Posts tagged ‘Accidental Taxonomist’

February 12, 2012

Reflections after reading The Accidental Taxonomist

Heather Hedden’s book The Accidental Taxonomist is truly inspirational. For years I’ve had this fascination with the various methods of information organization (metadata, taxonomies, ontologies, topic maps, indexing, etc.), but because it’s not part of my regular job it’s always felt like this cloud of buzzwords that I didn’t quite have time to tackle. I wanted desperately to know more, to maybe even turn it into a career change opportunity, but I couldn’t figure out an entry point. Where should I start? What all do I need to know? What’s superfluous? What’s nice to know, but not absolutely necessary for starting out?

Ms. Hedden’s book not only provided an excellent introduction to the subject of information organization, and taxonomy work in particular, it also provided me with a plan. I now have a list of topics to learn, a list of books, blogs, and articles to read, a list of software to try out, and a strategy for becoming both more proficient and more involved with the information organization community.

I’m on a very tight budget at the moment, so everything I do in the short term is going to be free, but really there’s an awful lot that I can do without any expenditure. I made a folder in MyEbscoHost of recommended articles from the Hedden book, a list of books available through interlibrary loan (which I’ll order a few at a time so as not to get overwhelmed), and a folder of bookmarks in Chrome titled “Taxo Sites” with all of the blogs, white papers, and other online documents I could find. I’ve joined a few discussion lists. And I’m planning to start learning some of the open source software that’s out there and freely available, like Protege. Once I’m comfortable with one or more of those I might try doing a 30-day trial of one of the commercial ones, but I want to already have a taxonomy and/or thesaurus in place to practice with so that I’m not spending the whole 30 days trying to think of something to test it with. That’s going to be my biggest hurdle – I’m not sure I’m creative enough to come up with a whole field of interest in which to create a taxonomy all on my own. Maybe I’ll just use Protege’s pizza ontology, though it seems rather dull. Finally, I plan to make better use of this blog, update and maintain my LinkedIn profile, and generally enhance my online presence.

As I’m able to save money, there are a few other things I’d like to do. First, I’d like to join some actual communities, like the Taxonomomies & Controlled Vocabularies SIG of the ASI¬†and the Taxonomy Division of SLA. Second, I’d like to attend some workshops, like Ms. Hedden’s taxonomy class. And finally, I’d like to attend some conferences, like Taxonomy Bootcamp.