Taxonomy Quotes

Taxonomies are very valuable, but not always easy to define, and they are described in various ways. They are also interdisciplinary, as taxonomies are developed by people in different fields for slightly different, yet similar purposes. I have heard various comments about taxonomies over the decades.

In the earlier years of the Taxonomy Community of Practice discussion group, a Yahoo group, which was the precursor of the current Taxonomy and Ontology Community of Practice LinkedIn group, the group’s moderator, Seth Earley, put out a call to the group’s members for a motto for the group. The winning quote, which became the group’s motto, was: “Taxonomies: That’s classified information,” submitted by Jordan Cassel.

There were over a dozen other good suggestions for the motto which were posted in the group in January 2009. That turned out to be shortly before I wrote the first edition of my book, The Accidental Taxonomist, so, with permission, I took additional motto-quotes as opening headers to each of the 12 chapters of my book. The same quotes continued in publication of my second edition in 2016.

As I now am preparing a third edition (expected out in late fall 2022), I decided to refresh the chapter head quotes. In January this year, put out a call for quotes in both the Taxonomy and Ontology Community of Practice LinkedIn group and in my own network. Some quotes were lengthier than before, as they were no longer submissions for a motto. I received far more submissions than I have chapters, and I have also decided to keep some of the original quotes (including the first one). Yet many of these quotes are quite thoughtful and/or clever, so I would like to share these new quotes here.

In true taxonomist fashion, I have categorized these quotes as about taxonomies, about taxonomy creation, about ontologies as compared to taxonomies, about taxonomies, and the a few particularly witty quotes at the end.


About taxonomies

Taxonomies: organizing the disorganized.
—June Tsang

Without Taxonomies; entropy!
—Hakan Strom

Ambiguity is the thief of Knowledge.
—Robert Vane

Good taxonomy is a love letter to the future.
—Gary Carlson

Taxonomy: Levels in the Playing Field
—Merridy Cox (Bradley)

Knowledge organisation, search, and use combine to enable us to navigate the workplace.
—Bill Proudfit

Your Taxonomy, like all metadata, is an expression of what’s important to you and to the collection.
—Peter Krogh

Taxonomies are, first of all, an act of self discovery on how we understand the world.
—Andrea Splendiani


About taxonomy creation

Taxonomy: generalize or specify, that is the question.
—Fabiola Aparecida Vizentim

Taxonomy: The perfect mix of art and science.
—Mollee Marcus

Taxonomies: Normalizing to help you find, report and aggregate across data & content.
—Rita M. Benitez

Regardless of domain, taxonomy is the science of sorting and labelling information so it can be retrieved for future use.
—Leah B.

Do your best to ignore even your most strongly held convictions. If you want to create a user-friendly taxonomy/ontology system, follow the data, not your heart.
—Rebecca B. Weiss

Successful data management requires a model-based architecture for operational efficiency, usability, and governance. Taxonomies extend these benefits to information and content.
—Vanessa Vavra-Laughlin

Taxonomy is such a great battleground to focus consistently on improving the user experience; it’s a first key activity to drive the user experience.
—Vellaichamy Shunmugavel

To ontologize or not to ontologize, that is the question you should ask yourself in the first place.
—Erick Antezana


About ontologies (or ontologies compared with taxonomies)

Taxonomies tell stories, ontologies create worlds.
—Fran Alexander

Taxonomies classify; ontologies reify.
—Beatrice Larentis

Ontology: generating knowledge by connecting the dots.
Taxonomy: is like a drawer organizer for kitchen cutlery.
—Brigita Perchutkaite Vollstedt

If a taxonomy is an elevator, an ontology is a Wonkavator!
—Caroline Coward
(Referencing Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory: like an elevator but also can go sideways and in all directions.)

Ontologies make the implications explicit.
—Michele Ann Jenkins

A good ontology maps the way out of chaosville.
—Mark Atkins

Ontologies: organizational substrate for your data, information, and know-how enzymes.
—Heather Fox


About taxonomists

I wanted to figure out my place in the world, so I hired a taxonomist.
—Meg Morrissey

Only when one’s data is all over the place is it discovered that a taxonomist is necessary.
—Rebecca Custis

Be the Taxonomy you want to see in the World!
— Elaine Chu

—Jordan Casell:
“I say this categorically, taxonomists are an organized bunch”

Taxonomies: now you’re where you belong.
—Alan S. Michaels


And the witty ones

Ontology, Category, Property – Happy user will be! Try me, Find me, Surprise me 🙂
—Dorothee Balas

Year Make Model Engine Transmission Leather Navi Owners Accidents Miles Color: = my used-Taxi Taxonomy.
—Tony Mariella

Taxonomy is taxidermy for data — mounted on a framework and stuffed for the purpose of display and study.
—Phil Taylor

I never metadata I didn’t like.
—Paul Belfanti

Taxonomy? Taxonoyou!
—Ron Cascella

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