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Taxonomy, classification and categorization

Posted by Wes Fleming on Mar 10, 2016 10:52:00 AM

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You may not realize it, but most of us use taxonomies every day – unlike that Algebra you took in the 10th grade. Taxonomies allow us to classify and categorize data in a way that makes it more easily accessible.

Take your coveted vinyl collection, for example. If you start stacking records on a shelf, it won’t take too long before you’ve got 100 records sitting there, yet you can’t find the one you want to listen to right now. As soon as you start organizing, you’re building a taxonomy!

  • Shelf One – Jazz
  • Shelf Two – Classic Rock
  • Shelf Three – That Stuff from the early ‘80s My Partner Loves but I Can’t Stand

You’ve got a basic taxonomy started – a way to classify your collection. In this case, it’s records, but any group of data points can be categorized.

Starting with the basics, you can continue to refine your taxonomy.

  • Shelf One, Left – Acid Jazz
  • Shelf One, Center – Swing Jazz
  • Shelf One, Right – Jazz Fusion

Blog_24_Album_Shelves.jpgNow you’ve created a category (Jazz) and subcategories (Acid, Swing, Fusion), and you’re well on your way to creating a system that allows you to more quickly pinpoint that Duke Ellington record you want to share with your friend.

As your set of data points grows, it’s possible that you’ll find you need to continue refining your categorization/classification system. The larger your data set, the more precise your taxonomy needs to be. That precision enables a sophisticated level of flexibility, though. For example, Jazz Fusion combines elements of traditional Jazz with Rock and Roll. You could conceivably find albums by guitarist Al Di Meola on both your Jazz Fusion and Rock shelves, but having two copies of each record seems excessive; instead, you keep the record on one shelf and leave a note on the other as to where you can find that record.

When it comes to categorizing content, especially a lot of content, a refined, well thought out taxonomy creates a set of articles that is easy to classify, whether you’re looking at a broad subject like Business and Finance or a specific subject like Insider Trading.

In your daily business routine, stop and think about the taxonomies you might be using. If keyword searches are not producing the results you want, check with the service you are using for the ability to search on their taxonomy to get better precision. Just like your record collection, it’s a quick and easy way to get the information you seek.


We have discussed taxonomy before in a different context; you can read our blog post Taxonomy! 


photo credit: Records via photopin (license)


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Topics: taxonomy, categorization, classification

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