Little bursts of controversy seem to occasionally erupt in the blog-o-sphere that ignite the debate about the “worth'” of taxonomy, and by extension, of taxonomists. But the debate tends to focus on defining a taxonomist’s job. I think that we have defined the position pretty well, but now we need to be sure that it sits in the right place in the organization. In my experience, both as an employee and as a consultant, the right place for an information retrieval professional is on the development team. And developing information retrieval artifacts (like taxonomies and classification rules) deserves one (or many)full-time resources; I have seen many good IR projects fail because IR duties are assigned to someone as an “as-needed” part of their day job.
Here is a little “typical taxo case study” that I wrote awhile ago to illustrate the point. Does this resonate? How would you staff the project?
Zathras Inc is a large consumer product information company. Privately held, it derives revenue from its Internet Web site: consumers purchase advertising on the site, as well as reports that its analysts generate. It also provides subject-based access (via subscriptions, RSS feeds, and the occasional tweet) to its topic areas of expertise. Zathras has been in existence since the Internet boom in the 90s, but only recently has begun to think about creating an inventory for its archive of reports, which exist in file directories on individual PCs, in Lotus Notes databases, and in a fledgling Sharepoint document store. Zathras also has an Intranet site to support its basic employee functions: HR, Payroll, Marketing and Company News, but the Intranet site is managed by a small IT team, and they have historically reported up to a different business group than the IT team who manage the Internet site. Recently, their CTO, also a founder of the company, stepped down, and the new CTO merged the Internet and Intranet teams. She also suggested that the team look into purchasing an enterprise search engine. The new CTO has recently read about “taxonomy” in the press, and wonders if the research team, which currently consists of two professional librarians, might have time to work on a taxonomy project. She’d like to see Zathras become a leader in the Web 2.0 space, and has hired a project manager to help her meet this goal.