A Taxonomy Journey at EMC

From Chuck Hollis, who’s a VP with EMC, this nice story (which is still evolving) about how their internal collaboration communities are grappling with the issues of order versus emergence – to taxonomise or to tag? They started with an emergent approach, but as the volume and messiness grew, thought they could help by putting in a taxonomy.

It’s a good lesson in taxonomy development, you need to either go and investigate the language and content thoroughly if it’s a mature content collection, or let it grow for a while until the patterns of language and organisation emerge, then look for consistent organising principles that will help the communities navigate and exploit the content effectively.

For a short while, Chuck thought that activity-oriented organisation principles might work best for the communities. But in opening it up for discussion, he seems surprised that there is so much argument about how to organise and categorise. Second lesson in taxonomy development – you will NEVER get a consensus. Chuck seems all set to run for the hills at the first sound of gunfire. Wisely he focuses on the problems that need to be solved – newbie orientation, proliferation of communities which produces what I call “jungle fever” (impossible to navigate), different human dispositions towards messiness and order.

A great insight into practical issues surrounding the need for taxonomies.

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