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The Discipline of Organizing: Professional Edition, 3rd Edition by Robert J. Glushko

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7.5. Classification by Activity Structure

Institutional classification systems are often strongly hierarchical and taxonomic because their many users come to them for diverse purposes, making a context-free or semantic organization the most appropriate. However, in narrow domains that offer a more limited variety of uses it can be much more effective to classify resources according to the tasks or activities they support. A task or activity-based classification system is called a taskonomy, a term invented by anthropologists Janet Dougherty and Charles Keller after their ethnographic study of how blacksmiths organized their tools. Instead of keeping things together according to their semantic relationships in what Donald Norman called “hardware store organization,” the blacksmiths arranged tools in locations where they were used “fire tools,” “stump tools,” “drill press rack tools,” and so on.433[Cog]

[433][Cog] See (Dougherty and Keller 1985) for the ethnography of blacksmithing, and also (Norman 2006), who extends the taskonomy idea to the design of user interfaces for cell phones and other computing devices. You probably have not worked as blacksmith, but you have certainly used taskonomic classification. For example, a student writing a term paper or doing a course project checks out books from the library’s taxonomic classification system (or prints them out from the web) and then organizes them in piles on a desk or on the floor according to the plan for the paper or project. ...

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