Val Swisher, CEO and founder of Content Rules, facilitated an information taxonomy workshop for students, alumni, and faculty on Friday, April 26th. The event was hosted by ETC, the tech comm student organization. Swisher previously spoke at UNT in the fall of 2018 on global-ready content.
UNDERSTANDING EVERYDAY TAXONOMIES
Swisher explained the function of information taxonomies and how companies like Content Rules use them. She used several exercises to illustrate their usefulness and application.
During one exercise, Swisher asked attendees to draw and label their home closets and explain how they organize them. Attendees had vastly differing systems with varying levels of complexity.
Following the exercise, Swisher asked how successful attendees thought they would be in searching for and finding clothes if they suddenly swapped organization systems. All agreed that they would have trouble navigating someone else's system.
"This is what companies who work with us do," said Swisher. "They put all of their content into one big 'closet', and everyone has to share."
MAKING TAXONOMIES USABLE
Swisher explained that Content Rules uses extensive tagging and categorization systems to ensure its clients can locate any piece of their content using search tools.
One example Swisher used was a blue t-shirt. In a system designed for information taxonomy, the shirt would have a variety of tags, including color, material, size, and style. Using these tags as search terms, someone who is hunting for this blue t-shirt could locate it quickly and easily.
"You can have the biggest closet in the world, but if you don't put the clothes in the right places you'll never find that blue shirt," said Swisher.
Afterwards, Swisher asked attendees to split into pairs and create information taxonomies to categorize bags of Lego blocks. Each team came up with a different method, but each one completed the task successfully. Swisher closed the workshop following this exercise.
"I really appreciated how applicable [information taxonomy] is for technical writers," Hennessy said. "It's easy to see how it applies to your everyday life."
Kim Campbell, Chair of the Department of Technical Communication at UNT, said Swisher's recent visits to campus prompted her to invite the expert to join other industry leaders on the department's Advisory Board so that students and faculty will continue to benefit from her expertise.