Tuesday, March 22, 2022

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,” 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. Last month I 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


Taxonomies - organised, effective tagging. 

—Alison Jones


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


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


—Meg Morrissey

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


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


I say this categorically, taxonomists are an organized bunch.

Jordan Casell


Taxonomies: now you're where you belong.

—Alan S. Michaels


And the especially 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


Ontology: One graph to rule them all, one graph to find them, one graph to bring them all and in the semantic web bind them.
—Xeni Kechagioglou

I never metadata I didn't like

—Paul Belfanti


Taxonomy? Taxonoyou!

—Ron Cascella



  1. Thank you so much for including mine Heather I truly appreciate it!

  2. These are awesome and the last three (Xeni Kechagioglou, Paul Beflanti, Ron Cascella) are truly hilarious.