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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  • Lessons from an ontology nerd by: Abby The IA
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  • 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 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
  • Ontology This is a sh. 6
  • Meaning is subjective Meaning is socio political Meaning is psychographic Meaning gets lost in translation Meaning is not talked about enough 7
  • ...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 - Informa:on Anxiety 2 12
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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 rst letter scientic names (Alphabetical) 5.! By rst letter popular names (Alphabetical) 6.! By rst 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 difculty (Hierarchy) 17.! By climate (Hierarchy) 18.! By type (Hierarchy) 19.! By soil type (Hierarchy) 20.! By best storing technique (Hierarchy) 13
  • 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 perception shape our behavior and how we relate to information that we encounter. 16
  • 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 vegetable, nothing is a vegetable. Instances of Polyhierarchy More 18
  • Lesson #3 Cultural meaning matters 19
  • Which is a wedding? Which is a funeral? 20
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  • 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 meanings for words Ontology represents the knowledge of terms and concepts within a domain 26
  • Lesson #4 Reading Level Matters Words per sentence Average grade level of words Characters per word Use of organizational devices 27
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  • Really? 28
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  • 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 Pizza 42
  • h,p://6thoor.blogs.ny;mes.com/2011/05/20/words-we-dont-say/ 43
  • Controlled Vocabularies A controlled vocabulary is a list of approved terms and denitions 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) Scientic 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) Identication of homographs (i.e. the word pool can relate to swimming pool or shooting) 44
  • If you forget everything else....
  • 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
  • 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