Taxonomic Clarity

(Katherine presents the keynote address at Arizona SLA’s “Power of Taxonomy” program on Friday, January 20 in Tempe.)

As a taxonomist, my role is to help people organize their own information.  Part of that skill is explaining concepts with clarity.  As a writer and speaker, my goal is to help you understand the power of taxonomy for increased findability, subject knowledge, relation identification, and persuasion.  I use stories, humor and pictures to take you there.

Clarity comes from building taxonomies for non-librarians and from the dedication to service that infuses the library profession.  I built my first taxonomy decades before the Internet made taxonomy hot.  It was my first job after library school at the University of Chicago.  The recently founded California Institute for Rural Studies was developing something new.

Alternative agriculture was not covered in the standard classifications. LC or Dewey would require tearing apart the collection and rearranging the subject to fit the classification.  It seemed more logical to design the classification for the subject.  So I built my own.  At the time, I didn’t realize what a radical step I had taken.

I started looking for projects that would benefit from a taxonomic approach to classification.  I found some good ones, including a few years as Snoopy’s librarian.  In almost all of these projects, I was the only librarian on staff.  I knew the collections would eventually be maintained by non-librarians so I built intuitive systems they could easily understand.

By the time the Internet created interest in taxonomy, I already had decades of field experience.  This involved working closely with users and with the material being organized, so I gained insights into how people interact with information, developing techniques to enhance the power and persuasive capabilities of taxonomy.

As I matured in the profession, I began to see the importance of sharing these insights with the wider community.  I moved to Arizona in 2002 and started writing.  Early in this phase, it was announced that the names on New York’s World Trade Center memorial were to be listed at random.  Random is just about the worst organizing strategy for those names and I started writing about that in this blog.

The New York memorial committee eventually changed to a different arrangement structure, but it gave me the impetus to began an analysis of names on other memorials.  Like taxonomy, a memorial’s arrangement structure reflects a specific situation and a specific set of users.  It guides those users in their understanding of the event being memorialized and can therefore provide valuable insights into the nature of organized information.

The best example is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which arranges names in chronological order.  This allows survivors of the war to view the names of their fallen comrades on contiguous panels.   In effect, it gives an individual survivor his own personal space on The Wall.  I believe chronological order is the primary element of this memorial’s extraordinary power.

While writing my ongoing series, “Names on a Memorial,” I learned how to verbally express the details of an arrangement structure.  Clarity and precision are required to describe both the nuances of an arrangement and the consequences of decisions made by a designer to guide visitors toward the desired response.  Taxonomists make similar decisions when developing powerful organizational structures that promote findability, connect relational elements, or present a viewpoint.

When I give presentations, as I will on January 20 for the Arizona SLA Chapter, I bring the elements of clarity I have gained through experience and practice.  If you are new to taxonomy, you will understand the logic of the technique.  If you are an experienced taxonomist, you will learn new concepts about the power of arrangement structures and perhaps get some ideas for your own taxonomic clarity.

Register here for “The Power of Taxonomy.”

Many thanks to “The Power of Taxonomy” sponsors DowJones and Safari Books Online.


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Jan 2012
POSTED IN Presentations

Pearl Harbor: Equality in Service

Rear Admiral Isaac C. Kidd, USN (1884-1941)

Today is the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.  On that day, 19 American ships were damaged or sunk; 171 airplanes destroyed; 1,178 people injured; 2,389 killed; and 14 Medals of Honor awarded.  Pearl Harbor memorials to those who died tend to list the names in alphabetical order.  This is especially significant because one of the names is Rear Admiral Isaac C. Kidd, Commander of Battleship Division One.  The highest ranking casualty of the attack, he was the first U.S. Navy flag officer killed in action against a foreign enemy.  The USS Arizona was his flagship.

In the early 20th Century, the Pearl Harbor memorial would have been a larger than life statue of Rear Admiral Kidd, probably not on a horse because he was a Navy man.  We started seeing lists of names during World War I, with its massive losses and better record keeping.  In that war, Rear Admiral Kidd would have been at the top of a hierarchical list of names.  But in 1962, when her memorial was dedicated, the names from the USS Arizona were carved in alphabetical order, signifying equality of service.  Rear Admiral Kidd is almost exactly in the middle, surrounded by his men.


Anchor of the USS Arizona on display at Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza, Phoenix, AZ.

In Hawaii, Pearl Harbor or World War II memorials with names include the USS Arizona, USS Oklahoma, USS Utah, the Valor in the Pacific Remembrance Circle, and the Honolulu Memorial at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.  In Phoenix, the Arizona’s anchor sits atop a base displaying the names of her dead.  The only exception to alphabetical order is the list of Arizona survivors who choose to be buried in the submerged ship.  These names are located near their shipmates on the Hawaii memorial, but for practical reasons, they are chronological.

Rear Admiral Kidd among His Men at the USS Arizona Anchor Memorial in Phoenix









The Arizona accounts for almost half the deaths from the attack.  She remains in the harbor, her superstructure removed and her hull visible under water.  Most of the bodies were not recovered and are considered buried at sea.  The USS Arizona Memorial, designed by architect Alfred Preis, straddles the mid-section of the ship without touching it.  An open air building, reminiscent of a covered bridge, it is high on both ends and shorter in the middle, to symbolize December 7 as a low point from which America recovered.

USS Arizona Memorial


At the far end of the memorial is a wall with the 1,177 alphabetized names of those who died on the ship.  Listings include initials, last name, and rank.  Most are Navy, with 73 Marines in a separate section.  Rear Admiral Kidd and the ship’s captain, Franklin Van Valkenburgh, have an extra line indicating their position in the ship’s command.

Both earned Medals of Honor, as did Lieutenant Commander Samuel G. Fuqua, who became the ship’s highest ranking officer during the attack.  When personnel abandoned ship, he made sure everyone who could evacuate did so and he was the last person off.  Many survivors credited him with saving their lives.  About 90% of those on board at the time of the attack died.  Today, when ships pass the memorial in the harbor, sailors honor the Arizona by manning the rails, standing evenly spaced along their ship’s railing.

USS Oklahoma Memorial

Don Beck’s 2007 memorial for the USS Oklahoma overlooks the harbor.  Here the 429 alphabetized names are engraved on separate pillars, with the group of pillars fronted on two sides by short marble walls containing engraved quotes about Pearl Harbor.  The visual effect is that of a ship with its sailors manning the rails to honor those who died.  Two men from the Oklahoma earned Medals of Honor.  Ensign Francis C. Flaherty and Seaman First Class James R. Ward both held lights in different turrets so the crew could escape.  They did not survive when the ship rolled over.  The Oklahoma was eventually salvaged but sunk while being towed to San Francisco for scrap metal.

USS Utah Memorial (with her exposed hull on the left)



The USS Utah is its own memorial, remaining in the harbor rolled over with its hull exposed.   There are several plaques on a pier overlooking the wreck.  One contains the names of the 58 who died including Medal of Honor winner Peter Tomich, the Utah’s Chief Watertender and a Croatian immigrant.  His citation reads, “Although realizing that the ship was capsizing, as a result of enemy bombing and torpedoing, Tomich remained at his post in the engineering plant of the U.S.S. Utah, until he saw that all boilers were secured and all fireroom personnel had left their stations, and by so doing lost his own life.”

USS Arizona Memorial Visitors Center - Remembrance Circle

Also overlooking the harbor is the Remembrance Circle at the Visitor’s Center of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, containing the names of all who died at Pearl Harbor, except those from the Arizona.  Here the names are essentially organized by location, although military personnel are initially divided into their respective branches.  Within each grouping the names are alphabetical.  Based on this photo of an summary plaque, the branches are organized by Department of Defense order of precedence: Army, Marines, Navy.  Today the Air Force would be in fourth place, but at the time it was part of the Army.  Because of the overwhelming majority of Navy deaths, order of precedence continues to evoke equality.  Note also that civilians are first.  At the 1925 memorial to the Revolutionary War Minute Men in Medford, MA, a civilian who died is placed last. 

Located in the Punchbowl area of Oahu, the Honolulu Memorial at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific consists of a wide staircase leading to a Liberty statue with Courts of the Missing on either side of the stairs.  The Courts contain names of those missing or buried at sea from American wars in the Pacific – World War II, Korea and Vietnam.  The World War II missing from the southwest Pacific are memorialized at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in the Philippines, where the names are alphabetized within each military branch.

Punchbowl (Honolulu Memorial at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific)

The architects of the Honolulu Memorial, Weihe, Frick & Kruse, may have been influenced by Edwin Lutyens’ World War I Memorial to the Missing of the Somme in Thiepval, France.  That memorial is an open air building with a wide staircase leading to a memorial stone.  On either side of the stairs are areas which could be termed “courts of the missing,” formed by interwoven structural arches.  (I have written extensively about the Somme memorial in IsisInBlog.) 

The names in France are in a full hierarchy, beginning with British Army Order of Precedence and continuing in a listing by rank.  World War I British recruitment strategy built military units from individual towns.  So this arrangement keeps neighbors together, but it does not express equality.  At the Honolulu Memorial, names are organized first by war, then by military branch, then alphabetized.   

Those who died on the USS Arizona, and whose bodies were not recovered, are declared buried at sea and therefore missing, so Rear Admiral Kidd is on the Honolulu Memorial.  As the highest ranking officer to die at Pearl Harbor, his name is among the K’s with other Navy personnel missing from World War II.  Here he is surrounded not only by his men on the Arizona, but also by almost 12,000 Navy personnel whose bodies, like his, were not found.

Photo Credits

Heiter. (n.d.). Rear Admiral Isaac C. Kidd, USN (1884-1941) Naval Historical Center. Photo NH 48579-KN.

Victor-nv. (April 13, 2010). Anchor of the USS Arizona on display at Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza, Phoenix, AZ. Wikipedia.

Katherine Bertolucci. (November 29, 2011). Rear Admiral Kidd among His Men at the USS Arizona Anchor Memorial in Phoenix.

Jayme Pastoric. (May 23, 2002). USS Arizona Memorial. U.S. Navy photo 020523-N-9769P-057.

Wally Gobetz. (May 26, 2010). USS Oklahoma Memorial.

Rosa Say. (August 20, 2008). The USS Utah Memorial.

Wally Gobetz. (May 26, 2010). USS Arizona Memorial Visitors Center – Remembrance Circle.

Jiang. (December 22, 2005). Punchbowl. Wikipedia.

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Dec 2011

11.11.11: The Anthem Veterans Memorial

At 11:00 am on November 8, 1918, Marshal Foch, the supreme Allied commander, gave German negotiators a 72 hour deadline.  They were to agree to his terms or the war would continue unabated.  To pressure his enemy further, Foch did not allow a ceasefire, even when the agreement was signed 5 hours before the deadline.  Fighting continued full-on until 11:00 on November 11.  Then, for the first time in four years, the bells of Big Ben rang over the streets of London.

Waffenstillstand:  “Colorized photograph, which depicts from left to right: German Admiral Ernst Vanselow, German Count Alfred von Oberndorff (1870 – 1963) of the Foreign Ministry, German army general Detlof von Winterfeldt, British Royal Navy Captain J.P.R. Marriott, Matthias Erzberger head of the German delegation Center party member of the Reichstag (1875 – 1921) who was later murdered by Freikorps rightists for his role in the Amristice (sic), British Admiral George Hope, British First Sea Lord Sir Rosslyn Wemyss (1864 – 1933), French field marshall (sic) Ferdinand Foch (1851 – 1929), and French general Maxime Weygand (1867 – 1965).”

The next year, President Wilson declared November 11 to be Armistice Day, honoring those who served in the Great War.  President Eisenhower changed the name to Veterans Day, now including those who fought in World War II and in subsequent wars, still keeping the historic symbolism of the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

In 2011, 97 years after the Armistice of World War I, we have the once in a century experience of adding the eleventh year.  The new Anthem Veterans Memorial in Arizona, a beautiful expression of astronomical time, will be dedicated today on 11.11.11.

Designed by Renee Palmer-Jones, it consists of five pillars in graduated heights, representing the five branches of the U.S. military.  At the top of each pillar is a large elliptical shaped hole, gathering sunlight downward through the five ellipses toward a mosaic of the Great Seal of the United States at the foot of the pillars.  Each year on November 11 at precisely 11:11 am, the shadows of the pillars will align into one column and the elliptical sunlight will form a perfect circle shining onto the Great Seal.

Installing the Great Seal at the Anthem Veterans Memorial, November 9, 2011

The design focus of this memorial is the astronomy of November 11, not an arrangement of names.  Yet arrangement principles inform our experience in Anthem.  The pillars are organized by Department of Defense order of precedence.  There are only five units, so this ordering is simpler than the British Army order of precedence used at Edwin Lutyens’ World War I Memorial to the Missing of the Somme in Thiepval, France.

Chronology forms the basic arrangement, giving precedence to the oldest units.  However, even with only five, there are two exceptions.  Three of the units were founded in 1775:  the Army (June 14), the Navy (October 13) and the Marines (November 10).  The Navy disbanded in 1781, only to be reinstated later the same year.  So it appears third, after the Marines.  The Coast Guard was founded in 1790, but it is now in fifth position as a part of Homeland Security rather than the Department of Defense.  If the Coast Guard returns to the Department of Defense during a war, it would stand between the Navy and the Air Force (1947).

The arrangement and graduated heights of Anthem’s five pillars display an order of precedence, but the equality of the services is also expressed in the placement of their seals at equal heights on the pillars’ narrow sides.  This equality carries through in the benches at the front of the memorial.  Although they are five in number, they are not individually designated with the name of a military unit.

The Anthem Memorial Planning Committee used the fund-raising technique of engraved brick pavers that can be purchased to honor military personnel or to show community support.  Pavers with military names form a Circle of Honor on the ground around the Great Seal and the pillars.  They are primarily organized chronologically by donation date.  Prior to placement, families can request to be grouped together, similar to the “meaningful adjacencies” of the World Trade Center memorial in New York.  Two rows of blank bricks surround the Circle of Honor in soldier row formation, the typical placement of headstones in military cemeteries.

Pavers representing the non-military support of individuals, businesses and organizations, are arranged by size of donation in front of the benches, with the largest donations at the center bench.  The next two funding tiers are at the left and right of the center bench, with the two end benches reserved for the fourth tier.  The pavers within each tier are in no particular order, although they aren’t quite random.  Liz Turner of the Memorial Planning Committee told me they tried to lay these bricks in a manner that was “aesthetically pleasing.”

In its use of astronomical time, the Anthem Veterans Memorial fully honors the historic tradition of the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.  Its primary symbol is the gathering of sunlight onto the Great Seal of the United States at 11:11 on November 11.  Yet peripheral arrangement decisions add power to this memorial.  Those pillars could be in alphabetical order, but this is a memorial to history.  Order of precedence reflects that.

I will be at the dedication ceremony today in the Anthem Community Park.  The ellipses of the Anthem Veterans Memorial will form a circle of light once a year, but we can only experience the eleventh year once in a hundred years.


Thanks to Steve Seivert, Project Manager for Haydon Building Corp, and to Liz Turner of Anthem’s Memorial Planning Committee for generously sharing their time with me in the last few days before the memorial’s dedication.  In addition to Renee Palmer-Jones, the memorial’s designer, members of the Memorial Planning Committee include Ronald Tucker, who conceived the idea of a veterans’ memorial in Anthem; Steve Rusch, a draftsman who helped build the model; and Jim Martin, an engineer who figured out the astronomy angles.

Illustration Credits:

Waffenstillstand.  Caption and public domain graphic from Wikimedia Commons.

Installing the Great Seal at the Anthem Veterans Memorial, November 9, 2011.  Photo by the author.


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Nov 2011

The Anniversary: 9.11.2011

The National September 11 Memorial opened today on the tenth anniversary of the attacks, expressing our grief and our memories of that horrible day.  As in all memorials with names, the arrangement forms our perception of those who died.

Gathering similar concepts together is the goal of information arrangement, the one exception being random, a strategy that specifically lacks meaning.  So I was appalled when random was chosen in 2004 as the organizing structure for the World Trade Center memorial.  In what became the beginning of research into memorial name arrangement, I wrote to the commission suggesting location as a better organizing strategy and posted blogs complaining about random.

I was not alone.  The families of those who died understood that random placed their friends and loved ones into a miscellaneous scattering of nearly 3,000 names.  Unlike the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, where chronology allows a soldier to see the names of his fallen friends in one place among the panels, random would make every visit a search exercise.  Families protested loudly but the commission refused to budge.  The impasse went on for years, ending only when these wealthy families threatened to withdraw their monetary contributions.  Then, after hanging on to random for so long, the designers developed an arrangement strategy that grouped the names.  And once they made that switch, they did an excellent job.

The new arrangement is called “meaningful adjacencies.”  Of course, every arrangement structure, except random, can be termed a meaningful adjacency.  The World Trade Center method is unique among memorials in that it allowed families to select placement.  Names can be located within a group, often an employer, and they can be next to other specified names.

The strategy begins with location.  Names are listed in the footprints of the two towers and placed within their associated tower.  First responders and names from Pennsylvania and the Pentagon are on the south.  Names from the 1993 bombing are on the north.  Those on the planes are listed separately from building occupants.

Within these categories are complex meaningful adjacencies, illustrated by father and son firefighters Joseph Angelini, Sr. and Joseph John Angelini, Jr.  Their names are together on the memorial and, at the same time, grouped within their separate firefighting units.  This is accomplished by placing the two units on consecutive horizontal lines, allowing a vertical adjacency for the father and son.  Surviving firefighters can remember them with their units.  Their families can see the two names together.

Random said these people were miscellaneous.  Visitors would have seen thouands of names, reflecting a massive loss of life but lacking personal context.  With meaningful adjacencies, we see them among their friends.  We see a father and son together.  We know they are loved.  They are loved by families who fought for them so we could share a small piece of their time on earth.

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Sep 2011

Heroes of a Revolution: Memorials Discovered by the Simmons’ May, 2011 Strategic Information Arrangement Class


(During the CE Course on Strategic Information Arrangement that I teach at Simmons College, participants have the opportunity to write about a memorial in their local area for possible inclusion in my Memorial or Veterans Day blog post.  Today we have a Revolutionary War theme, perhaps appropriate for a college located in Boston.)

The night of April 18, 1775, Paul Revere saw two lights in the Old North Church and began his famous ride, alerting colonists in the Boston area that British troops were crossing the Charles River.  Near midnight, he reached the town of Medford, where Dr. Martin Herrick joined the ride, heading toward Stoneham.  Revere continued on to Lexington.  The militia assembled at dawn on the Green and the first shots were fired.  The British then retreated back toward Boston, reaching Menotomy (now Arlington) around 4pm.  It was there the war really began.  This brutal battle caused the most casualties of April 19 on both sides, including civilians.  Two men from Medford, William Polly and Henry Putnam, were mortally injured.

Christina Anderson of ABT Associates, found a memorial to the Minute Men of Medford, located near the public library.  It was erected for the 150th anniversary of the American Revolution. The 60 names are in alphabetical order, with the exception of Henry Putnam, who appears at the bottom described as “Aged 62 Killed in Action.”  Why was Henry Putnam given this honor and not William Polly?

The Medford Historical Society has limited hours, but volunteers Jerry Hershkowitz and Mike Bradford were there when I needed them.  So I called and asked about William Polly.  The key to the mystery is the inscription at the top of the memorial which reads “Roster of the First Company of Minute Men Who Assembled in Medford at the Call of Paul Revere and Engaged in the Battle of April 19, 1775.”  According to Hershkowitz, Putnam was exempted from the militia because he was too old, but he went to the battle anyway and got killed.  On the memorial, there is no way of knowing that William Polly also died.  I learned about it accidentally in my research.

If we think about this in terms of information arrangement, we have three facets:  those on the roster (59), those not on the roster (1), and an intersection of those who died (2).  Perhaps Putnam received extra information to explain his inclusion with the roster, but it creates confusion because someone else died and there is no acknowledgement.

Dating from 1925, the Medford plaque is fairly early among memorials in listing names.  That began in earnest with the First World War.  In 1936, Medford’s Lawrence Light Guard erected a plaque in the lobby of their armory with the names of Guards who served in WWI.  Hershkowitz took a short walk to the armory, now in commercial use.  He noted some names have stars, which he believes indicates those who died, a simple solution fully honoring their sacrifice.


If Menotomy was the beginning of the Revolutionary War, Saratoga was the turning point in September and October, 1777.  A major victory for the Americans, its hero was Benedict Arnold.  Serving under Horatio Gates, he commanded the troops on September 19.  The British won this first day, but suffered major casualties.  After the battle, Arnold quarreled with Gates and was relieved of his command.  Then in the second battle on October 7, Arnold disobeyed orders and entered the battlefield, taking command and leading the troops to a decisive victory.  This win caused the French to enter the war in support of the Americans, an important factor contributing to the success of the Revolution.

Arnold was injured in the battle and unable to return to combat, which may have influenced his treason in 1780.  He also felt a lack of acknowledgment for his military achievements and thought the Continental Congress was trying to cheat him financially.  Then he married a Loyalist woman prior to the treason.  Towards the end of the war, he fought again, this time for the British.

Julie Vittengl of GlobalSpec found the Boot Monument at Saratoga National Historical Park in New York.  Erected by Civil War General and historian John Watts de Peyster, it honors Benedict Arnold as “the most brilliant soldier of the Continental Army,” yet only shows his injured leg and does not name him.  Saratoga’s victory obelisk has four places for the four generals involved.  Arnold’s space is empty.  Likewise at West Point, the site of his treason, Arnold’s place as a Revolutionary War General is empty showing only his rank and his birthday.

In the book, Shadowed Ground: America’s Landscapes of Violence and Tragedy, 2003, geographer Kenneth E. Foote identifies four responses to high profile painful events:  sanctification, designation, rectification, and obliteration.  Sanctification creates a sacred space, such as the Saratoga National Historical Park.  Designation tends to be an onsite plaque or small memorial acknowledging the event.  While the Medford war memorials are not sited where the actual events happened, they would be examples of designation.  Rectification returns the site to productive use.  The World Trade Center is undergoing rectification, with office space in new buildings available for lease.  At the same time, the sites’s National September 11 Memorial and Museum is sanctification.  Obliteration removes the location from our memory.  Buildings at crime scenes are sometimes torn down and the vacant lot neglected.

Our national feeling about Benedict Arnold wavers between designation and obliteration.  He served his country in many battles, not just Saratoga.  He commanded that decisive battle, setting the stage for our eventual victory.  Then he turned against us.  We cannot remove him from history, but we can remove his name from our places of honor.  After all, thanks to men like William Polly and Henry Putnam, we won the war and we built our new nation.

(A note on resources not mentioned in the article.  I discovered William Polly in The Minute Men: The First Fight by John Galvin, 1996, and in Paul Rever’s Ride by David Hackett Fischer, 1994.  An article by Thomas Fleming, 2010, “Battle of Menotomy: First Blood, 1775,” clearly described that event.  Jerry Hershkowitz’ primary resource, other than the town itself, was Medford in the Revolution, by Helen Tilden Wild, 1903.  I relied on Wikipedia for information about Benedict Arnold, specifically the pages for Arnold, the Battles of Saratoga, the Boot Monument, and Saratoga National Historical Park.  Saratoga and Lexington & Concord are both described in the Encyclopedia of Battles in North America:  1517-1916 by L. Edward & Sarah J. Purcell, 2000.  Photo Credits:  Medford Minute Man Memorial by Christina Anderson, 2011; Arnold-Boot by Americasroof at Wikimedia Commons, 2006.)


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May 2011

Strategic Information Arrangement Returns to Simmons in May

Temple of Joy

Online CE Course at Simmons College in May, 2011
Instructor:  Katherine Bertolucci
Fee:  $250 (Simmons GSLIS Alumni price $200) for the four week online course.

According to futurist Ray Kurzweil, “the measure of order is the measure of how well the information fits the purpose.”  Strategic Information Arrangement shows you how to fit purpose to your order with an entertaining look at basic information structures and their value as persuasive tools.

Communication persuades.  Arranged information, as communication, provides a persuasive opportunity.  When you understand this, you can use it to your advantage for building taxonomies, classifications, and structured lists.  Lack of understanding may cause accidental persuasion in unintended directions.

We examine 17 list structures and 6 forms of hierarchy, defining how each fits a purpose.  Then we apply the seven persuasive technology strategies (plus 1) identified by Stanford’s B. J. Fogg in his book, Persuasive Technology:  Using Computers to Change What We Think and Do.  For example, the chronology of names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial builds community with six of Fogg’s seven strategies.  Perhaps this explains why it is our most powerful memorial.

Architect Maya Lin was influenced by the WWI Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, in France.  Yet, because of the differences in the two wars, that memorial uses another arrangement to achieve the same goal of building community.  In a different context, the Memorial Temples at Nevada’s Burning Man art festivals (pictured) build community with a random arrangement.  Each of these three memorials fits its purpose by understanding the community it honors.

Katherine’s client Snoopy is on hand during the course to explain some of the concepts.  The Rolling Stones and Joe Walsh from the Eagles also make appearances.  You can explore memorials in your local area for possible inclusion in a Memorial or Veterans Day blog post.  The course includes an optional exercise in building hierarchical structures, to be critiqued by Katherine, the only information strategist focused on persuasive arrangement.

Instructor: Katherine Bertolucci is an information management consultant and owner of Isis Information Services in Phoenix, AZ. She specializes in the development and arrangement of subject-based classifications, taxonomies, and other formats for persuasive information presentation. A pioneer in non-traditional classification, Katherine built her first taxonomy in 1978. Clients include poets and transnational corporations such as Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse, Procter & Gamble, and Thomson Financial. Known for her work with Snoopy, Katherine’s programs are entertaining and informative. She is former Chair of SLA’s Library Management Division and Information Futurists Caucus. Katherine’s essays on information arrangement appear in IsisInBlog. Print publications include “The Future Still Awaits Us: Ray Kurzweil’s Singularity on Wall Street” (Searcher, July-August, 2009),”Beyond Findability: Organizing Information in the Age of the Miscellaneous” (Searcher, February, 2009), and “Happiness is Taxonomy: Four Structures for Snoopy” (Information Outlook, March, 2004). Contact her at

Photo Credit: The Temple of Joy at Night, © Jim Hammer and Burning Man. More photos by Jim Hammer at

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Mar 2011

Arranging to Persuade: Tailoring or Persuasion Through Customization

Dress Form

Fogg’s Principle of Tailoring:  Information provided by computing technology will be more persuasive if it is tailored to the individual’s needs, interests, personality, usage context, or other factors relevant to the individual.

We are all familiar with tailored technology.  Every time you go to, you are presented with items selected for you based on your previous purchases.  Facebook tailors the ads you see by mining your demographic profile.  Then you have the opportunity to approve or disapprove the ad, further allowing Facebook to tailor what you see.  B. J. Fogg in Persuasive Technology: Using Computers to Change What We Think and Do, describes a site called Scorecard.  Enter your zip code and it will tell you about the pollution in your neighborhood.

Tailoring is one of the reasons for the success of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.  The war lasted for about 18 years with military personnel cycling in and out of Vietnam.  The names on the memorial are listed in chronological order by date of casualty, bringing together those in Vietnam at the same time.  This gives surviving veterans an individual place on The Wall.  They only have to remember one name to look up in the printed index.  When they find that person’s panel, they find their own panel because that represents their time in Vietnam.  That panel is where they see all the names of their friends who died.

When I build an organizational structure, I like to use the word perspective for tailoring.  I build the structure from the perspective of the user.  Developing a classification scheme for Trans-Pacific Geothermal, Inc. (TGI), I considered how the client would use the system.  TGI is an exploration and development company.  They’re looking for hot water in areas where they have drilling leases and they want to see all the available material about the areas they are exploring.

Geologic information tends to have the same parameters of scientific technique combined with location.  A location is selected because it’s a great place to do the science or, as in the case of TGI, the scientist is interested in the location.  TGI wanted to know everything about the areas where they had their leases or where they were considering the purchase of leases, so I organized their material by location:



Geothermal Resource Area


If TGI had been doing pure scientific research, rather than exploration, I would have designed the system differently, placing science at the top, with location categories as the subsets.  This is an example of an ABBA construction.  Location can be the primary field or science can be the primary field, with the contents of the categories remaining the same.  There is no inherent hierarchy.  The hierarchy evolves to suit the perspective of the user.

Traditional library classification is not tailored.  Its goal is to classify all of human knowledge for everyone’s use.  In a typical library, geologic material may be needed by a science researcher or by an energy developer.  Catalogers can’t pick one over the other.

But you can definitely take sides when you know who your users are.  Define your clients and develop an understanding of why they interact with the material.  Then build your structure in a way that brings everything together for them.  Maya Lin used a chronology that gave all Vietnam Vets their own individual place on The Wall.  When I built a geothermal library, I used location to collect all the material my clients would want to see at the same time.

Your clients will have different needs and those needs may change as their projects proceed.  When you tailor category arrangement, you put your clients one step ahead in their work.   You can stay one step ahead of the client by including sorting capability and allowing users to do their own tailoring.


Illustration used with permission from Microsoft.


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Arranging to Persuade: Self-Monitoring or Taking the Tedium Out of Tracking


Red Shirt

B. J. Fogg’s Principle of Self-Monitoring:  Applying computing technology to eliminate the tedium of tracking performance or status helps people to achieve pre-determined goals or outcomes.

Self-monitoring, the fifth persuasive technique from B J Fogg’s book, Persuasive Technology: Using Computers to Change What We Think and Do, includes such devices as a smart jump rope and a heart rate monitor.  As you exercise, the jump rope’s handles display the number of calories you’re burning.  The heart monitor shows the rate your heart is pumping.  Fogg explains that “this type of tool allows people to monitor themselves to modify their attitudes or behaviors to achieve a predetermined goal or outcome.”  The exercise machines at my gym have similar devices.  I sometimes pedal faster to reach a mileage goal before the end of the spinning class.

We’ve been examining how information arrangement uses Fogg’s persuasive principles at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.  Self-monitoring is the one principle not in use at the VVM.  However, we can look at the facet-based search technique to see how self-monitoring works with this type of information arrangement.

Facets are a method for presenting the defined attributes of online records in a finite collection.  Users select and deselect attributes as the search proceeds, enabling them to monitor and modify the results.  This is especially valuable for online sales.

Let’s say you want to buy a shirt.  A clothing website displays all its available shirts with a list of facets:  color, fabric, style, etc.  You select blue, so now you only see blue shirts in available fabrics and styles.  If any fabrics or styles do not have blue, you no longer see them.  You select cotton.  Other fabrics are eliminated and you only see blue cotton shirts in the available styles.  Now you realize you want a polo shirt, but that’s not available in blue cotton.  So you modify your search by deselecting blue, retaining cotton, and choosing the polo style.  You see cotton polo shirts in the available colors, including a very nice red that you buy.

One example of this technology is the open source Project Blacklight.  Boston’s WGBH uses Blacklight for its Open Vault Media Library and Archives.  At the Open Vault search page, select a category under browse.   Now on the left under the heading “Narrow,” you’ll see a list of available facets for that category.  As you continue selecting, your choices appear at the top of the list.  You can add or remove attributes to modify the search.

Facets provide a satisfying search experience because there is no guessing.  It’s a process that searches a finite collection, only showing available items, so you always have an accurately populated screen.  As you select and deselect, you see different aspects of the collection.  If the online store doesn’t have blue polo shirts, a simple modification shows you they do have one in this nice shade of red.


Illustration used with permission from Microsoft.



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Memorials for Veterans Day, Discovered by the Simmons Strategic Information Arrangement Class, November 2010

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A lively Strategic Information Arrangement class continues this month in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science CE program at Simmons College.  The four week class looks at arrangement strategies and persuasive uses of arrangement, including a one week section about names on memorials.  For the May 2010 class, I wrote a Memorial Day blog describing memorials found by class members.  In a new tradition, today’s post honors Veterans Day with memorials found by the current class.


Harvard University provides an elegant memorial to its “associates” who died fighting for the Union in the Civil War.  We learned of this memorial from Jennifer Beauregard, the university’s Assistant Director for Alumni Affairs and Development Library Services.  Located in the Transept of Memorial Hall, the 136 names on 28 wall plaques are listed by school and by class, in alphabetical order within each class.  There is one plaque out of order, but we do not know the reason for that.

The memorial’s donor specified the exclusion of names of Harvard Confederates.  In 2006, artist Brian Tolle built his “Deep Wounds” installation on the floor of the Transept, calling attention to these Harvard soldiers who also died.  As people walked across his lit floor, their footsteps created a “blister” of light behind them, revealing information about a Harvard Confederate, everything but his name.  They were organized so Union and Confederate soldiers from the same class were near each other.

This got me wondering if there are Civil War memorials honoring both sides.  Certainly other colleges and towns, especially in border states, would have Union and Confederate losses.  I didn’t find anything in brief research.  However, I did find a Wikipedia article about the Gettysburg “Great Reunion of 1913,”, which included all participants.


Elizabeth Ryan, Director of Social Media at the start-up company, Textifer, found a war memorial on her Town Green in Longmeadow, MA.  She says names are arranged by war and then in alphabetical order.  Most of the names are from World War II.  Photos on the town website, and a personal communication from a town employee, indicate a separate memorial for World War I.

Many towns in the United States and Britain have war memorials.  There is even a British memorial honoring those who died from a single city block.  I remember visiting the World War II memorial in San Francisco to look at the names of my mother’s friends.  Before moving to Phoenix, I lived in Healdsburg in California’s wine country.  Just like Longmeadow, they have a small memorial in the town square for those lost in wars.


Jeanne Goss of the Research Department at the industrial supply company Grainger told us about the Shuttle Challenger Memorial (pictured) at Arlington National Cemetery.  This is a small memorial, a headstone really, marking the unidentified remains of the Challenger’s crew.  Identified remains were returned to their families.  This has a persuasive element in that the names are arranged in a circle, a geometric shape emphasizing equality.  Yet the names are actually in a complex ordering.

According to a personal (and very fast) communication from NASA, there is only one crew leader, the Commander, and everyone else is equal.  However, it is my observation that the Challenger crew names are frequently listed in the same order:  Commander, Pilot, Mission Specialists in alphabetical order, and civilians in alphabetical order.  This is how they are listed in the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, founded by families of the crew, and how they are listed in official NASA biographies.

However, that is not how they are arranged in the official photograph.  The Commander is in the center first row, with the Pilot at his right hand.  The first Mission Specialist sits at his left, with the remaining four in the second row but not in the above order.

The arrangement in the photograph is partially repeated on the memorial.  Commander Dick Scobee is at the top with Challenger pointing at him like an arrow.  At his right (our left) is the Pilot, Michael Smith.  As in the photo, Mission Specialist Ron McNair is at Scobee’s left.  Then below Smith, the remaining four crew members are listed counterclockwise as described above:  Mission Specialist Ellison Onizuka, Mission Specialist Judy Resnik, civilian engineer Gregory Jarvis, and civilian teacher Christa McAuliffe.  The artist used several elements to select placement for each name, yet the circle creates a primary impression of equality, which is how NASA organizes its crews.

Correction:  I originally wrote this on Veterans Day weekend, which impeded researching primary sources.  However, on Veterans Day, after I posted, I received a response from Cheri Winkler of the Challenger Center for Space Science Education.  She had asked Dick Scobee’s widow, June Scobee Rodgers, about the name arrangement.  Here is Dr. Scobee’s response:

“Fascinating question.  Commander Scobee, then pilot Mike Smith is right.  The three mission specialists are alphabetized, then the payload specialist Jarvis, the private citizen Christa.  If it were based on position of job on crew, Judy Resnik would come first of the 3 mission specialists.”


A strategy emphasizing different characteristics is taken by Boston’s Vendome Firefighters Memorial, found by Andrea Goodman, Senior Information Specialist at the economics consulting firm Cornerstone Research.  This semi-circular wall honors nine Boston firefighters who lost their lives fighting a 1972 fire in the Vendome Hotel.  It is the largest number of Boston firefighters to have died in a single incident.  The hotel can be seen above the memorial’s arc.  At that point rests a realistic sculpture of a helmet and jacket, “lying as if left there by a firefighter on the day of the fire.”

On the memorial, the nine names are listed in alphabetical order, expressing equality.  However, on the memorial’s website, the names seem to be listed in hierarchy of rank, with the two lieutenants first.  Then in the PDF program for the dedication, they are in a chronology of service, by date of entry into the Boston Fire Department.  There is honor in length of service, and there is honor in having a higher rank, just as it often appropriate to show equality.  The developers of this memorial gave us all three.


Lists of names are a relatively new development in memorials due to our increasing respect for enlisted personnel and our better record keeping.  For many centuries, memorials were statues of great military leaders.  That is the strategy of the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park in Greensboro, NC, discovered by Mary Lane, a Library Manger in that city.  The site of a Revolutionary War battle, its centerpiece is a massive statue of General Nathaniel Greene on his horse.  Persuasive use of size and location convey the impression that this is an important man and an important place.

There are many other memorial structures in the park.  The idea was to locate these on the sites of actual battle events.  Organizing information by location, whether on the land itself or on a website, is a geographic arrangement, but there’s a hitch here.  Like the Alamo, where they destroyed an historic building to make the area more beautiful, the Guilford Courthouse is a park not an accurate historic site.  For one thing, early promoters were not able to acquire all the land, so they redesigned the battle to fit the land they did have.  Current park policy is to relocate these errant memorials to their accurate locations, but some are too big for that.


The Irish Hunger Memorial in New York City, discovered by Meghan Sullivan, a Knowledge Management Information Architect with the Kaplan education company, honors the millions who died in the Great Irish Famine of the 1840’s or who emigrated from Ireland, many to the United States.  A low cantilevered roof on a half acre, it is landscaped to look like the Irish countryside, complete with an actual hut from that era.  You enter or depart the hut though a hallway with streaming illuminated quotations about hunger, both during the Famine and in our modern times.  Meghan’s observations, along with a New Yorker review, indicate these quotes appear at random.

The rooftop garden contains large stones engraved with names of Irish counties.  There seems to be an arrangement here, but we have not determined what it is.  A PDF brochure lists counties in alphabetical order and shows their locations with a numbering system.  However the numbers do not relate to the alphabet nor are they contiguous on the map.  They also don’t relate to the counties’ locations in Ireland.  I found a map showing population changes during the Famine, and that doesn’t seem to be it.

Perhaps the arrangement is explained somewhere at the memorial, but the map would be a good place for this description.  While there is a grand tradition of written reviews, we usually don’t explain art at the site of the art itself.  We expect the viewer to create their own impression from the cues given by the artist.  One’s interpretation of the piece may be quite different from what the artist intended and that’s acceptable and encouraged.

But arrangement is different from other artistic elements.  If not articulated, a structured arrangement exists only in the artist’s mind.  As part of artistic display, organizational choices contribute to our understanding.  But if there are no cues, we have a guessing game, especially when choices are complex.  (See my article about the Wittenbergplatz Holocaust Memorial for another example of an unexplained arrangement.)

At the Irish Hunger Memorial, someone made a decision about placing stones and about assigning numbers unrelated to that placement.  The reasons are not explained.  Our understanding of the memorial, and our thoughts about hunger, would be enhanced if this artistic element was made visible.

For this article, I also made arrangement decisions.  Following the example of the Shuttle Challenger Memorial, I created two categories – memorials with and without names.  Since the unit is primarily about how names are arranged on memorials, I placed that category first.  Within each category, the memorials are in alphabetical order.

It took me a paragraph to explain my strategy, one reason perhaps why artistic arrangements are not often explained.  But that could easily be shortened, especially if we assume certain organizing structures, such as the alphabet, are obvious.

Arrangement:  Memorials with names, Memorials without names

Thank you to those who served our country in war, in fighting fires, and in exploring new territory.  Thank you to the immigrants who gave so many of us a place in this great country.  Thank you to those serving us today who, with great sadness, will one day be memorialized.

Photo Credit:  Shuttle Challenger Memorial by M. R. Patterson

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Nov 2010

Strategic Information Arrangement at Simmons in November


Burning Man Memorial Temple

The Temple of Joy at Night by Jim Hammer and Burning Man. More photos by Jim Hammer.

Strategic Information Arrangement: Theory and Techniques

Online CE Course at Simmons College in November, 2010

Instructor:  Katherine Bertolucci

Fee:  $250 (Simmons GSLIS Alumni price $200) for the four week online course.

(Click “Register,” top of the page on the left)

“Strategic Information Arrangement” takes an entertaining look at the building blocks of order, especially arrangement styles for organized information.  These are the skills you need to display information, whether in taxonomy, classification, or structured lists. Understanding these strategies helps you build ordered arrangements that persuade users. Lack of understanding can inadvertently send users in the opposite direction. Since all information has order, even if only random, each arrangement structure you build is an opportunity to persuade or to accidentally dissuade.

Futurist Ray Kurzweil believes “order is more profound than information” because it “fits a purpose.” This course helps you develop profound order with fifteen list structures, six hierarchic methods, and five persuasive strategies. Katherine’s client Snoopy is on hand to explain some of the concepts. Nevada’s Burning Man art festival and the Rolling Stones also make an appearance. You learn how each technique fits a unique purpose and how to persuasively exploit these techniques.

We also review the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme from World War I, each with similar information and goals, yet requiring different name arrangement strategies.  Memorials reviewed by members of the May class are featured in Katherine’s blog post, “Names on a Memorial:  Into the Earth (Memorials Discovered by the Strategic Arrangement Class).”

In the optional assignment, you design a hierarchic structure with provided material.  Assignments are critiqued by Katherine, the only organizationalexpert focusing on persuasive arrangement.  See her Arranging to Persuade series on persuasive technology tools in this blog and at Discover the Region.

Instructor: Katherine Bertolucci is an information management consultant and owner of Isis Information Services in Phoenix, AZ. She specializes in the development andarrangement of subject-based classifications, taxonomies, and other formats for persuasive information presentation. A pioneer in non-traditional classification, Katherine built her first taxonomy in 1978. Clients include poets and transnational corporations such as Procter & Gamble and Thomson Financial. Known for her work with Snoopy, Katherine’s programs are entertaining and informative. She is former Chair of SLA’s Library Management Division and Information Futurists Caucus. Katherine’s essays on information arrangement appear on IsisInBlog. Print publications include “The Future Still Awaits Us: Ray Kurzweil’s Singularity on Wall Street” (Searcher, July-August, 2009),”BeyondFindability: Organizing Information in the Age of the Miscellaneous” (Searcher, February, 2009), and “Happiness is Taxonomy: Four Structures for Snoopy” (Information Outlook, March, 2004). Contact her at

Photo Credit: “The Temple of Joy at Night,” © Jim Hammer and Burning Man. More photos by Jim Hammer at

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Sep 2010