This website covers knowledge management, personal effectiveness, theory of constraints, amongst other topics. Opinions expressed here are strictly those of the owner, Jack Vinson, and those of the commenters.

Taxonomies aren't so bad once you get to know them

the assignment: describe the difference between a taxonomy and a folksonomyI thought Folksonomy folktales from Tom Reamy in the October 2009 KMWorld provided an interesting perspective on the discussion of folksonomies as the solution to all troubles that afflict taxonomies.  This article tilts the other direction: taxonomies aren't so bad once you get to know them:

In reviewing articles about folksonomies and taxonomies, I found that while there were some interesting experiments in combining the two, most writings repeated the same myths, folktales and misconceptions.

A fundamental flaw in the vast majority of articles on folksonomies and taxonomies is the almost universal use of the Dewey Decimal System (or Library of Congress Subject Headings) as the example taxonomy. Using the Dewey Decimal System as your example taxonomy shows that you have no understanding of taxonomy creation and use in today’s world.

It’s as if you did an analysis of boats and picked the Titanic as your example. It’s really big and cumbersome, and it’s made of brittle steel held together with bad rivets. It costs too much and is too difficult to build. It’s slow and hard to steer, runs into icebergs and kills lots of people.

Reamy covers many of the common myths promoted about folksonomies and taxonomies by the pro-folksonomy crowd, essentially suggesting that better taxonomy implementations can handle most of the standard complaints (such as the ubiquitous, "they are unchanging").  He also acknowledges some benefit of the folksonomy perspective: from his view you need the managed taxonomy, and the user-added element might be a nice addition.

Feel free to have a look yourself, if you are interested in the topic.

[Photo: "the assignment: describe the difference between a taxonomy and a folksonomy" by little green froggy.]

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