There has been a lot of discussion on our ECM and Portal Blogs concerning the need for a formal Taxonomy. I guess I am a traditionalist and still see the need for a taxonomy. A Taxonomy can address two aspects of finding information;
- Using content/ asset types and metadata to find information with the highest accuracy. The goal is always to find that one document or piece of information that will answer the question or help make a better informed decision
- Visually navigating to the set of content that contains the information that you are looking for. While visual navigation may not be as useful with some of the new social media functionality (Wikis, Blogs, and Microblogs), it is still a critiacl aspect for casual users whlo want to find information stored in formal structures, such folders or other containers.
I have found that the use of folksonomies and tag clouds leave too room for inconsistencies in the vocabulary used to tag the content. While this capability gives the end user the flexibility to tag a piece of content with a metadata value that has meaning to them, it also presents the possibility that duplicate tags will be added for the same metadata value. An example of this is tagging a piece of content with the value of Smith. A metadata search will Smith and smith as two different values. If you search on Smith using an lowercase ‘s’ and the tag that was added is Smith with an uppercase ‘S’, you would not find the content you were looking for. Having a controlled vocabulary allows for accurate searches and speeds the time to find the right information.
As far as visual searches, I have found that casual users often are adverse to using a metadata search as their primary form of finding content. They prefer to be able to navigate site or folders to find the information that they need. While this type of search is not as exacting as the metadata search, it does meet the needs of the casual user.
What I see as the future for taxonomies is a feature that has been incorporated into SharePoint 2010. This feature enables a user to nominate a new metadata value for a content type. I see this capability as the beginning of the integration of taxonomies and folksonomies. What is still unknown is how this feature will be implemented from a governance perspective and will users adopt the new functionality.