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CHI-WEB  August 1999, Week 4

CHI-WEB August 1999, Week 4

Subject:

Re: Tree model integrity

From:

Eastwell Sarah <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Eastwell Sarah <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 26 Aug 1999 14:47:56 +1000

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (58 lines)

Toby Hede wrote:
i think that it remains to be seen that all information can be represented
in a tree/hierarchy. The tree system is a representation that stems from the
last 20/30 years of file system hierarchies...nielsen, among others has
pointed out that many new computer users have a great deal of trouble with
the tree or hierarchical methodology. the tree is limiting as an information
methodology, it disallows the entire network principle that makes the web
such a valuable medium. a tree system permits only one classification for
information...each 'unit/block' of information resides within one branch of
the tree, but different users will have different classifications for the
same information. using a strict tree structure your are in reality
enforcing your classification upon them.

>>>>>>>>
I doubt that *all* information can be best represented in a tree/hierarchy,
but it's a useful way of organising large volumes of information.
Hierarchical systems have been used to organise information for much longer
than 30 years. Library classification systems provide examples - Dewey 700=
The arts 720= Architecture 728= Residential & related buildings. (In fact,
I'd argue that creating classification schemes - ie determining like
characteristics in groups of objects, looking for patterns etc, is inherent
to human nature - but perhaps that's beyond the scope of this discussion.)

A _strict_ tree system permits only one classification for each piece of
information, but this is from historical necessity, rather than an inherent
limitation of a tree structure. A physical(eg paper based)document can only
be assigned _one_ Dewey decimal call number, as a document in a
non-electronic library can be placed on the shelf only once. However, the
Web allows you to overcome this limitation. You can assign as many *call
numbers* as you like. There is no requirement for a document to appear only
once within a tree/hierarchy. This can help overcome (not solve) the problem
of different users looking for information in different sections of the
tree. You can anticipate where people are likely to look, and file the
information in a number of places.

There are limitations with hierarchies. Libraries traditionally rely on
"subject headings" to aid information retrieval. Subject headings are much
more specific than classification systems. A search engine, metadata and
perhaps a thesaurus or site index provides the equivalent in a Web
environment.

A hierarchy provides a succinct overview of the type of information
available, and a means of grouping like information. I think most library
users would agree that an effective search strategy in a library is to
conduct a brief search on the catalogue, and then to browse the shelves. A
hierarchically organised Web site allows users to "browse the shelves". I
think a hybrid hierarchy/subject heading system is a good solution for many
Web sites.

Using a tree structure _does_ enforce a classification scheme on users, but
as long as that structure is logical to a large number of users, and
headings are clearly explained and unambiguous, it is a useful way to aid
information retrieval. A classification scheme reflects the values and
culture of the creator. There is no *correct* classification scheme - only
ones that are more useful than others.

Sarah Eastwell [log in to unmask]

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