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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Taxonomy for Component Content Management Systems

In today's post, we'll be looking at the value of taxonomy for component content management systems (CCMS) and then specifically examining the  taxonomy capabilities of a few CCMS tools such as, xDocs, EasyDITA, DITACMS, ComponizeVasont, SDL Knowledge Center, and Astoria Component Content Management System

DITA content is modular content which is focused on a singular topic.  For example, an individual piece of content may explain how to import a taxonomy into an application.  Another piece of content would focus on how to add a new term to a taxonomy in that application.    A common application for DITA content might be a knowledge base.    DITA based Component Content Management Systems (CCMS) are a little bit different than a conventional content management system because CCMS need to manage a larger volume of smaller snippets of content.

Just as with conventional content management systems, taxonomy is a very important ingredient to a successful CCMS implementation. Tagging the individual pieces of content with relevant taxonomy concepts (and other metadata elements) is the best way to make sure that your content is findable and reusable.   Taxonomy terms can be exposed to users as a set of facets to filter conventional search results but to provide a set of terms which users can us to browse through content.  Taxonomy can also be used to represent synonyms or alternate labels for concepts so that people can user alternate forms to look for the same concepts. This provides a consistency in how information is presented regardless of which words people use for a concept.    these are all a lot of the same benefits you see from taxonomy in other applications, but they are equally valid and important for CCMS.

We've done a brief review of the taxonomy management capabilities for some popular CCMS tools.  As we would expect, each vendor offers support for taxonomy in its toolset and each has spent some time highlighting the value of taxonomy and metadata for component content management.


xDocs by Bluestream is a CCMS that is designed specifically for DITA content.     From Bluestream's website:

"XDocs Extended Metadata supports thesauri, taxonomies, ontologies, and faceted browse. The pre-configured Thesaurus system can also be used for terminology control and terminology indexing."

XDocs supports a standard ontology modeling format called SKOS. I can't tell 100% if it supports a taxonomy import or not.


EasyDITA is another CCMS focused on DITA content and are  advocates for the value of using taxonomy in CCMS.  From EasyDita's website:

"There are several huge benefits to developing basic taxonomies and a metadata scheme if you haven’t done so already"

EasyDITA has a taxonomy manager within its administrative toolset, but does not appear to support taxonomy import.


IXIASOFT DITA CMS is another CCMS which believes in the value of taxonomy.  From its documentation:

"taxonomy is a hierarchical classification system that contains one or more taxonomy terms that you define. When you apply these terms to documents or elements, you can make information easier to find, both for authors and for end users. You can also use them when you process output to facilitate features like dynamic publishing portals."

The tool has a good taxonomy management capability as well as taxonomy import via simple TSV format.  Taxonomy import is a new feature in its newest version 4.2


Componize CCMS supports the use of taxonomy as well for better content tagging and search:  From its website:

"Organize your content with predefined categories, or use collaborative tagging or folksonomy to customize your tags. " Componize talks about how you can "...search and filter your content with faceted searches"

Componize supports taxonomy import in RDF and XML format, which are more advanced semantic data formats.  this speaks highly to the investment Componize has made in its taxonomy feature set.


Vasont also supports taxonomy with its Vasont CMS product.   Vasont calls out taxonomy specifically in its article about creating a strong publishing backbone:

"A taxonomy is a system of categories and subcategories that allow information to be organized to make it easier to find and relate to other information. You’ve already encountered useful taxonomies in your experience. The Dewey Decimal system is a taxonomy for organizing books in a library by subject, title, or author. If you browse internet kiosks, they frequently have a taxonomy to help you to find the product you’re looking for. In information systems, they are often represented by tree structures, so they fit well in the XML world."

Vasont does have a listing for controlled vocabulary (another term for taxonomy) in its feature grid. For now, we am unsure of the exact scope of taxonomy features or whether taxonomy import is supported.

SDL Knowledge Center

SDL provides a number of content based solutions. It's DITA CCMS product is SDL Knowledge Center.  A new feature in SDL's latest release, Knowedge Center 12.0.0 is taxonomy/ontology integration.

SDL's Taxonomy features relies on external management of taxonomy and thushas an integration with SmartLogic, a WAND partner with a leading ontology management product called Semaphore.

The best content from SDL showing its taxonomy support is two webinars, one called Taxonomy Design for Self-Service Delivery.  and the other called Taxonomy as a Catalyst for Content Reuse

Astoria Component Content Management System

The team at Astoria Component Content Management System were gracious enough to reach out and provide us information straight from the horse's mouth about its support for taxonomy in Astoria On-Demand and Astoria On-Premise.   So, I'll include that information directly here:

The Astoria system supports the creation of taxonomical structures allowed by the DITA specification; that would be the <subjectScheme> element and its subordinate objects.  These structures feed our end-user-facing “Astoria Portal” product, which is powered by the DITAweb product from Congility.  For a reference implementation, see http://pubs.cray.com, which provides a dynamically publishing content interface for Cray Inc.’s customers.  The content and taxonomical structures are built in Astoria On-Demand and fed periodically to the Astoria Portal.  The site supports faceted search driven by the taxonomy, and other capabilities not specifically associated with taxonomy are also available.

Astoria can import taxonomies already encoded in <subjectScheme> structures.  Astoria can also import any XML-based taxonomical representation and validate those representations against their respective DTDs.

Astoria does not as yet convert one representation into another representation, and the product does not yet use other taxonomy structures an input to the user interface for creating <subjectScheme> objects.

WAND Taxonomy Library Portal is a great resource for foundation taxonomies covering a wide variety of industry vertical and business operational topics which can jump start an initiative to create a DITA Taxonomy.  Depending on the capabilities of the tool you choose, WAND Taxonomies can be imported directly or they can be used as a reference for manual