Content Search

One of the reasons that content needs taxonomy is to enable users to be able to search for content relevant to them easily. Theoretically, this is something that is quite straightforward. After all, Yahoo, Lycos, etc., have been doing this for more than a decade. And google, and now bing, have taken them to the next level of complexity when computing search results. So what are we talking about? Search is something which should be a given, and not something which should be question for discussion.

There are, though, a few things which we need to understand about search, which influence not just user interaction with content, but also the way knowledge managers look at search. To begin with, search is not the best possible option available to content or knowledge managers when they are trying to highlight content. Let me take an example to explain what i am trying to say. One of the things knowledge managers are trying to do … Highlight content which is relevant to a user so the content which users see on a portal is high impact for each user (at least thats the idea theoretically), something on the lines of personalization, the idea being that knowledge managers should be able to push relevant content to users depending on their profile of work or usage. But if there is a particular document which may be useful to users of a particular profile, how can that be highlighted to those users? Search would, after all, return a set of documents depending on what you search for, some of them relevant, and some not.

Add to this the complexity of taxonomy. This is something which is underestimated. Let me take an example to explain what i am trying to say. I was trying to search for a caller-tune. The song i was searching for is a song named Bulleya by Junoon. One of the parameters which is part of the taxonomy is language, and i searched for the song with Urdu, and with Punjabi, and couldnt find the song. Point is, with taxonomy, a user needs to understand the way the content manager would think, to be ableto find out the attribute values for specific content which the content manager would have thought up. And since i couldnt, i wasnt able to select the caller-tune. And this is where, as we know, folksonomy comes into the picture.

Of course, today, we find that the network can bring up content which may be relevant to you as a user. Of course, this depends on the quality and density of your network (ok, so i dont really know what density means, but what i am thinking is that since noone leads unidimensional lives, the network is based on a number of dimensions, and the knowledge a network would throw up along a particular dimension would depend upon the density of the network along this dimension, there should be some attribute of the network which can define this behaviour of the network, and maybe density is a term which is as apt as another). But as i have written before, the network would enable users to discover more easily the content which they find relevant, though search would still play an important role. This is because search is about pull. More like DIY.

An aspect which not many folks look at is that for a lot of contexts, its not always possible to classify content into specific, discrete values as defined by a content management team. An example for this is the song search that i mentioned. Any document resides at the intersection of specific values for a large number of attributes, and this is made more complicated by the fact that different people may look at the same document being at different intersections of values.

Add to this the idea that the easier you want to make it for users, the more you will probably make it complex for anyone who would try to contribute a document. All in all, a complex scenario. But if we try to see how users look at content, we can make it just a little simpler for users to search for documents. Thing is, different people have different ways or perspectives for looking at the same content, which means that you can only go so far as meeting user requirements for search. While this is where folksonomy comes in, i believe folksonomy cannot totally replace taxonomy for the structure of taxonomy does add to the usability of the repository.

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