In my early days of doing business research, I thought computer searches could solve all of the world’s research problems. One of my first assignments was for a large investment bank that only bought blue chip stocks. I would pull up a company’s stock ticker symbol and see all of its important financial data and news, then create a comprehensive research report. As I started to cross-reference this “tickered” news with additional keyword searches, I immediately saw the problem. Writers would often not include the ticker in a story – or they would include the wrong ticker.
When I first started out as a business researcher the internet was in its infancy. Online research tools were basically paper directories that were scanned or typed into a digital format. The tactile feel of a thick paper directory was replaced by the blinking green cursor on a monochrome computer monitors. One of my first tasks was to pull up stories about Mergers in the Fertilizer industry. Sounds like an easy job, right? Well once I started tooling for the “Fertilizer” code my job got very difficult. There was no search function and I was forced to browse through the various branches in the tree. This is taxonomy speak for categories (sometimes called parents) and subcategories (sometimes called children) that resemble branches of a tree.
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.