0
Lessons from an
ontology nerd
by: Abby The IA
3
Information
Architecture (IA)
is a practice of
making sense
Critical
Components
Of IA*
Ontology:
Do you know what you
mean when you say
what you say?

Ontology

Taxonomy
Choreography...
Ontology

This is a fish.
6
Meaning is subjective
Meaning is socio political
Meaning is psychographic
Meaning gets lost in translation
Meaning is not ...
...meaning gets
further complicated at the
intersection of humans &
technology.

8
Good user experience is built on
a foundation of shared meaning

9
5 Lessons in

Ontology
10
Lesson #1

Pay attention
to Taxonomic
Approach

11
There are only 5 ways to
organize anything

*HT	
  Richard	
  Saul	
  Wurman	
  -­‐	
  Informa:on	
  Anxiety	
  2

12
There are only 5 ways to
organize anything
1. Location: Rome is a city in Italy

*HT	
  Richard	
  Saul	
  Wurman	
  -­‐	
...
There are only 5 ways to
organize anything
1. Location: Rome is a city in Italy
2. Alphabetical: Rome starts with “R”

*HT...
There are only 5 ways to
organize anything
1. Location: Rome is a city in Italy
2. Alphabetical: Rome starts with “R”
3. T...
There are only 5 ways to
organize anything
1. Location: Rome is a city in Italy
2. Alphabetical: Rome starts with “R”
3. T...
There are only 5 ways to
organize anything
1. Location: Rome is a city in Italy
2. Alphabetical: Rome starts with “R”
3. T...
20 ways to organize a box of vegetables
1.! By cost at the grocery in the USA (Location)
2.! By cost at the grocery in the...
Taxonomy is Rhetoric
The way you choose to organize
your vegetables says something
about what kind of store you are

14
“It takes knowledge to know that a
tomato is a fruit, and wisdom not
to put it in a fruit salad.”
– Miles Kington

15
Mental
Models
Matter
A mental model is an explanation
for the way someone makes sense
of something.
These models of percep...
Lesson #2

Avoid Poly-hierarchical

overload

17
The more tomato-like objects,
the less effective the taxonomy
More

Usefulness of Taxonomy
Less

“If everything is a
veget...
Lesson #3

Cultural
meaning
matters
19
Which is a
wedding?
Which is a
funeral?
20
21
22
23
In America, when
we say flapjack,
we mean this....

24
One word, many meanings
25
Lexicography vs Ontology
• Lexicography is the practice of compiling
dictionaries. Lexicographers collect different
meanin...
Lesson #4

Reading Level
Matters

•
•
•
•

Words per sentence
Average grade level of words
Characters per word
Use of orga...
28
Really?

28
29
30
31
32
Lesson #5

Watch out for
Accidental Synonyms
User

Customer

Consumer

Member

33
Customers?
Consumers?
Users?
Customers?
Consumers?
Users?
.net

.COM

User

Customer
Retailer

Consumer

36
.net

.COM

User

Customer
Retailer

Consumer

Accidental synonym alert!

37
.net

.COM

User

Retailer

Consumer

Something
had to
change
38
Tools to
Wrangle Meaning

39
Card Sorting
Alien Dictionary

41
Synonym Rings

tranche de
Pizza

fetta di
Pizza

Pied de
Pizza

Slice of
Pizza

Piece of
Pizza

Pizza
Pie

Piede di
Pizza
...
h,p://6thfloor.blogs.ny;mes.com/2011/05/20/words-­‐we-­‐dont-­‐say/
43
Controlled Vocabularies
• A controlled vocabulary is a list of approved terms and definitions for a
particular context and/...
If you forget
everything
else....
Lessons from an ontology nerd

1.Carefully consider Taxonomic Approach
2.Avoid Poly-hierarchical Overload
3.Research Cultu...
Know what you
mean when you
say what you say

47
Thanks
(deck will be at: slideshare.com/abbycovert shortly)

@Abby_The_IA | AbbytheIA.com
Lessons from an Ontology Nerd
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Lessons from an Ontology Nerd

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What makes something unclear? Most often it is misunderstandings of meaning. Search is no exception.

Ontology is the study of meaning. In this session, learn useful tools for wrangling the ontological beasts of your next project.
How are words and models chosen in your business? Is there shared meaning between your colleagues? Your users?Does ontological confusion affect the structures and choreography of your user experience?

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Transcript of "Lessons from an Ontology Nerd"

  1. 1. Lessons from an ontology nerd by: Abby The IA
  2. 2. 3
  3. 3. Information Architecture (IA) is a practice of making sense
  4. 4. Critical Components Of IA* Ontology: Do you know what you mean when you say what you say? Ontology Taxonomy Choreography Taxonomy: Have you provided logical structures that bring meaning to what you present? Choreography: How is meaning affected across various channels, over time and through usage? *HT  @DanKlyn
  5. 5. Ontology This is a fish. 6
  6. 6. Meaning is subjective Meaning is socio political Meaning is psychographic Meaning gets lost in translation Meaning is not talked about enough 7
  7. 7. ...meaning gets further complicated at the intersection of humans & technology. 8
  8. 8. Good user experience is built on a foundation of shared meaning 9
  9. 9. 5 Lessons in Ontology 10
  10. 10. Lesson #1 Pay attention to Taxonomic Approach 11
  11. 11. There are only 5 ways to organize anything *HT  Richard  Saul  Wurman  -­‐  Informa:on  Anxiety  2 12
  12. 12. There are only 5 ways to organize anything 1. Location: Rome is a city in Italy *HT  Richard  Saul  Wurman  -­‐  Informa:on  Anxiety  2 12
  13. 13. There are only 5 ways to organize anything 1. Location: Rome is a city in Italy 2. Alphabetical: Rome starts with “R” *HT  Richard  Saul  Wurman  -­‐  Informa:on  Anxiety  2 12
  14. 14. There are only 5 ways to organize anything 1. Location: Rome is a city in Italy 2. Alphabetical: Rome starts with “R” 3. Time: Rome started in 753 BC *HT  Richard  Saul  Wurman  -­‐  Informa:on  Anxiety  2 12
  15. 15. There are only 5 ways to organize anything 1. Location: Rome is a city in Italy 2. Alphabetical: Rome starts with “R” 3. Time: Rome started in 753 BC 4. Category: Rome is a Romantic city *HT  Richard  Saul  Wurman  -­‐  Informa:on  Anxiety  2 12
  16. 16. There are only 5 ways to organize anything 1. Location: Rome is a city in Italy 2. Alphabetical: Rome starts with “R” 3. Time: Rome started in 753 BC 4. Category: Rome is a Romantic city 5. Hierarchy: Rome is within Italy, which is within Europe, which is within the Eastern and Northern Hemisphere *HT  Richard  Saul  Wurman  -­‐  Informa:on  Anxiety  2 12
  17. 17. 20 ways to organize a box of vegetables 1.! By cost at the grocery in the USA (Location) 2.! By cost at the grocery in the UK (Location) 3.! By countries it is eaten in (Location) 4.! By first letter scientific names (Alphabetical) 5.! By first letter popular names (Alphabetical) 6.! By first letter cultural names (Alphabetical) 7.! By seasonality of harvest (Time) 8.! By length of season (Time) 9.! By cooking time (Time) 10.! By popularity today (Time) 11.! By popularity 100 years ago (Time) 12.! By color (Category) 13.! By taste (Category) 14.! By texture (Category) 15.! By size (Category) 16.! By growing difficulty (Hierarchy) 17.! By climate (Hierarchy) 18.! By type (Hierarchy) 19.! By soil type (Hierarchy) 20.! By best storing technique (Hierarchy) 13
  18. 18. Taxonomy is Rhetoric The way you choose to organize your vegetables says something about what kind of store you are 14
  19. 19. “It takes knowledge to know that a tomato is a fruit, and wisdom not to put it in a fruit salad.” – Miles Kington 15
  20. 20. Mental Models Matter A mental model is an explanation for the way someone makes sense of something. These models of perception shape our behavior and how we relate to information that we encounter. 16
  21. 21. Lesson #2 Avoid Poly-hierarchical overload 17
  22. 22. The more tomato-like objects, the less effective the taxonomy More Usefulness of Taxonomy Less “If everything is a vegetable, nothing is a vegetable.” Instances of Polyhierarchy More 18
  23. 23. Lesson #3 Cultural meaning matters 19
  24. 24. Which is a wedding? Which is a funeral? 20
  25. 25. 21
  26. 26. 22
  27. 27. 23
  28. 28. In America, when we say flapjack, we mean this.... 24
  29. 29. One word, many meanings 25
  30. 30. Lexicography vs Ontology • Lexicography is the practice of compiling dictionaries. Lexicographers collect different meanings for words • Ontology represents the knowledge of terms and concepts within a domain 26
  31. 31. Lesson #4 Reading Level Matters • • • • Words per sentence Average grade level of words Characters per word Use of organizational devices 27
  32. 32. 28
  33. 33. Really? 28
  34. 34. 29
  35. 35. 30
  36. 36. 31
  37. 37. 32
  38. 38. Lesson #5 Watch out for Accidental Synonyms User Customer Consumer Member 33
  39. 39. Customers? Consumers? Users?
  40. 40. Customers? Consumers? Users?
  41. 41. .net .COM User Customer Retailer Consumer 36
  42. 42. .net .COM User Customer Retailer Consumer Accidental synonym alert! 37
  43. 43. .net .COM User Retailer Consumer Something had to change 38
  44. 44. Tools to Wrangle Meaning 39
  45. 45. Card Sorting
  46. 46. Alien Dictionary 41
  47. 47. Synonym Rings tranche de Pizza fetta di Pizza Pied de Pizza Slice of Pizza Piece of Pizza Pizza Pie Piede di Pizza Pizza 42
  48. 48. h,p://6thfloor.blogs.ny;mes.com/2011/05/20/words-­‐we-­‐dont-­‐say/ 43
  49. 49. Controlled Vocabularies • A controlled vocabulary is a list of approved terms and definitions for a particular context and/or setting • Frameworks like this can help teams to decide on things like: • Variant Spellings (i.e. American vs. British) • Scientific vs. Popular Term Use (i.e. Cockroaches vs. Periplaneta Americana) • Acceptable Synonyms (i.e. Automobile vs. Car) • Acceptable Acronyms (i.e. GE vs. General Electric) • Business vs. User Terms (i.e. What we say in meetings vs. what we say to customers) • Identification of homographs (i.e. the word “pool” can relate to “swimming pool” or “shooting”) 44
  50. 50. If you forget everything else....
  51. 51. Lessons from an ontology nerd 1.Carefully consider Taxonomic Approach 2.Avoid Poly-hierarchical Overload 3.Research Culture & Location 4.Play to Grade & Reading Level 5.Avoid Accidental Synonyms 46
  52. 52. Know what you mean when you say what you say 47
  53. 53. Thanks (deck will be at: slideshare.com/abbycovert shortly) @Abby_The_IA | AbbytheIA.com
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