I was lucky enough to attend the annual Universal Decimal Classification (UDC) seminar at the Royal Library of the Netherlands in the The Hague this October. The quality of the papers presented was very good, and I think everyone who attended took away something new and useful. Here’s a few of the interesting things that I took away from the seminar:
Defining classes is one thing, but arranging the contents of a class is something else.
it’s important that classes are arranged according to what makes sense to the user. Simply listing items in a class alphabetically is not always the best way to present a class.
Take for example, a class of days called “week day.” How easy is it to find “Tuesday” when the contents of the class are not ordered as you would expect them to be (in this case, ordered alphabetically rather than chronologically):
Ensuring each class is properly sorted is critical to the success of implementation for any classification scheme.
When contents of a given class are arranged properly, wide hierarchies are easier to navigate than deep ones.
When the contents of classes are sorted to support user tasks it becomes easier for users to navigate hierarchies with larger classes (and fewer levels) than to navigate hierarchies with smaller classes (and more levels).
To put it another way, it’s easier to make 1 choice from 8 options than it is to make 2 choices, each from 4 items. This has to do with the amount of time it takes someone to “choose” a thing when given a set of options, and is called the Hyck-Hyman law.
You can use semantic relationships to help people discover the context of something.
Whereas most search engines simply take a search term and return documents that contain that term, vizgr.org returns results that are semantically related to a search term, and tells you how the results and the search term are related.
Returning items that are related to a given term enables users to discover the wider context of something they want to learn about, and leads to serendipitous discovery – that is, finding the things they didn’t know they wanted to find.
Try it out yourself. Search for something you know is in wikipedia, and hover over the results to see how they are related:
Thank you to the people who wrote the papers that I took these ideas from: Luca Rosati, Claudio Gnoli, Alberto Cheti, Daniel Hienert, Dennis Wegener and Siegfried Schomisch. I very much enjoyed the UDC seminar and hope to attend again in future years.