Taskonomies and Information Neighbourhoods

Kim Sbarcea has just sent me this link to an article by Don Norman on activity centered design. He goes back to some basic anthropological work done in the 1980s by Janet Dougherty and Charles Keller in a landmark article entitled “Taskonomy: a practical approach to knowledge structures”.

Don Norman points out that taxonomies provide well-ordered, logical organization for well-structured retrieval, but “taskonomies” group things together that are required for any particular activity. In the Dougherty and Keller example, a real blacksmith does not at the end of the day arrange all his hammers together neatly on a shelf, and the tongs on another shelf, he puts the hammers he needs next to the anvil, and next to the tongs. The tools are organised for use, not logical tidiness.

This chimes in well with my posting the other day on “information neighbourhoods” (which was inspired by Maish Nichani’s recent article on “taming your target content” ). It’s not that taskonomies are any better than taxonomies – in fact, you’ll need both taxonomies and metadata to support your taskonomies behind the scenes. But what the taskonomy does is bring the usability of the information being organised closer to the user. Taxonomists cannot remain in the back storeroom keeping the shelves tidy. They also need to venture into the storefront and see how customers need their information organised for use. Thanks Kim, this will go into chapter 10 of my book!

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