Here’s the problem with taxonomies and content categorization schemes: no one will maintain them. You can set up the greatest content tree or grouping structure in the world, but sooner or later, content authors (yourself included) are going to get complacent.
That’s because the value-add is on the reader’s end of the equation, not the author’s, so there’s not a compelling reason for an author to go to the trouble. What do you do about this?
This, then, is an exercise in thinking out loud.
Categorization can fall into two schemes: passive and active. Active is the most familiar: you add an item, then you decide where to stick it in the category map. However, as I mentioned, sooner or later, people are going to get lax in doing this. Passive, on the other hand, is just that, when someone adds an item, the system “knows” where it fits automatically based on criteria and meta information.
Passive Categorization: An Example
When I was working with Inktomi Enterprise Search (now owned by Verity), they had an add-on for their search engine called “Content Categorization Engine.” This was a taxonomy where each node was simply a saved search. For a node on “content management,” for instance, the system ran a search for all documents with the phrase “content management” in the keywords (you could design your own search for every node, of course). It didn’t matter where this document was in the file system, it would be grouped under this node just by virtue of its keywords. Nothing was actively assigned – everything was a search from scratch.
It worked great for folder structures too. You could easily configure a search to return all documents located in a certain folder. So someone could create an HTML document, apply meta (title, author, description, keywords, etc.) and put it in a folder. By doing this, the author had unknowingly contributed to the taxonomy. A link to the document would now appear under that node in the tree, complete with title, author, description, abstract, date created, etc. The author would have no choice in the matter – the system just “knew” about the document and enforced the taxonomy.
Plans for Gadgetopia: Keyword-based Categorization
This, I think, is where we’re headed with Gadgetopia. We’ve had some discussions recently about the correct practice for follow-up entries and how to link related entries together. Categorizing everything actively would lead to too many categories, so we started adding keywords. The keywords are linked from the permalink page, and you can click them to search for that term in the site.
One drawback, however, is that just because an entry contains the phrase “Bill Gates” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s about Bill Gates. Wouldn’t it be nice if the search would first grab only those entries where the search term appears in the keywords, since having the target text in the keywords would indicate that the entry has a high relation to what’s being searched for? Well, we’ve done this…sort of:
This is a search page we’re working on.