Sunday, December 20, 2009

MOS: Taxonomy

Taxonomy is the practice and science of classification. A chapter in the Oracle 10g Portal class discusses taxonomy when dealing with Portal organization. (I always recommend organizations who are serious about classification to hire a librarian to lead any taxonomy project.)

Since starting with the My Oracle Support, I have not felt very comfortable with the navigation. Admittedly, part of this is habit - once I'd figured it out, I'd been satisfied with the Metalink navigation style and requirements. But switching navigation styles should not have bothered me so much, and I've been struggling with 'why does MOS feel cumbersome?'

(I've discussed some of this repeatedly, and covered a few reasons. These are a few of my favorite things
  • Flash - form before function;
  • Flash - performance;
  • Flash - proprietary, security risk, banned from some customer sites;
  • non-standard UI - no back button, no 'open new window' on articles
  • ... )

Today's topic is 'consistency in classification'. And this is probably going to be the most controversial topic of the entire MOS-related group of blogs. I hope this one will generate some discussion!

What is there?

MOS uses different classifications in different areas. This would not be so bad, if I could understand why they are different. "Knowledge" tab has a "Browse Knowledge" region (which seems overly complicated); "Patches" has a different classification scheme to select patches; "Certify" has an other.

"Browse Knowledge" was obviously sponsored by the Applications division of Oracle. At the top level, it classifies "AIA, JD Edwards Enterprise, JDE World, Siebel, Peoplesoft, E-Biz, More Applications, Middleware, Database, Linux/VM, Services, Support, Tools/Training, Doc, and Japanese KB". With all the dynamic changing of shapes and entries in other areas of MOS, I think I'd be happier if I could suppress those areas that have no interest for me.

"Patches" go by "Product or Family" which has a list of approximately 1400 entries of which you can select one or more.

"Certify" is undergoing change. But so far, they have invented "Product Line, Product Family, Product Area, Product, Product Release, Product Version" which seems to be some form of hierarchy. (In fairness, they acknowledge this needs to change. Hopefully some others will join us on Tuesday AM for the discussion about what should/could change.)

My thoughts

I have a chart that I use to help Oracle customers understand Oracle products. It's a bit dated, but basically it summarizes my thinking, which is that Oracle has 3 product areas

  • Services
  • Technology
  • Applications
Services to me are
Technology includes the following
  • Management Infrastructure: Oracle Server, RDB , Times Ten, Berkeley, (MySQL)
  • Middleware Infrastructure: WLS, OC4J, Tuxedo, TopLink,
  • Manipulation: Tools (SQL Developer, JDeveloper, Forms, Reports, etc.), AIA
  • Movement: Warehouse Builder, Data Integrator, Golden Gate, ESB, Queue
  • Consolidation: Portal, WebCenter
  • Collaboration: Collaboration Suite, Beehive
  • Control: SOA and all it's components, Registry, ESB, Web Services
  • System Infrastructure: OEL, OracleVM, OSS, Grid, ASM, OSB, Exadata, (Solaris)
  • Security: Single Sign On, Identity Management, OVD, OID
  • Intelligence: Discoverer, Reports, BI Beans, BI Publisher, BI Suite EE, ...
  • Management: Enterprise Manager, Grid Control, Packs (other than those included above)
and I often group the above into
  • Infrastructure (System, Data Management, Middleware, Security)
  • Development (Tools)
  • Coordination (Consolidation, Collaboration, Control, Intelligence)
  • Management (Grid Control)

Applications (something I try not to get involved in - as Tech above has enough areas to amuse me):
I acknowledge that the above is simply a list of the products from the referenced site, and that another meaningful classification is by business area (Supply Chain, Financials. HR, etc.) or by Industry.

Where am I going with this?

As an engineer and technologist, I drill into support requirements by product. "My 'product x, version y' is having the following problem."

My first thought is that the Knowledge Browser, Patch, and Certify should allow me to filter by area of interest.

That implies that I could set a global filter (which I think is the purpose of 'Power View') which would allow me to include one or more of the three areas. Within each of those areas, I would have product lines (as given above), product families, product, product edition, and product version.

A good taxonomy

A good taxonomy has 3 characteristics that I can identify:
  1. It is designed by someone independent of the stakeholders, but with input by stakeholders
  2. It is created over a number of years
  3. It is NOT rigid - as things change, it will evolve.
That first one is perhaps the most surprising. My experience indicates that if the stakeholders try to provide classification, the job will never get done since too many people have a vested and personal interest. Hire a librarian - they know how to classify AND how to keep us in line. :-)

So perhaps

Perhaps more important than using a taxonomy based on what I describe, there needs to be a visual 'tree' that people could pull up while in MOS that would show whatever taxonomy Oracle intends to use.

(I note that there is not a single occurrence of a visual expandable-folder-like tree in the entire MOS UI that I can find. Anyone?)

And that taxonomy needs to be used consistently across all the tabs, areas, regions, communities, etc. With flexibility allowing changes - but with discussion and warnings when things are to change.


Anonymous said...

>there is not a single occurrence of a visual expandable-folder-like tree in the entire MOS UI that I can find...

Well that's not quite true. The whole thing is like a tree - after it smashed into your house during a hurricane and left bits and pieces of itself strewn across the neighborhood.
But that's still tree-like, right?

Forbrich said...

There are accordions, but no trees as far as I can see.

Any musician will tell you about the value of accordions. Many MS-Office 2007 users will do so as well. (Who knows the Chicken Dance?)