Taxonomy or folksonomy?

Dan Foody of Progress Software had an interesting blog recently called UDDI in a Web 2.0 World. In it, he asks:

SOA What? With all of this Web 2.0 development, it’s clear that internet scale folksonomies work far better than taxonomies. On the other hand enterprises are, for the most part, stuck with UDDI-related SOA governance tools and their strict taxonomy and categorization mechanisms. The open question though… is this really a problem?

Aside: I love the use of SOA What? That’s exactly why I try to always say S-O-A. On the subject, however, I think Dan raises an interesting question. One of the questions I’ve asked some of the registry/repository vendors is “Can you be indexed by a Google Appliance?” Admittedly, I’m not a huge fan of taxonomy-based searching. At the same time, however, a typical enterprise asset repository may not have enough critical mass to get appropriate metadata for folksonomy based searching. The Web is filled with hyperlinks. How many links to a service detail page am I going to have inside a typical enterprise?

Personally, I’d rather try to find a way to build up the metadata than go crazy building taxonomies to support direct navigation. First off, you can quickly get into taxonomy hell where there are so many variations that you try to support that it becomes difficult to present to the user. Second, people are so used to using Google, Desktop Search, Spotlight, etc. Universal search is going to be a standard part of the office toolset, and we need to find a way to ensure relevant results get returned. This will likely require analysis of software development artifacts (including source code) and building up those relationships based upon presence within project repositories and the role of the user performing the search. A developer performing a search will want to see very different results when searching on “Customer service” than a business manager.

The challenge we face is that the documents and their metadata are scattered all over the place. I previously asked if metadata should be the center of the SOA universe. Neil Ward-Dutton replied that it the center of the universe, and is inherently federated. We need intelligent crawlers that can infer the appropriate relationships and feed this into the universal search engine. Is anyone out there leveraging a Google appliance or other universal search option to facilitate searching for services and other IT assets? If so, like Dan, I’d love to hear about your experiences.

One Response to “Taxonomy or folksonomy?”

  • The true power of Semantic Integration for SOA is not taxonomy based searching per se, but the correlation of the architecture around a semantic foundation.

    Metadata is still implementation specific or coupled to either COTS or unique design paradigms. A Semantic foundation which can be translated from natural language to OWL, RDF, other XML-based formats is not.

    Federation of coherent data & service logic requires a level of abstraction somewhat beyond current techniques – this provides a powerful mitigator to trend and COTS turnover/churn.

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