Taxonomy (was Re: Index/TOC Needed in HTML &/or Browser-Based Help?)

Subject: Taxonomy (was Re: Index/TOC Needed in HTML &/or Browser-Based Help?)
From: Beth Agnew <beth -dot- agnew -at- senecac -dot- on -dot- ca>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Sun, 21 May 2006 14:03:52 -0400

Information is definitely evolving toward a taxonomic model. Knowledge management systems, increasingly sophisticated search engines, and just the overwhelming flood of information available makes it necessary for us to think about how we categorize bits of information. Metadata and tag clouds provide some ways of getting at the topics we want, but there's still a long way to go. And because each of us thinks differently, based on our own experience and knowledge, we will likely never gain consensus on every topic. Some tags or keywords will be left out. We are also seeing more non-text objects included in knowledge repositories -- graphics, audio and video files, etc. cannot be identified except by certain properties. There is not yet a way of searching within these objects for specific keywords. If the creator does not include that tag or keyword when placing it into the repository, you have to review each item to see if it is the one you want. Quite a limitation.

As technical writers, it falls within our responsibility and mandate to become knowledgeable about every aspect of information handling and help our audiences come to grips with the mountain of information available to them. If we don't take an active role in this, the void will be filled by others who may not have the training, or concern for the end user, that we do. So far, we've got programmers deciding how billions of pages of documents are categorized on the web. Remember how effective it was when the programmers wrote all the user guides.

In our own organizations, how many of us are involved in implementation of the company's knowledge management system? I would guess, very few. But who better to be involved than those who care how knowledge is structured, found, and communicated?

This is not something we really want to leave to, um, the zoologists. ;-)

doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com wrote:

5. About the taxonomic approach to infomation, I think it is about time! and I will be happy to give it my endorsement once I've seen it applied effectively by Help authors. Taxonomy does come with its own set of problems ... I think it would be awesome to retrain some Type A zoologists as tech writers, and give them the job of developing taxonomies of programming objects <vbg>.
Ned Bedinger
doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com
Beth Agnew

Professor, Technical Communication
Seneca College of Applied Arts & Technology
Toronto, ON 416.491.5050 x3133


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Index/TOC Needed in HTML &/or Browser-Based Help?: From: Barbara Vega
Re: Index/TOC Needed in HTML &/or Browser-Based Help?: From: doc

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