Social Hierarchies, Taxonomies and Rail Travel

This, I kid you not, is a screenshot from the Amtrak Guest Rewards enrolment page. It’s only a fragment of their anticipated enrolment taxonomy, but it already tells a tale of woe. They have a definite penchant for military and religious clients, with just a hint of aristocracy, welcoming the odd prince and princess. It does seem strange to think of royalty going for rewards programmes but I suppose there are enough hard-up royals out there to warrant it. But we can also see that the taxonomy is woefully incomplete. Princes and Princesses may be welcome, but Barons, Dukes, Lords, Kings and Queens are not, not to mention Sheikhs, Fire Chiefs, Chaplains, Abbots and Abbesses. It would make a great example of how not to do taxonomies:

(a) don’t mix up different taxonomy hierarchies in the same vocabulary, it’s confusing – unless you’re going for a full blown thesaurus
(b) if you start a hierarchy you need to finish it, don’t leave it half-baked or incomplete – it will irritate, frustrate expectations, and in this case exclude important people
(c) don’t make your taxonomy/vocabulary more complicated than it needs to be (Mr Ms Miss works fine for most rewards programmes, honorifics can be additional optional information to be typed not selected)

Hat tip to Michelle Lee for this delightful find.


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