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Monday, May 3, 2010

SharePoint 2010 – Using Taxonomy & Controlled Vocabulary for Content Enrichment

Guest Author: Jeff Carr

The semantic enrichment of content through the application of metadata tagging is a critical activity in the creation of a well managed and usable information environment. There are a number of reasons why tagging is so important to enterprise information, including the enhancement of navigation (filtering/sorting mechanisms, guided navigation), improvement of search (relevancy, faceted search and best bets) and personalization (suggestions for related content, job role, location or department).

Tagging in SharePoint 2010 is approached from two perspectives, with the first originating from controlled vocabularies via Metadata Terms. Controlled terms are managed in a Term Set and surfaced as part of a document’s properties using the Managed Metadata column. The field itself is directly bound to a Term Set (or subset thereof), and enables users to easily browse available Terms for tagging. Important functionality appearing as part of the user interface includes:

  • Auto-Suggest – As characters are entered into the Managed Metadata field, type-ahead functionality offers Term suggestions along with Term Hierarchies to the user. Suggestions originate from the taxonomy and are presented in a flat list.
  • Hover Tooltip – Defined Term attributes are displayed to the user when the mouse hovers over one of the suggested items.

    Attributes displayed include:

    • Preferred Term – Identified as the Default Label, this is the preferred word or phrase that should be used for tagging (“Contract Management”).

    • Term Hierarchy – For Managed Terms, the word or phrase location within the hierarchy is also displayed as part of the Term presentation to provide additional insight for the user. Term properties, listed beneath the Member Of label, display all locations where the Term is in use. (“Topic: Administration”).

    • Description - A statement intended as a message to taggers that provides instructional text on how the Term should be used. (“Use this tag to identify official documents that are binding legal agreements enforceable in a court of law.”).

    • Synonyms - Identification of words, phrases or abbreviations with meaning the same or similar to the preferred term (“Contractual Agreement; Vendor Licensure”). Synonyms are displayed in the hover tooltip, but cannot be selected themselves for tagging. 

To the far right of the form field is a tags icon   that when selected, displays a popup window containing a hierarchically browsable list of terms that includes the functionality and attributes described above. Depending on the Term Set properties, users can then apply one or more Terms and metadata to an item.


Caveat: The ability to search a Term Set for specific words or phrases as part of the tagging interface is not present in SharePoint 2010. For large taxonomies containing hundreds or thousands or terms, it can easily become overwhelming and time consuming to browse through a potentially seven level hierarchy to locate the best Term (particularly if the user is unfamiliar with the structure and content of the Term Set itself).





Additionally, physical locations that exist within a hierarchy can be configured to automatically apply metadata to content, thus simplifying the user experience by helping to reduce the total number of selections required to be applied by publishers. An example might be to automatically tag all documents produced by a business unit with the name of that business unit. 

Users also have the ability to offer feedback to Taxonomy Managers on the terminology defined as part of a Term Set. To enable this functionality, the Contact section of the Term Set must be filled out with the e-mail address of the Term Set Manager.

The feedback function is displayed to end users after selection of the tags icon  brings up the full hierarchy in the popup window. At the top of the interface is a section that allows the user to make contact via email during the tagging process. Clicking on the Send Feedback link opens a new message in the user’s default email program, with the To field addressed to the email address defined and the Subject field containing the text “User Feedback for [Term Set Name] Term Set”. 

Coming up next we’ll take a look at the second approach to tagging content in SharePoint 2010 – Using Social Features for Personal Classification & Improved Findability 

Guest Author: Jeff Carr

Jeff Carr is an Information Architect and Search Consultant with Earley & Associates specializing in user centered information design. Working with SharePoint since 2003, he has been involved in the design, development and integration of web-based solutions from intranets and extranets to public facing websites for a variety of large enterprises across a wide range of industries.

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2 Responses to “SharePoint 2010 – Using Taxonomy & Controlled Vocabulary for Content Enrichment”
  1. Liz says:

    Hi Geoff,
    Great post. I have a need to centrally manage terms across multiple site collections, so the term store looks like the right solution for the job. Do you know if its possible to display tags in a drop list rather than as a tag field (with the popup window to see available options) for a simple 1-level term set (eg Business Unit)?

    My SP2010 pilot users are complaining about “too many clicks” to select somthing that used to be a simple choice list or controlled vocab. Also, for these simple lists users want to immediately select an item whithout the guesswork.

  2. Saji says:

    Great post, it will help my justification for managing our SharePoint content before they grow too large. Do you know if it is possible to integrate SharePoint with established industry-specific third-party solutions?

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