Then we get into disambiguation: is Nursing the profession (of the Health Care Worker) or a way of feeding an infant? Email me to tell me your answer, we will talk about it!
And to answer the question “Is a hot dog a sandwich?”, the answer is no. A hot dog is a taco.
Access Innovations, Inc.
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