Re: [unrev-II] faceted classification

From: N. C a r r o l l (
Date: Tue Oct 09 2001 - 19:36:58 PDT

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    ----- Original Message -----
    From: Alex Shapiro <>
    To: <>
    Sent: Tuesday, September 25, 2001 10:29 PM
    Subject: [unrev-II] faceted classification


    > Read more at --Alex
    > ... faceted classification, one of the most powerful, yet least
    > methods of organizing information. Most folks, when thinking about
    > organizing objects or information, immediately think of a hierarchical, or
    > taxonomic, organization; a top-down structure, where you start with a


    > Faceted classification, on the other hand, is a bottom-up scheme.

    Very nice link. Thank you.

    Librarians have been aware of this for awhile, in fact one of the
    papers linked in the paper was by the legendary
    librarian Raganathan, written a century ago:

    Librarians also recognized, even before computers were available
    to them, that Boolean logic was inappropriate for searching
    hierarchical systems of organizing information, but worked handily
    with conceptual systems such as faceted classification. (After all,
    George Boole was over a century ago as well.)

    That piece of knowledge alone might have saved numerous dot-coms
    from bankruptcy. Amazon is a notable survivor, with an internal search
    that attempts to apply Boolean to the Library of Congress cataloging
    system. They allowed for their "touchup catalogers" to add keywords
    to records soon after, but to my mind, that was too little, too late. What
    they needed was a full-blown thesaurus built into the guts of the data
    structure. Instead what they have is cataloging, plus a dab o' concept.

    It is fairly easy to be dismissive of librarians -- especially for today's
    breed of narrowly educated coders -- since we tend to see them as
    the invisible bureaucrats who populate the local public library, and we
    remember that not so many years ago their only search tool was
    primitive card catalogs. As I came to realize in meeting crackerjack
    information science folks, the card catalog was just the beginning
    of search, because at a good library, the reference librarian *is*
    the thesaurus, making the bridge between the rigidity of the catalog,
    and the vague, unformed hollow in the searcher's knowledge.

    Or, if you will: making the bridge between concept and hierarchy.


    Nicholas Carroll

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