Jul 14

Taxonomies & Ontologies

In Free Pint No.97 - “Taxonomies are What?”, Liz Edols mentions that the term “taxonomy” is widely used in KM, business and IT literature and goes on to explain how it differs from just a thesaurus or classification scheme.

Very useful in my quest to sort out such terminology as taxonomy, ontology and classification scheme. Some other resources that attempt some definitions and may either shed light or muddy include:

Controlled vocabulary and thesauri in support of online information access D-Lib Magazine November 1998

From Christina's Blog, a conversation with Mike Steckel:

Authority list -- lowest level -- no hierarchy, just preferred terms, a way to tell the system “CA” is the same as “California”
Taxonomy -- middle level -- hierarchy, pulled from material, may have gaps if there is no content. You would be able to tell that San Francisco is a narrower term and California is a broader term. If there is no content relating to Santa Clara, then Santa Clara would not be a term. This is the highest level necessary for most websites.
Thesaurus -- Highest level -- Peter Morville called this the “Rolls-Royce of controlled vocabularies” at a seminar I went to. It would attempt to include all California cities as a subset of California. In other words each city would have California as a broader term. It would also show related terms such as cities that are near each other, or something like that. Generally useful only to very large sites. By the way there are two kinds -- pre-enumerative and post-enumerative (faceted), but don't worry about that yet.

A recent article by Marcia Bates in First Monday has sparked some commentary concerning the history of the confusion of such terminology.

Victor found “Ontologies Come of Age” an excellent chapter, from an upcoming book Spinning the Semantic Web from MIT Press.

Comments & TrackBacks

10:39 PM on Jul 15, 2002

RE>Thesaurus -- Highest level -- Peter Morville called this the "Rolls-Royce of controlled vocabularies"

I heard Amy Warner say this too. Must be Argus-speak.

I've been describing ontologies as "taxonomies on steriods" but perhaps a better description would be "the Ferrari of organization schemes". They're powerful and so sexy, yet difficult to drive and temperamental.

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A Few Related Entries

IA Summit 2004 Taxonomies, Controlled Vocabularies, and Ontologies
Taxonomies Online