Keeping Terminology Relevant

Taxonomies are living structures and must be updated on a regular basis.

The language that we use to describe assets and content changes with current trends and cultures and these should be reflected in the taxonomy. To keep your taxonomy up to date, bi-yearly health checks are suggested.

How to health check your taxonomy?

Use these common taxonomy maintenance tasks to keep relevant

  • Truncate or deprecate: antiquated and outdated language. Go through the analysis of the terms that are most used in the taxonomy, and the ones that are rarely used. This is a first step in knowing where to begin when cleaning up the taxonomy. Remove the terms that you anticipate will never be used by your organization and keep the taxonomy as light as possible. Try to keep the hierarchy no more than three levels deep. Broad and shallow taxonomies are the easiest to manage and maintain.
  • The unattended taxonomy: It is not unusual for a non-taxonomist to be assigned to manage the taxonomy. This usually results in new terms being added to the taxonomy that are not properly placed in the relevant classifications, creating a growing pool of floating terms that have no relationship to the structure of the taxonomy (parent/child, related terms, variant terms, etc.). Keep your top classifications clean and place the floating terms in their relevant category. If you cannot find the category, then create a new classification that may grow in time. It is up to you whether or not to accept a “Miscellaneous” category, but we taxonomists are collectively against it, citing a lack of resourcefulness if you can’t create a better classification.

Outsourcing taxonomy and tagging

Using third-party services to quality check and add metadata is a viable solution but be aware that this will take considerable oversight. Different cultures have their own vernacular and don’t always tag according to the cultures that will be viewing and searching for the assets. A good example is the difference between US and UK nomenclature. Have you eaten a courgette lately? How about searching for women’s pants? These terms have different meanings in different cultures. Be aware that those outside the culture will perceive the references in digital assets through their own perspectives and will need to be prompted to add the relevant synonyms.

Taking hostages: taxonomy dependencies

As you mature in your data capabilities, the realization that taxonomies can validate machine learning will come into play with algorithms and advanced Boolean techniques to build rules within the DAM. This means that you can begin to automate searches to return a specific set of concepts, subjects or topics. Once you do this, however, you build a dependency on the terms in the taxonomy. Should this change, as language often does, it will impact any rules created using that term. Go lightly into this realm, dear friends, but do not be daunted. Often, complex Boolean inquiries have a broad stroke of terminology and the rules will be covered by other metadata terms. Never accept stagnation out of fear.

Metadata health checks: any new elements needed?

Just as language and nomenclature evolve, so do new data perspectives. Metadata elements will need to be added as your organization evolves. There probably was a time when you considered metadata only as asset descriptors. Now your organization has matured to understand that you may need to incorporate customer behaviors or communication tone as new metadata elements. Be flexible and expand the datafication of all things that need to be actioned, measured, and maintained.