Archive for the ‘Hierarchy’ Category

Constructing a true LCSH tree of a science and engineering collection

Monday, November 19th, 2012

Constructing a true LCSH tree of a science and engineering collection by Charles-Antoine Julien, Pierre Tirilly, John E. Leide and Catherine Guastavino.


The Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) is a subject structure used to index large library collections throughout the world. Browsing a collection through LCSH is difficult using current online tools in part because users cannot explore the structure using their existing experience navigating file hierarchies on their hard drives. This is due to inconsistencies in the LCSH structure, which does not adhere to the specific rules defining tree structures. This article proposes a method to adapt the LCSH structure to reflect a real-world collection from the domain of science and engineering. This structure is transformed into a valid tree structure using an automatic process. The analysis of the resulting LCSH tree shows a large and complex structure. The analysis of the distribution of information within the LCSH tree reveals a power law distribution where the vast majority of subjects contain few information items and a few subjects contain the vast majority of the collection.

After a detailed analysis of records from the McGill University Libraries (204,430 topical authority records) and 130,940 bibliographic records (Schulich Science and Engineering Library), the authors conclude in part:

This revealed that the structure was large, highly redundant due to multiple inheritances, very deep, and unbalanced. The complexity of the LCSH tree is a likely usability barrier for subject browsing and navigation of the information collection.

For me the most compelling part of this research was the focus on LCSH as used and not as it imagines itself. Very interesting reading. A slow walk through the bibliography will interest those researching LCSH or classification more generally.

Demonstration of the power law with the use of LCSH makes one wonder about other classification systems as used.

Silo Indictment #1,000,001

Friday, May 25th, 2012

Derek Miers writes what may be the 1,000,001st indictment of silos in Silos and Functional Decomposition:

I think we would all agree that BPM and business architecture set out to overcome the issues associated with silos. And I think we would also agree that the problems associated with silos derive from functional decomposition.

While strategy development usually takes a broad, organization-wide view, so many change programs still cater to the sub-optimization perspectives of individual silos. Usually, these individual change programs consist of projects that deal with the latest problem to rise to the top of the political agenda — effectively applying a Band-Aid to fix a broken customer-facing process or put out a fire associated with some burning platform.

Silo-based thinking is endemic to Western culture — it’s everywhere. This approach to management is very much a command-and-control mentality injected into our culture by folks like Smith, Taylor, Newton and Descartes. Let’s face it: the world has moved on, and the network is now far more important than the hierarchy.

But guess what technique about 99.9% of us use to fix the problems associated with functional decomposition? You guessed it: yet more functional decomposition. I think Einstein had something to say about using the same techniques and expecting different results. This is a serious groupthink problem!

When we use functional decomposition to model processes, we usually conflate the organizational structure with the work itself. Rather than breaking down the silos, this approach reinforces them — effectively putting them on steroids. And when other techniques emerge that explicitly remove the conflation of process and organizational structure, those who are wedded to old ways of thinking come out of the woodwork to shoot them down. Examples include role activity diagrams (Martyn Ould), value networks (Verna Allee), and capability mapping (various authors, including Forrester analysts).

Or it may be silo indictment #1,000,002, it is hard to keep an accurate count.

I don’t doubt a word that Derek says, although I might put a different emphasis on parts of it.

But in any case, let’s just emphasize agreement that silos are a problem.

Now what?