16 Oct 2006

How to Kill a Knowledge Environment with a Taxonomy

Patrick Lambe means too much standardization with taxonomies can be a very destructive thing:

"Knowledge and information infrastructure is much more like a complex ecosystem than a designed environment, and it has to be so because it needs to cater for a wide variety of uses and activities, past, present and future...It is simply not possible for a single vocabulary and category set to deliver consistent value for all those needs."
He takes Amazon as an example:
"Look at any Amazon page for a given book, and you will find a taxonomy (represented by formal subject categories), user-contributed tags, links to other books bought by other people who bought this book, booklists compiled by users on related topics, suggestions for other books based on a complex algorithm combining your past behaviours and those of others, and so on. All of these mechanisms for purposefully finding – or serendipitously discovering – books, co-exist, and compete. You can bet that Amazon watches the intensity of use of each of these mechanisms, and as any single instrument gets used more or less intensively, Amazon will adjust its investment in supporting it accordingly. As Amazon has grown, so has the number of ways of locating and suggesting books. Taxonomies form only part of this complex web, and rightly so."

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