best evidence.

I seem to often hear those opposed to FRBR/RDA for whatever reasons say things like: “The FRBR user tasks were not tested with real users. We have no idea if the FRBR model actually supports what users want to do.” Those more strident simply aver that the FRBR model does not support real user tasks.

But check this:

With expressions, editions/manifestations, and works…. indeed LT might become the most full implementation of FRBR out there, as Tim suggests. Which is perhaps ironic because I’m pretty sure LT/Tim don’t care at all about implementing FRBR for the sake of FRBR,or for the sake of ‘standards’. LT is implementing what makes sense to meet their user’s needs. [Which is perhaps why initially Tim was resistant to accepting that he was ‘doing FRBR’ at all]. (src: Bibliographic Wilderness)

read it here first.

In my dissertation proposal I offer an initial operating definition of information organization behavior to replace the unacceptable one I’ve ranted about before:

Any activities undertaken by a person or people—uncoordinated or working as a group in an organization or institution—to describe, represent, name, order, structure, categorize or class information objects. Information organization behavior takes place in physical and digital information environments, and across the two. It is usually, but not necessarily, undertaken with the goal of providing easier, faster, and/or better access to information at a future point in time. It is also a method for creating and/or increasing the meaningfulness and usability of information. The set-up or initiation of automatic information organization routines is information organization behavior, while the automated result of such activity is not; it does not require the thought, attention, and decision-making characteristic of information organization behavior.

What have I left out? What is wrong?


Today I’ve been looking at several of the papers from Spink, Amanda H., and Charles Cole, eds. (2006) New directions in human information behavior. Dordrect: Springer.

I’ve been rather disappointed. The whole book seems to have been slapped together fairly carelessly, including papers by the editors. Maybe especially in papers by the editors.

The most egregious problem I’ve run across is this:

What do we currently know about information-organizing behavior? Human information-organizing behavior (HIOB) is the process of analyzing and classifying materials into defined categories, for example, the Dewey Decimal Classification System (McIlwaine, 1997). Spink and Currier (in press) have defined HIOB as the process of analyzing and classifying materials into defined categories. They give as an example the Dewey Decimal Classification System (McIlwaine, 1997). While the example they give is a document organization system, their definition lends itself to creating a cognitive framework for HIOB. Few studies have examined human’s information-organizing behavior in relation to other information behaviors. (footnotebegin)Spink, Amanda H., Minsoo Park, and Charles Cole. 2006. “Multitasking and co-ordinating framework for human information behavior.” Chapter 8 in Amanda H. Spink, and Charles Cole, eds. New directions in human information behavior. Dordrect: Springer, 137-54(footnoteend)

Ok, so it’s a bit petty to pick on a cut-and-paste error. God knows I’ve made them (though I’d like to think I’d catch one before I published it…)

But that’s not the main problem here, even though it occurs also in this gem (footnotebegin)Cole, Charles, and John E. Leide. 2006. “A Cognitive Framework for Human Information Behavior: The Place of Metaphor in Human Information Organizing Behavior.” Amanda H. Spink, and Charles Cole, eds. New directions in human information behaviour. Dordrect: Springer, 171-202(footnoteend), which I’m not even going to go into except to quote:

According to the modular architecture view, a dramatic adaptation occurred 35,000–70,000 years ago (Mithen, 1996, 1998): the formerly strictly modular human cognitive architecture, containing firmly defined and task-specialized human intelligence modules. Then suddenly transformed, developing gateway mechanisms between the separate intelligence modules. So that data from the specialized module databases could flow the one into the other. When the flow occurred, the human could see their environment from a different perspective.

I will pick on the claim that “Few studies have examined human’s information-organizing behavior in relation to other information behaviors.” Few studies except those few little personal information management studies… to which I have at least 272 citations in my Procite database. Isn’t PIM in large part the study of how people organize, manage, and re-find information that they have previously sought, monitored for, foraged for, or encountered? Is that not some sort of information behavior in relation to information seeking? Ummm…. But that isn’t the thing that is really irritating me at this point. At least that gives me something good to talk about in my lit review.

Nor is it that they define human information-organizing behavior (HIOB) as “the process of analyzing and classifying materials into defined categories, for example, the Dewey Decimal Classification System” when:

  • much of cognitive science has mainly agreed for quite some time that the human cognitive architecture is not made up of well-defined categories like “classes”; (footnotebegin)Rosch, Eleanor H., and Carolyn B. Mervis. 1975. “Family Resemblances: Studies in Internal Structure of Categories.” Cognitive Psychology 7, no. 4: 573-605(footnoteend), (footnotebegin)Smith, Edward E., and Douglas L. Medin. 1981. Categories and Concepts. Cognitive Science Series. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press(footnoteend), (footnotebegin)Lakoff, George. 1987. Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things: What Categories Reveal About the Mind. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press(footnoteend)
  • Elin Jacob has repeatedly clarified the difference between classes and categories, and classification and categorization; (footnotebegin)Jacob, Elin K. 1991. “Classification and categorization: Drawing the line.” In Proceedings of the 2nd ASIS SIG/CR Classification research workshop, Washington, D.C., October 27, 1991. 67-83(footnoteend), (footnotebegin)Jacob, Elin K. 2004. “Classification and categorization: A difference that makes a difference.” Library Trends 52, no. 3: 515-40(footnoteend) and,
  • There are myriad ways in which people organize information that do not involve some formal process of subject analysis and classification. There’s so much research on this, especially in PIM and CSCW, that I’m not even going to cite stuff here.

Nope, that all irritates me, but again, I have a whole section in my lit review on the wrong-headedness of this definition.

What I can’t really complain about in my lit review is the fact that in this and the multiple other studies where Spink and friends have used this exact definition for human information organization behavior, they include “the Dewey Decimal Classification System (McIlwaine, 1997).”


The problem with that is that (McIlwaine, 1997) is an article about the history and development of the Universal Decimal Classification System (UDC), not the Dewey Decimal Classification System (DDC):

McIlwaine, I. C. (1997). The Universal Decimal Classification: Some factors concerning its origins, development, and influence. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 48(4), 331–339.

UDC and DDC are two completely different classification systems. It’s not as if the McIlwaine article is being shy about what classification system it is about; it’s pretty darned clear from the title. There is a small bit in the beginning of the article about how UDC was initially based on DDC but the two fairly rapidly moved in different directions. So if you read the first little section, it is made abundantly clear the two are not the same.

And it is not as if there is a paucity of literature on DDC.

And not one referee at any point on these multiple articles has said, “Hey why are you citing a paper on UDC here when you are talking about DDC?”


Citations are important. Citing something that is actually on the topic you’re writing about is usually a good move.