Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Outputs available: "Semantic Analysis Technology" event, 3 November 2008

The outputs (presentation slides and mp3) from the ISKO UK event that took place on 3rd November 2008 entitles "Semantic Analysis Technology: in Search of Categories, Concepts & Context" are now available the event's website

This half-day event included presentations by Luca Scagliarini of Expert System, Jeremy Bentley of SmartLogic, Rob Lee of Rattle Research and linked presentations by BBC information architects Helen Lippell, Karen Loasby and Silver Oliver - followed by a rather interesting panel discussion. There were more than hundred people in attendance.

The talks represented the different approaches in text processing and advanced techniques in automatic resource indexing that help to resolve ambiguities in content searching and linking:

1. Luca Scagliarini (Expert System) "Whales & cat fur: using a semantic net to improve precision & recall" [pdf] [mp3]
Luca pointed out that the present information discovery suffered from both information overload and information underload due to a lack of meaning-based text processing. He reviewed current technologies and illustrated problems with shallow automatic linguistic analysis and the lack of 'understanding' of the meaning that is encoded in the relationships between verbs, prepositions and nouns. He illustrated how a 'deep semantic analysis' based on the analysis of relationships works in Expert System's new semantic intelligence software, Cogito. Cogito utilizes an innovative 'semantic network' to achieve improved machine 'understanding'. The semantic network contains 350,000 definitions and 2.8 million relationships for the English language vocabulary.

Jeremy Bentley (SmartLogic) "It’s just semantics" [pdf][mp3]
Jeremy provided an overview of issues in information organization: unstructured information, the doubling of number of resources every 19 months, the problem of 'findability' and the issues with black box solutions. He illustrated the relevance of metadata and the relevance of taxonomies built specifically to reflect the way a business works. He explained how this could be exploited in managing the semantic layer of an information and content architecture and how an ontology can be used for automatic analysis of contexts and semantics, in queries and search engines.
Rob Lee (Rattle Research): "Connecting concepts: joining up the BBC" [slideshare][mp3]
Rob Lee talked about Muddy Boots, a BBC project dealing with linked data and the creation of dynamic semantic richness. The BBC's remit to link to external sources has provoked lots of thinking and doing in the area of dynamic linking. Rob illustrated how datasets in the public domain such as MusicBrainz or DBpedia (which structures content from Wikipedia so that it can be used in semantic web systems) can be used to contextualise and index BBC resources as well as to extend them with external links.

Helen Lippell, Karen Loasby, Silver Oliver: "Tales from the trenches of auto-categorisation: three case studies in the implementation of auto-categorisation systems" [pdf][mp3]
Helen, Karen and Silver presented three different implementations of auto-categorisation systems at the BBC. They demonstrated the advantages and issues with each of these approaches. Helen's presentation entitled "Teaching computers to read newspapers Aka Automatic classification at in the early noughties" was about experience in a joint project by the FT, Lexis-Nexis and Dialog. The goal was to connect thousands of resources through a single interface. The tool used was Verity Intelligent Classifier (VIC) and the classification process used a taxonomy with a set of rules that could be finely tuned. Karen spoke about "Content Management Culture in the BBC" a metadata orientated project to produce BBC content that could be described in detail. The approach applied was a rule-based automatic classification system combined with the author's review and corrections. Silver talked about a "Statistical-based auto-categorisation" project designed to connect and cross-reference distributed BBC content and resources horizontally.

See outputs from other ISKO UK events.

CFP: IFLA Satellite Meeting: Classification and Indexing Section, August 2009, Florence

Call for Papers for the IFLA 2009 Satellite Meeting

Classification and Indexing Section
Florence, Italy
20-21 August 2009

Theme: "Looking at the Past and Preparing for the Future"

The IFLA Classification and Indexing Section is pleased to announce
a satellite pre-conference which will explore the theoretical and
methodological aspects of rethinking semantic access to information
and knowledge and will offer a general survey of innovative projects
deployed to cope with the challenges of the future, offering a unique
opportunity for librarians, academics and other information
professionals to be informed about the state of the art in subject indexing.

Librarians, academics and other information professionals around the
world are invited to submit paper proposals for the satellite
meeting, focusing on:
- Systems, tools and standards in subject indexing
- Retrieval in multilingual, multicultural environments
- Web indexing and social indexing

If you are interested in contributing, please send:

An abstract of 300-500 words in English including a title.
An outline of the presentation.
Brief biographical information of the author(s)/presenter(s) with
current employment information.
Your mailing address.
All this by December 15, 2008 to: Patrice Landry at:

e-mail :
fax: +41 31 322 84 63

The submissions will be reviewed by a selection committee of the
Classification and Indexing Section Standing Committee. The selection
will be based on the abstracts and rated on how well they fit the
programme theme. Authors will be contacted by February 15, 2009.

For successful applicants the deadline for submission of full papers
is June 15, 2009 to allow time for review of papers and all other
organization needs. The papers must be original submissions, not
published elsewhere, and should be no longer than 15 pages,
double-spaced. Papers should be in English.

Presentations at the satellite meeting will be limited to approx. 20
minutes and will be a summary of the original paper and may use
PowerPoint. The conference will be conducted in English and all
presentations will be required to be in English.

Please note that no financial support can be provided. The expenses
of attending the meeting in Florence will be the responsibility of
the author(s) / presenter(s) of accepted papers.

For information on the IFLA Classification and Indexing Section,
please see

For additional information on this call for papers, you may contact
Leda Bultrini ( or Patrice Landry
( by e-mail.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

CFP: Classification at a Crossroads, The Hague, 29-30 October 2009

The International UDC Seminar 2009 entitled "Classification at a Crossroads: Multiple Directions to Usability" will take place on 29-30 October 2009 in the UDC Consortium headqarters in The Hague.

The conference aims at exploring how new developments in information standards and technology influence and affect applications and services using classification, Universal Decimal Classification in particular, and its relationships to other systems.

The programme will highlight many ways in which the use classification can be improved. Attention will be paid to the applications of classification in supporting multilingual access, user-friendly representations of classification in resource discovery and semantic searching expansion and classification application across distributed systems.

Papers and posters are now invited covering the following topics:

    Classification and semantic technologies, e.g. experiences with vocabulary standards for expressing and porting classification data into the Semantic Web, vocabulary registries, terminology services
    Classification in supporting information integration, e.g. classification use in alignment of vocabularies, classification as a common subject language in co-operative systems, experiences in multi-database systems, classification mapping to other subject languages, classification enhancement with social tagging
    Verbal and multilingual access to classification, e.g. textual searching and display, management of subject-alphabetical indexes, extraction of thesauri from classification schemes
    Classification authority control and library systems, e.g. issues with MARC formats, authority file development, maintenance and sharing of data
    Visual representations/interface to classification, e.g. issues in classification browsing and faceted representation in classification tools and information systems
    Experiences with classification outside the traditional library environment, e.g. use in different types of digital repositories (eprints, VLE), resource discovery on the Web, alerting services, specialised bibliographic services and databases, organization of physical objects etc.

The International UDC Seminar 2009 is organized by the UDC Consortium and hosted by The National library of The Netherlands (Koninklijke Bibliotheek). The UDCC is a self-funded, non-commercial, organization, based in The Hague, established to maintain and distribute the Universal Decimal Classification (UDC) and supports its use and development.

To read more about conference and to submit abstracts (300-500 words) go to the conference website conference webiste.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

RDA Full Draft Out W/C 3 November

Just in case anyone doesn't subscribe to LIS-UKBIBS:

The Joint Steering Committee has announced that the full draft of RDA will be available for constituency review the week of 3 November.

The plan is to make it available in a prliminary version of the software.

Full post here.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Back to basics: BC2 then, now, and in the future

24 OCTOBER 2008 at 2.15 p.m.
University of London Library, Senate House, Malet Street, London, WC1E 7HU
in the Palaeography Seminar Room

‘Back to basics: BC2 then, now, and in the future’

The original Bibliographic Classification of H. E. Bliss was widely acclaimed as the finest of the general classification schemes of the early twentieth century. Its second edition has also been regarded as the model of a modern subject indexing and retrieval tool, embracing as it does the developed classification theory of the next generation. This event takes a comprehensive look at the fundamentals of BC2, the only fully faceted system of classification in the western world. The speakers will cover principles of BC2, how and why it was conceived, its use as a pattern for faceted vocabularies, its influence on other retrieval tools, and plans for the further development of BC2 as a thesaurus and in a web-enabled format.

Speakers include Jack Mills, Vanda Broughton, Jean Aitchison, and Leonard Will

The BCA Annual Lecture will take place at 3.15 p.m., immediately after the 2008 AGM of the Bliss Classification Association. The Lecture is open to anyone interested in matters relating to classification, indexing, and the problems of subject access and retrieval generally, and you are warmly invited to attend.

Entry is free, but if you would like to come, please email Vanda Broughton at v.broughton[at]

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Invitation: Semantic Analysis Technology, London, 3 November 2008

We would like to invite you to a half-day event organized by the British Chapter of the International Society for Knowledge Organization (ISKO UK) entitled: "Semantic Analysis Technology: in search of categories, concepts & context" 

London, 3 November 2008 from 14:00 - 19:00 (registration starts at 13:15).

Venue: Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre, Wilkins Building, Gower Street, London - WC1E 6BT

Cost: 20 GBP  (students and ISKO members free!)

Categorizing or classifying information effectively has always placed demands on those professional staff qualified to deal with it. But at today’s exponential rates of growth, it is almost impossible to keep up. Much has been written in recent years of the potential of semantic analysis technology which extracts categories, concepts and context automatically. But how well does this technology work and what are the issues involved?

In this seminar, organized by ISKO UK in cooperation with the School of Library, Archives and Information Studies at UCL, we will hear from six presenters, each of whom will provide their own experiences. They include SmartLogic’s Jeremy Bentley, Bill Porter of Expert System, Rob Lee from Rattle Research, and Helen Lippell, Karen Loasby and Silver Oliver representing various media organizations, among them the BBC.

This event is the fourth in ISKO UK's successful KOnnecting KOmmunities series,  and promises some revealing insights into a technology which we may all find ourselves using in the not-too-distant future, whether we like it or not. For full details on the venue and programme, and to book your place at the event visit the event's website.

We look forward to seeing you in November!


Wednesday, 17 September 2008

IVOA recommending SKOS

International Virtual Observatory Alliance (IVOA) has published a proposal of recommendation entitled " Vocabularies in the Virtual Observatory" for public review:

A few interesting excerpts from the document explaining the context and the rational:

"Astronomical information of relevance to the Virtual Observatory (VO) is not confined to quantities easily expressed in a catalogue or a table. Fairly simple things such as position on the sky, brightness in some units, times measured in some frame, redshifts, classifications or other similar quantities are easily manipulated and stored in VOTables and can currently be identified using IVOA Unified Content Descriptors (UCDs). However, astrophysical concepts and quantities use a wide variety of names, identifications, classifications and associations, most of which cannot be described or labelled via UCDs.

There are a number of basic forms of organised semantic knowledge of potential use to the VO. Informal “folksonomies” are at one extreme, and are a very lightly coordinated collection of labels chosen by users. A slightly more formal structure is a “vocabulary”, where the label is drawn from a predefined set of definitions which can include relationships to other labels; vocabularies are primarily associated with searching and browsing tasks. At the other extreme are “ontologies”, where the domain is formally captured in a set of logical classes, typically related in a subclass hierarchy. More formal definitions are presented later in this document.

An astronomical ontology is necessary if we are to have a computer (appear to) “understand” something of the domain. There has been some progress towards creating an ontology of astronomical object types to meet this need. However there are distinct use cases for letting human users find resources of interest through search and navigation of the information space..."

"As the astronomical information processed within the Virtual Observatory becomes more complex, there is an increasing need for a more formal means of identifying quantities, concepts, and processes not confined to things easily placed in a FITS image (Flexible Image Transport System), or expressed in a catalogue or a table. We propose that the IVOA adopt a standard format for vocabularies based on the W3C's Resource Description Framework (RDF) and Simple Knowledge Organization System (SKOS). By adopting a standard and simple format, the IVOA will permit different groups to create and maintain their own specialised vocabularies while letting the rest of the astronomical community access, use, and combine them. The use of current, open standards ensures that VO applications will be able to tap into resources of the growing semantic web. Several examples of useful astronomical vocabularies are provided, including work on a common IVOA thesaurus intended to provide a semantic common base for VO applications."

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Workshop - MetaKnowledge Mash-up 2.0 - London, 9 October 2008

MetaKnowledge Mash-up 2.0: Making and Organising Knowledge in Communities
A joint ISKOUK/KIDMM Day conference/workshop

London, 9 October 2008
10:00 -17:00 (registration opens 9:15)

VENUE: British Computer Society London rooms, Davidson Building, 5 Southampton Street, London WC2E 7HA

FEE: 20 GBP (includes lunch, refreshments and materials)
To book you place, dowload the PDF form and fax it or post it to the British Computer Society. Pre-registration is essential and must be received by end of business Tuesday 7th October. There are no facilities for paying ‘on the door’. Booking queries: Mandy Bauer (; tel. 01793 417472)

In keeping with the last year's successful event the MetaKnowledge Mash-up 2007, BCS KIDMM and ISKO UK have joined efforts to put up this follow-up event.

Knowledge management professionals know that much of the knowledge which drives a successful organization derives from its communities, both formal and informal; and that knowledge can be used and shared more easily if it is organized.

In many organizational contexts, be they businesses, government departments, professional associations and social enterprises, a lot of the most useful knowledge is not contained in documents and other written forms; it is in peoples' heads. Before knowledge organization can begin, there is already the challenge of eliciting and formulating what people know. What are the methods and tooks that can help in these processes?

Social networking technologies may be part of the answer. They are also causing a re-examination of the role of formal KO and its relationship to less formal approaches such as folksonomy and social tagging. People are asking: In what circumstances should formal KO apply, and where might an informal approach be better?; and: Perhaps they could work together? Arguably, they already do, since we organize as we speak or write, at the very least by constructing comprehensible sentences, but also through our choice of words, of implicit categorization and of metaphor.

So, if KO is at work the instant we open our mouths or tap on a keyboard, how and to what degree should we formalize it in our communities, whether face-to-face or virtual? Perhaps different techniques apply in each circumstance?

These are some of the questions surrounding KM and KO in the Web 2.0 age that we hope will be raised and discussed on October 9th. The speakers have been selected because they have case-study stories to tell, and there will also be participative round-table exercises. If we can also find some answers, that will be a bonus!

Speakers and contributors include: Alan Pollard, Conrad Taylor, Marilyn Leask, Jan Wyllie, Lyndsay Rees-Jones, Christopher Dean, Sabine K McNeill and Susan Payne.

To read more visit the event's website.

Outputs from the joint NKOS/CENDI Workshop - Washington, 11 September 2008

"New Dimensions in Knowledge Organization Systems", a joint NKOS/CENDI Workshop sponsored by CENDI and the Networked Knowledge Organization Systems Working Group and hosted by The World Bank Washington, DC took place on September 11, 2008.

Presentation materials are available now at NKOS website.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Vocabulary mapping - CrissCross project

Colleagues working on vocabulary mapping may be interested in CrissCross project.

In CrissCross the subject headings of the German Subject Headings Authority File (SWD) are mapped to notations of the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC). The method chosen for the mapping procedure is a directional one: the German subject headings function as initial vocabulary, the DDC as target classification. Appropriate DDC numbers are added directly to the particular SWD data record. The SWD Subject Groups serve as a starting point for the creation of work packages.

CrissCross is a project financially supported by the German Research Foundation and being executed by the German National Library in cooperation with the Cologne University of Applied Sciences.

It aims to create a multilingual, thesaurus-based and user-friendly research vocabulary that facilitates research in heterogeneously indexed collections.

More detailed information about CrissCross can be found on the CrissCross website. Now an English version of the website is online:

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Call for Comments: SKOS Simple Knowledge Organization System Reference; SKOS Primer

The W3C Semantic Web Deployment Working Group is pleased to announce the publication of a Last Call Working Draft for the Simple Knowledge Organisation System Reference (SKOS):

Our Working Group has made its best effort to address all comments received to date, and we seek confirmation that the comments have been addressed to the satisfaction of the community, allowing us to move forward to W3C Candidate Recommendation following the Last Call process.

The Working Group solicits review and feedback on this draft specification. In particular, the Working Group would be keen to hear comments regarding any features identified at risk, and from those implementing (among others):

    * Editors: editors that either consume or produce SKOS;
    * Services: vocabulary services that provide access to vocabularies using SKOS;
    * Checkers: applications that check whether the constraints on SKOS vocabularies have been violated.

Comments are requested by 3 October 2008, at which time the Working Group intends to close Last Call. All comments are welcome and should be sent to; please include the text "SKOS comment" in the subject line. All messages received at this address are viewable in a public archive.

The Working Group intends to advance the SKOS Reference to W3C Recommendation after further review and comment. This Last Call Working Draft signals the Working Group's belief that it has met its design objectives for SKOS and has resolved all open issues.

The Working Group has also published an update of the companion SKOS Primer:

The Working Group expects to revise this Primer while the SKOS Reference is undergoing review and eventually publish the Primer as a Working Group Note. Please see also:

Alistair Miles, Senior Computing Officer
Image Bioinformatics Research Group Department of Zoology
University of Oxford

Sean Bechhofer
School of Computer Science,
University of Manchester

Sunday, 31 August 2008

CFP: ISKO UK Conference 2009

Call for papers is now opened for the

London, 22-23 June 2009
Biennial Conference of the British Chapter of the International Society for Knowledge Organization - ISKO UK

ISKO UK 2009 conference "Content Architecture: Exploiting and Managing Diverse Resources" will provide a rare opportunity for researchers, practitioners and innovators from all sectors to share ideas on the opportunities and challenges implicit in the digitization and networking of diverse information resources. The Conference will address issues in the organization and integration of text, images, data and voice - multimedia and multilingual.

Over the past year ISKO UK has attracted large and lively audiences of content and information architects, website developers, knowledge engineers, information managers and many others to its afternoon meeting series . The conference aims to extend this wide audience to ensure that all aspects of knowledge organization are represented.

THEMES of the 2009 Conference include:

  • semantic interoperability across networked resources

  • metadata models and architecture

  • retrieval of still and/or moving images

  • audio retrieval

  • user enhancement (via tagging, feedback, etc.) of content

  • multilingual access to mixed resources

  • integrated combinations of media and/or content types
Papers on the conference themes are invited from the academic and practitioner communities and may present research, case studies or even success stories!

To read more about the conference and to submit your abstract, go to the conference website.

Friday, 11 July 2008

Dead KM Walking

For the benefit of those in ISKO UK who are not also members of the BCS-KIDMM mailing list, I reproduce below a posting I have just made to the latter.

While checking my NewsFox portfolio for items suitable for a response to Conrad's recent call for suggested RSS feeds, I came across the video below produced by Patrick Lambe (a UCL alumnus) whom I admire a great deal. If you can find a spare 40 minutes, I recommend you watch/listen to Patrick discussing KM with gurus Larry Prusak and Dave Snowden. It will be food for thought for some, maybe poison for others...

Dead KM Walking

Watch out KM pigeons - here come the cats!

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

End of the line for DDC?

LibraryThing - a kind of online book club with social software features à la Flickr - recently issued a call for people to "help build the Open Shelves Classification (OSC), a free, 'humble', modern, open-source, crowd-sourced replacement for the Dewey Decimal System." Tim ?, LibraryThing's founder explains why he thinks it necessary:

"The Dewey Decimal System® was great for its time, but it's outlived that. Libraries today should not be constrained by the mental models of the 1870s, doomed to tinker with an increasingly irrelevant system. Nor should they be forced into a proprietary system—copyrighted, trademarked and licensed by a single entity—expensive to adopt and encumbered by restrictions on publishing detailed schedules or coordinating necessary changes."

More details and some early comments on the idea can bee seen at LibraryThing's web site.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Announcement: Cataloguing and Indexing Group Conference, Glasgow, September 2008

CILIP Cataloguing and Indexing Group Conference entitled "Classification and subject retrieval in the 21st century: you can't make jelly without a mould" will take place at the The University of Strathclyde on 3 - 5 September 2008

The CIG conference 2008 web pages are now available at:

Online booking is now open.

135 years after Melvil Dewey first had the idea for his classification scheme and with the exponential growth of new information storage and retrieval systems we are still wrestling with finding the right way to get things in order - on the shelves and in those very systems - and then to enable people to find them when they search. This conference is intended to explore current developments in classification and subject retrieval. The conference programme will cover both the longstanding methods - such as traditional classification schemes - right up to social networking and 'bleeding edge' ideas. The conference will also include the CIG AGM and Annual Standards Forum.

Following a call for papers, the conference programme is now in place. Papers will be considered for publication in Catalogue and Index following the conference. Powerpoint or similar presentation files, that accompany papers, will be published on the CIG website.

The varied programme of presentations and updates on standards will be complemented by opportunities to network with fellow professionals.

Friday, 4 July 2008

Announcement: Intercultural Knowledge Landscapes, Florence, 11-12 September 2008

A workshop "Intercultural Knowledge Landscapes" organized by Terminology and Intercultural Web Landscapes Working Group will take place on 11-12 September 2008 in Florence (Italy).

Venue: L’Agenzia Nazionale per lo Sviluppo dell’Autonomia Scolastica (ex Indire), via Buonarroti 10 – 50122 Firenze.

- communication and interculturality;
- web accessibility and multilingual glossaries;
- on line information in the domain of communication/knowledge/information;
- e-book on “Communicate differently”;
- training;

The language of the workshop: Italian and English.

Preliminary Programme:

Thursday, the 11th September
10.00 Registration
10.30 Introduction,
Giovanni Biondi
10.40 Working group: criteria, methods and goals,
Paola Capitani
10.50 Le applicazioni del web 2.0 per l’apprendimento e le biblioteche,
Lucia Bertini
11.00 [Title to be announced]
Daniele Montagnani
11.10 [Title to be announced]
Mario Rotta
11.20 La normativa UNI: partenza e obiettivo del web semantico,
Roberto Ravaglia
11.50 Working groups
14.00 Translation e intercultural landscapes,
Franco Bertaccini
14.20 Interculture, communication and…
Mela Bosch
14.40 Formalization of the terms relation in multilingual thesauri,
Piero Cavaleri
15.00 Artificial intelligence and semantic web,
Salem Badee
15.20 E-learning pills,
Umberto Amicucci
16.00 Working groups
17.00 Plenary session

Friday, the 12th September
10.00 OPAC experience on the public libraries’ user profile, Gianfranco Bettoni
10.20 Subject to be defined,
Daniele Toulouse Cordier
11. 00 [Title to be announced],
Claudio Todeschini
12.00 Working groups
13.00 Plenary session
13.30 Conclusions

For further information contact Paola Capitani (

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Presentations from ISKO UK meeting "Agenda for Information Retrieval"

The Agenda for Information Retrieval event was organized in conjuction with the School of Library Archives and Information Studies at UCL, and was attended by 91 participants.

Three eminent speakers: Brian Vickery, Stephen Robertson and Ian Rowlands, addressed issues that have been on the information retrieval agenda from the 1950s to the era of Google. The talks were followed by a lively and stimulating discussion chaired by Stella Dextre-Clarke.

We are grateful to Conrad Taylor, co-ordinator of the BCS KIDMM (Knowledge, Information, Data and Metadata Management) community, for recording and photographing the event.

Presentations and recordings of the talks are now available at the event's page.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Findability - survey's shock findings

AIIM (the Association for Information and Image Management) have just completed a survey on Findability to be published soon (see their press release).

The 'shock' finding is that among more than 500 businesses surveyed, "69% of respondents report that less than half of enterprise information is searchable online".

Dan Keldsen is Director of Market Intelligence at AIIM, and his blog offers an interesting discussion of these preliminary results.

We had similar findings reported back in March by Cap Gemini in their Information Opportunities Report.

How many more of these reports do we have to suffer before people realize that actively organizing knowledge and information is the only way to ensure findability? Add your weight to the argument by submitting a comment to Dan's blog, arguing the case for knowledge organization in your organization, or by commenting on this post.

Or, preferably, all three!

Monday, 16 June 2008

ISKO UK Event - Sharing Vocabularies on the Web via SKOS

We would like to invite you to the next ISKO UK event entitled Sharing Vocabularies on the Web via Simple Knowledge Organization System (SKOS) which will take place on 21 July 2008 at University College London.

Predictions for the Semantic Web are heavily dependent on the ability of computers to reason and communicate using controlled vocabularies. SKOS (Simple Knowledge Organization System) development aims to bring forward these capabilities.

SKOS names a family of standards being created to express the semantic structure of controlled vocabularies (thesauri, classifications, subject headings etc.) so that they can be accessed and interpreted by programs and services. As a draft Web standard, SKOS Reference provides a data model that can be used as a vehicle for the development, use and sharing of knowledge organization systems across information sectors and within the Semantic Web framework.

Aware of the growing importance of SKOS, ISKO UK in cooperation with School of Library, Archives and Information Studies at UCL has invited a group of experts to introduce this standard, explain its status, potential and scope. Our speakers are involved in the development and application of SKOS and related standards and are hoping to provoke some interesting discussion.

Members of the W3C Semantic Web Deployment Working Group, Alistair Miles and Antoine Isaac and Bernard Vatant from Mondeca, will explain the role of SKOS in the Semantic Web, the ideas behind SKOS and the way it is intended to function. The convenor of BSI committee IDT/2/2/1 Stella Dextre Clarke and collaborators Leonard Will and Nicolas Cochard will discuss the data model of the recently developed BS 8723 standard known as DD8723-5, focusing on its relationship with SKOS and interoperability issues. Ceri Binding and Douglas Tudhope from University of Glamorgan will present their AHDS-funded Semantic Technologies for Archaeological Resources project, raising issues for practical applications of SKOS and SKOS-based terminology web services.

This event, the third in ISKO UK's KOnnecting KOmmunities series, promises a fascinating glimpse of the future of controlled vocabularies. No one involved or interested in the development, management or implementation of controlled vocabularies can afford to miss it. Book your place on the event's page.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Some ramblings on knowledge, information, thermodynamics and Taoism – Part 2

There is no shortage of frameworks and models attempting to explain how knowledge is generated, transferred and applied in an organizational context. One of the first, already mentioned in Part 1, is the SECI model of Nonaka and Takeuchi. Other notable attempts include Probst's Building Blocks of Knowledge Management, Boisot's I-Space and Kurtz & Snowden's Cynefin Model. While all of them share some common ground, each of them focuses on a different aspect of what, IMHO, is the same, complex problem.

The Thermodynamic Metaphor

Another framework which does not seem to have achieved much exposure yet is that which claims that the behaviour of data, information and knowledge is analogous to that of matter, fuel and energy as described by thermodynamics. I made reference to Crofts in Part 1, but another paper was published early in 2007 which draws the analogy at the everyday physical level, rather than the biological level. Leburn Rose's paper, entitled Thermodynamics and knowledge: principles and implications is actually a chapter in a book: Knowledge Management: Social, Cultural and Theoretical Perspectives.

Rose suggests that data are like molecules of matter; there is no purposive structure, no properties we have selected to infer meaning. Information however, is data with structure and purpose, analogous to molecules bound into certain structures we call fuel, with the potential to produce energy. It follows, Rose says, that "as energy results from the chemical combustion of fuel, likewise, knowledge could also be the psychosocial processing of information in a form that achieves added value."

I find this analogy somewhat strained at this point, but let's bear with it because it gets more interesting. The author goes on to discuss the three classic modes of energy transfer - conduction, convection and radiation - and says "The three modes of energy transfer provide important insights regarding the transfer of knowledge through the objects, physical spaces and processes in organisations."

After introducing combustion as a metaphor for knowledge creation, the author then proposes a schema for knowledge creation in organizations, which describes how the two archetypal knowledge states - explicit and tacit - are each susceptible to transfer through different processes analogous to energy transfer processes. The schema employs two axes, 'Knowledge Form' (explicit/tacit) and 'Organisational Architecture' (organic/rigid), which result in quadrants representing:
  • 'tacit-organic' transfer via radiation
  • 'tacit-rigid' transfer via convection
  • 'explicit-organic' creation via combustion
  • 'explicit-rigid' transfer via conduction
Any one organization's 'knowledge space' will be likely to include all four knowledge processes to differing degrees depending upon its nature and purpose. Rose cites the example of a manufacturing firm, which can be characterised as having a 'knowledge form' which is explicit-dominant and an organisational architecture which is rigid-dominant. This does for the corporate knowledge portfolio what the ubiquitous Boston Consulting Group box does for the product portfolio (cash cows etc.).

Whatever its approximations and incongruities, this fresh metaphorical perspective seems to me to offer the opportunity for a qualitatively different and more penetrating analysis of how knowledge works in organizations. Not least, it provides a starting point for examining the nature of knowledge communities which emerge as organic rather than rigid, and dealing with a combination of explicit and tacit knowledge forms, mainly perhaps the latter.

The Experientialist-Existentialist-Taoist Axis

It should be quite apparent that I am not so much concerned with knowledge per se, in the epistemological sense of the Wittgensteins and Poppers of this world, but rather with situated knowledge - the issues surrounding knowledge and information and their value in a socioeconomic context. Even if you're a Wittgensteinian or Popperian, see the excellent book by Lucas Introna, Management, Information and Power (Macmillan, 1997. ISBN 0-333-69870-3) for an existentialist treatment of these issues.

Although poiesis and praxis are not always easily distinguishable in the fray of endeavour, in quieter moments the Western mind tends to want to make clear distinctions between the objects and phenomena it perceives (taxonomists take note!). On the other hand, every Taoist knows that things are connected in ways often too subtle to apprehend and that out of apparent chaos order can emerge. The fact that Heraclitus and Lao Tzu both knew this in the 6th century BC, and that complexity theory is only now re-discovering it, fascinates me. Mind you, Lao Tzu also said "People are difficult to govern because they have too much knowledge", which might be the ancient Chinese obverse of Clay Shirky's cognitive surplus. Hmmm...

Why do we feel we need to treat knowledge and information as separate things? Just because they have different attributes? Ice, liquid water, steam and water vapour have different attributes, but they are all H2O (back to thermodynamics again!). For me, knowledge and information are distinguishable but inseparable. Neither can have any value without the other - yin and yang (see the Taijitu of Zhou Dun-yi above). Only when they interact can value be generated, and then only in the context of purposeful action.

The whole essence of knowledge is to enable purposeful action, which is the source of its value, and purposeful action requires both the tacit (knowledge) and the explicit (information) phases to interact and be transformed one into the other. Whenever I use the term 'knowledge', it relates not to an object but to this dynamic transformation process - tacit-to-explicit and back again - in a true autopoietic sense, where meaning is continually being negotiated and re-negotiated. Karl Weick calls it 'sense-making' (so does Dave Snowden, so that bodes well) and Introna describes it lucidly under the label of 'hermeneutics'.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Some ramblings on knowledge, information, thermodynamics and Taoism – Part 1

Conrad Taylor, Project Officer at the BCS KIDMM community and friend of ISKO UK has written a paper Towards making knowledge in communities, which is designed to lay the foundations for an exploration of the topic of ‘knowledge communities’ at a joint KIDMM-ISKOUK event in October 2008. The paper masterfully blends, links and questions the currently predominant memes concerning knowledge and its manifestations, the relationship between information and knowledge, and the role which communities play in the exchange and generation of knowledge.

Why should ISKO UK be interested in such a topic? Well, I have no doubt that knowledge is socially constructed. It might appear to be generated solely by individuals like the Einsteins and Edisons of this world, but it inevitably draws upon the work of others, and to become accepted as ‘justified true belief’, to be propagated and to be put to good use, it must be validated through peer review and put to the test in a social context. All of these processes, from initial conceptualization, through research, validation, testing and exploitation are mediated and facilitated by access to knowledge and information – access which is made possible because geeks like us bother to develop and apply the means of doing so.

At a recent meeting organized by NetIKX which Conrad mentions, he raised a number of points which challenged some of the slick memes propagated by KM consultants and gurus (for an amusing insight into this phenomenon, see Prof. Tom Wilson's infamous guerrilla attack on KM), and which stimulated my own thinking about the issues involved. For example, take the common compound noun ‘knowledge object’. Your understanding of this depends upon your acceptance of the notion that knowledge can be a ‘thing’, i.e. a tangible object. Our current conventional wisdom is thoroughly ambivalent on this, largely owing to popular acceptance of Nonaka and Takeuchi’s mid-1990s description of ‘tacit knowledge’ and ‘explicit knowledge’ and their SECI (Socialization, Externalization, Combination, Internalization) model of how one is transmuted into the other.

It’s not that Nonaka & Takeuchi’s description was invalid; it represented a giant leap forward in our understanding of how knowledge is transferred, absorbed, aggregated and embedded in the social psyche. But their presentation of ‘knowledge’ in tacit and explicit forms hooked-in to our Western way of black-or-white thinking (you’re either with us or against us...) to fool us into assuming that they were separate and separable concepts. They are not.

I have had conversations many times before on this topic. The most recent and most interesting was with a colleague, Christopher Dean, who deals with knowledge and change issues at Airbus in Bristol. He makes reference to a rather interesting (although dense) paper by Crofts which theorizes about knowledge and information in thermodynamic terms and links them with Darwinism and the development of phenotypes and of civilization itself. I am sure my colleague won’t mind if I quote him briefly here, since he makes his points far better than I ever could.
“This paper by Crofts provides a theoretically sound basis to distinguish knowledge without substance from information embodied in the structure of a thermodynamic carrier. As you suggest, knowledge and information are both distinct yet inseparable. However, for me this drives a stake through the notions of explicit knowledge and collective knowledge. Explicit information certainly, but knowledge - no.”

“To illustrate: an author translates meaning into physical acts, such as writing or typing, to produce an explicit record. A (symbolic) representation of that meaning is externalised and stored & transmitted for future reference by the author and others. Reading that recorded representation demands translation and interpretation to reproduce the original meaning. What's important about this sequence is that the knowledge enacted by the author through writing, the storage & transmission medium, and the reader are parts of a thermodynamic system that propagates meaning from one mind to another's mind. Hence, knowledge only exists in the mind of each individual. The word "communicate" literally means "to make common", that is to reproduce the same sense of meaning in another person's mind.”
Why is this significant to Conrad’s theme? Well, because Conrad’s paper and the quotation above are both concerned with the same issues, like ‘explicit knowledge’ actually being ‘information’, and the role of ‘information objects’ as a transmission medium. And by extension, because to ‘make knowledge in communities’, knowledge has to be transferred as information (or information objects?) through some kind of medium. The medium can be one (or several) of many possible types, and may itself be carried by different kinds of channels. Channels have a finite capacity, which in digital technology is called ‘bandwidth’. Does a book have a bandwidth? And what is the relationship between an information object, its medium of transmission, the channel used to convey it and its form (or format)? There is a whole set of intertwined conundra here ripe for the unravelling.

Part 2 to follow...

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

ISKO UK Event, London, 26 June - Agenda for Information Retrieval

We would like to invite you to an open meeting of the British Chapter of International Society for Knowledge Organization (ISKO UK) entitled

"Agenda for Information Retrieval" in London,

26th June 2008 15:00 - 19:00 (registration starts 14:30).

Venue: University College London, Engineering Faculty, Roberts Building G06

Cost: 10 GBP (ISKO UK members free)

Searching, browsing, and other routes to information are no longer the preserve of information professionals; they are on every desktop, at the fingertips of almost anybody. “Search” has become part of the everyday lifestyle.

Three eminent speakers Brian Vickery, Stephen Robertson and Ian Rowlands will address the issues that have dominated the information retrieval agenda since the 1950s, and still present challenges and opportunities for the future.
This ISKO UK event is organized in cooperation with UCL's School of Library, Archive and Information Studies (SLAIS).

For full details on the venue, programme and to book your place at the event visit


Brian Vickery will take a look back at the development of information retrieval, and some of the problems it has faced. A chemist at the start of his career, Brian Vickery has had enormous influence on knowledge organization since 1952, as one of the founder members of the Classification Research Group. He served also at the (then) National Lending Library in Boston Spa, the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, and from 1966 to 1973 as Research Director of Aslib. This post was followed by ten years as Director of the School of Library, Archive and Information Studies at University College London. Despite his formal retirement in 1983, Brian has continued working actively in the information field ever since.

For the last ten years Stephen Robertson has been a researcher at the Microsoft Research Laboratory. He previously spent twenty years at City University, where he started the Centre for Interactive Systems Research and still retains a part-time professorship. His work on probabilistic theory underpins the algorithms behind every serious search engine today. But for this talk, he will give a non-technical overview of some current concerns of core IR research, in particular on the use of different kinds of evidence in searching and ranking. He is a Fellow of Girton College, Cambridge; he won the Tony Kent Strix Award in 1998 and the Gerard Salton Award in 2000.

Ian Rowlands will ensure we see the issues from the all-important perspective of the user. He is the author of the recently published report on searching behaviour of the ‘Google generation', commissioned by JISC and the British Library. Ian is Senior Lecturer at SLAIS, UCL, and a member of its CIBER research group. He was formerly at City University from 1993, leading the MSc Information Science course, and before joining City worked for Pira International, a contract research organisation . His teaching interests are in scholarly communication, journal publishing, bibliometrics and research methods.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Taxonomy - And let there be light

John Lindsay, Reader at Kingston University's (KU) Faculty of Computing, Information Systems and Mathematics, and stalwart of the JISC Taxonomy mailing list, is presenting his annual seminar on 7th May at 1pm at KU. The seminar is entitled 'Taxonomy - And let there be light'.

John will be talking about the taxonomy of concepts, knowledge organisation and social networking. The seminar is the latest in a long series in which John offers new and challenging viewpoints on KO topics.

John's talk will be followed by an open meeting to discuss how the topic can be taken forward, and stayers-on will be expected to assist in emptying a bottle or two of wine.

Finding the CISM Campus.

Friday, 7 March 2008

On classification, phenomena and free faceted classification

This is to draw your attention to a couple of recent events, papers and discussions happening behind what may look like a sleepy ISKO face.

For some time now, in his papers and research, but also in practical applications and classification development Claudio Gnoli has been considering some basic problems in classification for intermediation of knowledge (documentary, bibliographic, library classifications). He is looking into the theory of integrative levels and the work of the British Classification Research Group. But most importantly, and in relation to the nature of digital environment in which we now apply these systems, Claudio proposes controlled but more flexible ways in applying facet analysis, which he calls 'freely faceted classification', borrowing the term first introduced by Derek Austin.

Aware of this development, ISKO UK invited Claudio to talk about his research in November 2007 at the event Ranganathan Revisited: facets for the future" (ppt, mp3 on the website).

The key interest and starting point of Claudio's talk is the idea of a classification of phenomena as an alternative to disciplinary classification structure, as endorsed by several classificationists including Rick Szostak and declared as the León manifesto. Since the original text of the 'manifesto' has been made available online it was extended with further discussions and comments.

Upon discussion with Claudio, Brian Vickery offered his view on this subject in the paper "The structure of subject classifications for document retrieval". His paper also explains some important points about classification structure.

On a more entertaining side Claudio keeps showing in his presentations a reaction provoking slide entitled The Heresy (no 21 in this presentation), representing a quasi schism in knowledge organization, with photographs of traditional classificationists (Joan Mitchell, Vanda Broughton, Ingetraut Dahlberg ...)... and 'modern' classificationists (León manfesto signatories).

At the German ISKO conference in Konstanz in February 2008, Ingetraut Dahlberg protested that she does not feel at home in the disciplinary side of the “schism”, as her Information Coding Classification - ICC (developed in 1982) abandoned disciplines as the main classes, replacing them by general object areas.

Claudio points out, however, that in ICC object areas are analyzed primarily as aspect categories. In the ICC structure, phenomena (as defined by León proponents) would be listed under Objects of study category.

Others, including Szostak and Vickery, also believe that a good classification of knowledge should combine phenomena with aspect dimensions such as theories and methods or human activities (not disciplines). Thus the question seems to be in what order should phenomena and aspects be considered in the determination and definition of classes.

Anyway, discussion is welcome. We will try to keep track and report ideas on our part

Aida Slavic, ISKO UK
Claudio Gnoli, ISKO Italy

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

CFP: CILIP Cataloguing & Indexing Group Annual Conference 2008


“Classification and subject retrieval in the 21st Century: You can’t make a jelly without a mould"

University of Strathclyde, Glasgow 3-5 September 2008

135 years after Melvil Dewey first had the idea for his classification scheme and with the exponential growth of new information storage and retrieval systems we are still wrestling with finding the right way to get things in order- on the shelves and in those very systems – and then to enable people to find them when they search. This conference is intended to explore current developments in classification and subject retrieval. We hope to cover both the longstanding methods – such as traditional classification schemes - right up to social networking and ‘bleeding edge’ ideas. The conference will also include the CIG AGM and Annual Standards Forum.

Call for Papers: Proposals for papers are invited for the CIG/ CIGS Annual Conference 2008, “Classification and subject retrieval in the 21st Century: You can’t make a jelly without a mould.” To be held at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow from 3-5 September 2008.

Proposals for papers should be submitted to Andrew Coburn no later than Friday 29 February 2008. Please complete the attached form. Papers should be 30-45 minutes in length. Papers will be considered for publication in Catalogue & Index following the conference. If the presentation of the paper is accompanied by a PowerPoint or similar presentation, CIG will publish the presentation on its Website.

Submissions will be evaluated by the CIG committee and notification of the selection decisions will be made during March 2008. Please note that CIG will reimburse any reasonable travel and accommodation expenses incurred by invited speakers.

Press release - 11th conference of the German chapter of ISKO held in Constance 20-22 February 2008

The 11th conference of the German chapter of ISKO took place from 20 to 22 February 2008 in Constance. The conference was entitled Knowledge Organization 2008 - "Repositories of knowledge in digital spaces: Accessibility, sustainability, semantic interoperability" (Wissensorganisation'2008 - Wissensspeicher in digitalen Räumen: Nachhaltigkeit, Verfügbarkeit, semantische Interoperabilität).

There were 33 papers presented and over 70 participants in attendance. The Discussion Panel session 'Standardizing Heterogeneity', moderated by Peter Ohly, took place on 21st February. The speakers were Winfried Schmitz-Esser (University of Insbruck), Daniel Kless (University of Utrecht), Vivien Petras (German Social Science Infrastructure Services, Information Centre Bonn) and Ulrich Reimer(Technical College, St. Gallen). On the last day of the conference there was an English speaking session with Thomas H. Baker (Göttingen), Aida Slavic (London), Claudio Gnoli (Pavia), and Markus Kattenbeck (Regensburg).

A selection of photographs from the Constance conference are available at
Abstracts of the talks will be made available at

The Proceedings of the 11th German ISKO Conference are now in preparation and are planned to be published in 2008.

We are also pleased to announce that the newely elected members of the executive committee of the German ISKO are Joern Sieglerschmidt, Peter Ohly and Christian Swertz.

The next, 12th German ISKO conference with the theme "Knowledge - Science - Organization" will be held in Bonn at the end of 2009.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Presentations available from Metadata and Digital Repositories SIG meeting

Courtesy of Neil Fegen

The Metadata and Digital Repositories SIG held its first meeting of 2008 on 12th Feberuary at Birkbeck, London. The meeting centred around project updates from the JISC Repositories and preservation programme.


Sarah Currier & Lara Whitela "DC-Education Application Profile: Use Case Gathering Session"

Mike Taylor "Using Standards to Make Vocabularies Available"

Koraljka Golub "EnTag: Enhanced Tagging for Discovery"

Sarah Currier "Easy Desktop Deposit for intraLibrary: and implmentation of SWORD"

Scott Wilson "FeedForward Project"

David Flanders "SOURCE project: A (Repository) Bulk-Migration Service"

Presentations and mp3 are available here.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

ISKO UK Open Meeting "Confronting the Future: Organizing and Managing Knowledge in the Web 2.0 age"

ISKO UK would like to invite you to the first 2008 open meeting of the British Chapter of International Society for Knowledge Organization (ISKO UK) on 5th March entitled Confronting the Future: Organizing and Managing Knowledge in the Web 2.0 age.

London, 5th March 2008
17:30 - 20:00

Venue: University College London, Roberts Building 106

Cost: Free

Two distinguished speakers will give their views on where the new shift in disintermediation brought by Web 2.0 and related changes in information technologies are leading our profession.

    Paul Dodgson is Vice-Chair of the Records Management Society of Great Britain and will describe where he sees the increasingly important Records Management function going in the coming years.

    Peter Griffiths is CILIP Vice-President 2008 and has enjoyed a long career in government libraries. Peter will tell us how this heterogeneous professional body sees the future for librarians and information scientists in both the public and private sectors.

This ISKO UK event is organized in cooperation with the UCL’s School of Library, Archive and Information Studies.

For full details on the venue, programme and to book your place go to the event's website .

HILT Terminology Services

The JISC-funded HILT project is looking to make contact with staff in information services or projects interested in helping it test and refine its developing SRW/U based terminology services. The project is currently working to create pilot web services that will deliver machine-readable terminology and cross-terminology mappings data likely to be useful to information services wishing to extend or enhance the efficacy of their subject search or browse services.

Working with us will require a certain level of technical expertise in web-page creation. The work is likely to be relatively low-key and will take place over a period of around 6 months starting towards the end of March.

We are interested in working with services funded by JISC, local services in JISC institutions, and other non-JISC and non-UK services.
If you are interested, please, contact: Dennis Nicholson, Project Director,