This meet-up was held as a social evening accompaniment to the Taxonomy Boot Camp taking place on 18-19 October at the Olympia Conference Centre - just across the road from our venue. Following an action-packed day in the centre, 40 Boot Campers made it across the road to the Taxonomy Chill-Out – in high spirits. After a few words of welcome on behalf of ISKO UK, Stella Dextre Clarke asked them all to think back to 2001, when “taxonomy” was a hot topic. To break the ice at a workshop in those days, she had broken into verse, as follows:
Taxonomy: the Mystery Cat-egorizer
Taxonomy, taxonomy, there’s nothing like taxonomy
With Verity or Northern Light, Lotus or Autonomy.
The enterprise must organize its intellectual assets,
But should that be by ranking them or grouping them in facets?
Should we metatag the documents? It’s not a quick decision,
But we must improve our Recall, and maximise Precision.
The problems posed by homographs, the perils of synonymy,
We seek to overcome them all by using a taxonomy.
“Verity? Northern Light?? Where are they now?” was the cry. After just 15 years this poem plainly needs an update. Stella challenged the company to come up with something fitting. And so the party set to work… but not with the notepads supplied. Instead the happy taxonomists continued draining their glasses, refilling them and blithely networking, without any kind of vocabulary control. It was useless to remind them of what befell Tam o’Shanter when his Hallowe’en party got out of hand. After nearly an hour there was not a Burns stanza in sight, and the only thing resembling a haiku was a solitary hiccup overheard in the ladies’ loo.
Well, that’s not completely true. In one quiet corner two dedicated scholars put their heads together and composed these heart-rending lines:
"There was a young lady from Plaxonomy
Who loved to construct a taxonomy
She built it so deep
It collapsed in a heap
And she was buried in her own Ontology"
But when the moment came to proclaim them winners of the competition, courage failed the ringleaders. Any effort to stem the flow of heady content with a poetry reading could have tempted rebellion. Therefore the only recognition for Chris Jones and accomplice Niké Brown is in publication of their limerick on this website.
Similarly Stella Dextre Clarke was denied the opportunity to paralyze the assembly by reading out her own second verse:
Taxonomy, taxonomy, there’s nothing like taxonomy -
Essential guide to all domains, from physics to gastronomy.
A keyword search may often yield some useful information
But it’s not enough for user-friendly website navigation.
So never mind what Google does; you’re in a strong position –
To class is fundamental; it’s the root of all cognition.
If they want to chop your budget, tell them that’s a false economy.
To do the users justice you must implement taxonomy.
And so the good humour and unruly knowledge organization continued unabated until anticipation for the next day’s Boot Camp packed our colleagues off to get a night’s sleep.
In retrospect there’s no doubt that master criminal Macavity was behind the whole collapse of good intentions. Next time we must invite T S Eliot posthumously to join the proceedings and provide some metadata to keep that cat under control.