The Magic of Metadata

Taxonomy not Taxidermy!

My colleague Jo Ella Straley and I are fresh from Taxonomy Tuesday — a monthly dc-area gathering of taxonomists talking about organizing information. Today we heard about the ERIC Thesaurus. When I describe to non-librarians that I go to taxonomy discussion groups I'm often met with looks of horror as they imagine me ruminating on how to best stuff and preserve a dead pet. I have to reassure them that taxonomy does not involve animal corpses.

Librarians and information organization typically go hand-in-hand and we often take for granted that everyone understands what we're talking about when we use words like taxonomy, metadata, thesaurus and controlled vocabulary. All of these seemingly mysterious terms boil down to one basic concept that everyone appreciates - organization.

I myself am an avid online shopper and you know what makes me the happiest? A website with a solid faceted taxonomy. Take for example Endless.com. This site is a thing of beauty. It incorporates faceted taxonomy for sophisticated filtered navigation. Woah - did I just lose you? All that means is that the shoes and bags on the site are tagged with information in a controlled way so that you can pick and choose size, designer, style, and price from the left navigation and create your very own personalized browse experience. Ebay.com and Getty Images are two more examples of sites that leverage taxonomy, filters and tagging in major ways to organize their assets and make your browsing experience more targeted.

So next time you find yourself really enjoying a web site browse experience you can say "What a great taxonomy!" and give your friends a little scare.

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