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The Narrative of Taxonomy

Taxonomies are organizational schemes. For that matter, so are folksonomies and even referral systems, such as's "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought" feature. The difference between them is in degree: strict imposed taxonomies are exact organizational schemes, while more bottom-up systems are ambiguous organizational schemes.

What makes either type of scheme useful, however, is the same: they must be iterative and interactive. We don't always know precisely what we're looking for all of the time. A good organizational scheme teaches us how to use it as we use it, because what we find now always influences how we search later. Good organizational schemes promote associative learning.

Associative learning is a kind of journey. Every journey has a tale—a narrative. Therefore, if we predict, uncover, or intuit the users' journeys, even if we're imposing the strictest taxonomy on them, we serve them well. There are narratives in every organizational scheme and in those narratives, meaning.

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