Classification in my kitchen
I don’t buy newspapers. One of my Firefox tabs is permanently on the BBC News page, and a couple of glimpses per day, tell me if the world is likely to come to an end, or not. That’s all the news I need – I live online so the rest will find its way to me one way or another…
But I live in a town with 300,000 people and we therefore get two local rags delivered for free. One every Thursday and one every Tuesday, and they land on our kitchen table. What happens next is interesting: The Thursday one, is organized into sections, that fall out as soon as you open the paper:
• Property – When we were looking for a house, this was the first thing we turned to and it was scrutinised. Now we bought a house, it goes straight into the recycling bin.
• Motoring – Not looking to buy a car, I may look at the front page for any new models. Then in the recycling bin.
• Sports – I don’t follow local sports – In the recycling bin
• Entertainment – A handy 2-page pull out. This stays around for most of the week, as it has a handy TV guide, the cinema timetable and any local events that happen in the weekend. It will get recycled when next week’s paper comes in.
• News – having reduced the original 100+ page tome down to about 15, I may spend 10-20 minutes browsing the local news: The fireman hero, the rapist on the loose, the school kid who won the obscure poetry award and the bunch of juvenile delinquents that tried to set fire to their school. The usual stuff.
The Tuesday newspaper has very similar information, but it’s bound as a single tome and you have to browse through it to find any of these sections. So guess what happens? It hovers on the table for about 24 hours and then goes straight in the recycling bin. Not opened, not read.
Ok – what’s my point? Not all information is created equal. Not all information is relevant to all people all of the time. Taxonomies and classification may be boring (for some), but they are essential if you want your information to have any value and to hit your audience. Organise it, Group it, tag it, label it, classify it – whatever you want to call it – but make it so, that I can quickly throw in the recycling bin what I don’t need. Only then will I have time to read the part that’s relevant to ME.
Why is it so difficult for people to understand this? I receive more information than I have time to digest. I get 100+ emails a day, I see hundreds of tweets, I follow blogs, I get post, I chat with colleagues. I have the attention span of a gnat! 99% of what passes before my eyes will never register or be looked at. It is your responsibility – the information provider – to highlight the one relevant or interesting keyword that catches my attention and puts you in the 1%.
Classification of information is not an archivist’s problem. It’s YOUR problem, if you want ME to pay attention to you.
I am a Software Strategist, Social Media explorer and Photographer. Professionally, I have been involved with Document Management, Process Management and Content Management for the last 20+ years. The views here are my own and not those of my employer.
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