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Siderean, a faceted classification company, has announced a patent for what it calls “relational navigation.”

Faceted classification lets a user browse a field in typical hierarchical fashion—like navigating through the nested folders on your desktop—except the hierarchy is created dynamically as the user decides which property matters to her now. So, instead of having a fixed taxonomy that first divides all books into fiction and non-fiction, and then subdivides them by language and then by year, with a faceted classification, a user might decide first to find all the works written in the 19th century, then drill down to the non-fiction, etc. It has taxonomy’s virtue of guiding navigation without its vice of having to present the user with one and only one path through the taxonomy.

Faceted classification and taxonomies both work by showing the user narrower and narrower results . That’s often what we want, but in this crazy world, we may also want to leap off the branch we’ve walked onto. Siderean’s relational nav shows context from branches outside of the path you’ve walked. Siderean refers to this as the ability to “pivot,” as in a database pivot.

Techniques that let us play with the dialectic between narrowing our focus and expanding it—searching and discovering—are all to the good. The faceted classification industry overall is up to important and exciting stuff. [Tags: ]

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