Meta-data

Organizing the info – an index of terms and tags for Seven Circumstances

A website like this can be difficult to negotiate because of its size – currently there are more than 3,000 pages. In its lumpishness it shares one of the problems in the field of English Literature:  –  the shortage of properly organized, navigable, queryable, online databases of terms and concepts (ontologies if you will). You won’t think this is a problem until you want to find out something specific. Then you will tear your hair out. Simple questions like, what is “narrative non-fiction” and where does it fit into fiction genres, and how is it different from a “non-fiction novel”, will drop you into a rabbit hole to Wonderland.

There are some good taxonomies on academic websites, and Wikipedia, but considering the size of the body of knowledge, these have been broken down into discrete, unconnected subject matter areas. In the case of Wikipedia, the links in these separate taxonomies only refer internally to Wikipedia’s own contents, and are therefore constrained. Google and other search engines have this exact function, unconstrained (a Google search for “Shakespeare” produces about 262,000,000 results in 0.73 seconds, from maps to plays to movies to people with the same surname) but the results are not hierarchical according to the relation of terms to each other – they are organized in order of popularity of search-and-find. To find, let’s say, the meaning of “Romeo’s” speech in Act so-and-so of Romeo and Juliet would take many more drill-downs using precise search words.

My frustration with making information findable and organizing information led me to consider creating a searchable, hyperlinked index of the contents of this blog. It took a while. (Yes, I am a peculiar critter with an enquiring mind. Who does this sort of thing over Christmas?!?)

This site has 7+ years of pages, blog posts and projects of book reviews and critiques, dating from March 2006. Most have been written in formal or academic style, with each post or article having a theoretical or conceptual framework. Were the posts only short-posts or micro-posts, or images like on Instagram or Tumblr, this would not be an issue. But the base information from which short-posts and photos are extracted have to exist. You still have to explain things in full somewhere. Most of what is important in the world cannot be explained in a tweet. So the majority of contents on this site is long, wordy posts (1,500 words or more). Thus, the glut of information.

Tags and Subject Index

It’s a case of being unable to find the trees for the forest, therefore needing to create a map to specific trees.

To make information findable, I have created an index of all the core terms on the site here.

Collating all the searchable terms resulted in an index of more than 4,500 terms. The information comprises terminology, descriptors, names and titles, and runs to over 4,500 terms. More than 382 posts, 270 authors, and more than 270 full book reviews have been indexed to date (Jan. 2020).

The posts with discussions on aspects of literature, reading, reception and publishing have also been indexed. Clicking on a link will take users to a page, project or post where the term has been used.

To help readers search – if they do not know the exact term they are looking for – the list is scrollable, numbered and alphabetized.

Authors Index

If an author is what the reader is looking for,  they can go directly to the “Authors Index” page, however, some authors, who are not discussed but only mentioned in connection with other authors, or similar books or genres, are not on the Authors Index.

A work in progress

The Tags and Subjects Index is a work in progress. At this time, descriptors of images and videos have not been indexed. The index is not hierarchical, and is not according to the organizing principles of the Dewey Decimal System used in libraries (which may or may not be the way to go.) The relationships or links between concepts are not shown. The categories in which the terms resort, or the part of literature in which they fit – and how – are not shown. That would entail the creation of a taxonomy and then an ontology, which is quite a different kettle of fish.

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