Product Lifecycle Management and Obsessive Taxonomies

Product Lifecycle Management and Obsessive Taxonomies

I’ve been reading twitter stream during my short weekend at home. One of the tweets from Randal Newton caught my special attention. This is the message:

This message made me think about PLM systems, taxonomies and folksonomies. If you’re new to this term, a short intro. Taxonomies is what you most probably know as data classification. From Wikipedia article:

Taxonomy (from Greek: τάξις taxis “arrangement” and Greek: νομία nomia “method”[1]) is the science of identifying and naming species, and arranging them into aclassification.[2][3] The field of taxonomy, sometimes referred to as “biological taxonomy”, revolves around the description and use of taxonomic units, known as taxa (singulartaxon). A resulting taxonomy is a particular classification (“the taxonomy of …”), arranged in a hierarchical structure or classification scheme.

Taxonomies are created by a single individual or a team, and it is clearly represented as hierarchical structure. Opposite to taxonomies, folksonomy presents a different way of data organization.

A folksonomy is a system of classification derived from the practice and method of collaboratively creating and managing tags to annotate and categorize content;[1][2] this practice is also known as collaborative tagging,[3] social classification, social indexing, and social tagging. Folksonomy, a term coined by Thomas Vander Wal, is aportmanteau of folk and taxonomy. Folksonomies became popular on the Web around 2004[4] as part of social software applications such as social bookmarking and photograph annotation. Tagging, which is one of the defining characteristics of Web 2.0 services, allows users to collectively classify and find information. Some websites include tag clouds as a way to visualize tags in a folksonomy.[5] A good example of a social website that utilizes folksonomy is 43 Things.

Take a look on an interesting picture presenting opposite worlds of taxonomies and folksonomies. It is about top-down and bottom-up:

I’ve been thinking about taxonomies and folksonomies in a sense of system rigidity. Most of PLM systems built with a predefined set of rules and models. It creates a certain level of resistance when it comes to the usage of the systems. Customization of systems is complicated, sometimes is cumbersome. Opposite to that, folksonomies is a model that can be “collaboratively created“. This element of collaborative creation is something that can be very much appealing to most of the engineering that like to think more flexible.

Social is another aspect. Social is trending and some companies are trying to bring it as a differentiation in PLM game these days. It would be interesting to see if social PLM and other systems pretending to be “social” are using folksonomical approach to help people to organize data within lifecycle.

What is my conclusion? PLM needs to learn new words and methods of work that prove themselves in the last 10 years of Web. Folksonomies is one of them. The rigidity of existing systems (obsessive taxonomies) need to be transformed into a more flexible and granular approach. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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