Subject: Re: Mechanizing community information resources
From: "Forrest J. Cavalier III" <>
Date: Mon, 23 Sep 2002 17:05:45 -0400 (EDT)

Rich Morin wrote, in part:

>    *  It isn't possible to organize all knowledge into a single hierarchy.
>       The "tree of knowledge fallacy", in fact, refers to the fallacy of
>       thinking that you can do so!

There is no single "definitive" hierarchy, but it
is indeed possible to organize all knowlege into a single hierarchy.
(Otherwise you are saying that there is some non-fiction work
that the Library of Congress would be unable to shelve.)

In IEEE Computer magazine about 15 years ago, there was a seminal
article on the methods that humans use to locate external resources.
There were about 5 methods: Lookup by name, keyword search, browse
hierarchy, and others.  (Unfortunately, I am not able locate the
article right now, but it might be of interest to some here.)

By-subject hierarchies fulfill an important need.  If the seeker
does not know the appropriate keywords, nor the name, by-subject
hierarchy is a very good method.  You start at a top level and
then narrow your focus from a short list of selections at each

These exposed hierarchies also allow someone to jump into a body of
knowledge and get oriented quickly (at least in terms of knowing
what others think are the important related subjects, areas of
research, etc.)

It is true that some resources will not classify into a single
node on a subject tree.  And the use of "See Also" links to other
subjects instead of rigid parent-child branches is important.
But since the hierarchical subject index is not a shelf order,
you can easily enter resources in multiple subjects when you
have a dessert topping which is also floor wax.