TAXONOMY TRAILBLAZERS: Applications and case studies
This Briefing Report provides case studies of how four very different companies (three publishers and a search engine operator) have used applications, tools and standards based around taxonomic theories to solve information-related business problems. Through interviews with both the providers and the users of each solution, the report investigates the reasons behind the implementation of the technology, the extent to which it fulfilled its promise, and the business benefits which accrued.
The report also lays out definitions of taxonomy, and the related concepts of ontology and semantics, as well as providing information on a range of technology players which serve this marketplace. In addition, the report provides links to articles and white papers about taxonomy theory and its applications, providing a starting point for further investigation into the subject.
This introduction aims to provide a theoretical basis upon which the practical case studies can rest.
The case studies
This report looks at four case studies of how publishers in very different marketplaces have implemented ?taxonomy technologies?, which we have defined as applications, tools and standards based around taxonomic theories.
Directory publishers are one of the core groups to benefit from these types of services because their whole business is based around dealing with structured information. Through the case study of BellZinc?s Trade Directory, this report demonstrates how taxonomy technologies can be applied in this marketplace, and the business benefits which can be achieved as a result. BellZinc wanted to offer a simple yet effective web site to its SME audience. Using WAND technology, it was able to accomplish this, and furthermore extended its reach across a global marketplace.
Other publishing enterprises have also benefited from adopting taxonomic structures. Wolters Kluwer Education Online worked with empolis to build a content planning and structural system to enable simple and easy site navigation for users of its Kaboosh service. empolis?s technology is based around a theoretical concept called Topic Maps, which enable concepts to be linked, and for the meanings behind these links to be understood. This helped WKEO connect the pieces of educational information (?Learning Objects?) which they had created, to provide online lessons and to indicate related subjects and activities to users automatically.
Any publishers holding sizeable content resources can adopt taxonomic technologies. Highwire Press used technology provided by Semio to offer a combination of sophisticated searching and directory-style browsing, when it found that standard search technologies could not deliver the quality or the flexibility of results demanded by users.
It is of course not only publishing operations which can benefit from these services. The UK Plus search engine worked with Gammasite to increase the size of its database whilst simultaneously improving the quality of the search results.
What is a taxonomy?
Taxonomy (from the Greek words taxis meaning arrangement or division, and nomos meaning law) is the science of classification according to a pre-determined system, with the resulting catalogue used to provide a conceptual framework for discussion, analysis, or information retrieval.
Traditionally, taxonomic structures have been used by those working in the applied sciences, particularly biology, to create information structures by which species, for example, can be classified. Today, the concept of a taxonomy is also being used more and more frequently within information engineering, where it refers to certain core functionalities:
- The structuring of information to facilitate search and retrieval (this is demonstrated by the BellZinc, Highwire and UK Plus case studies);
- The ability to link information concepts in a way which shows not only that they are linked, but also provides knowledge