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Highlights from Taxonomy Boot Camp London 2018

It’s October, which means one thing: it’s time for Taxonomy Boot Camp London (TBCL18). In three short years, this event has established itself as the go-to conference for the knowledge management sector in Europe. As with all great events, Boot Camp brings together all the crucial elements for success. A mix of customers, consultants, influencers and vendors discuss and debate the topical stories key for the sector. Through talks, workshops, and keynotes we have an opportunity to both participate in the conversation and challenge our thinking.

As sponsors of the conference, it’s also another chance for the Synaptica teams in the UK and USA to come together face-to-face and listen to customers, partners, and thought-leader’s priorities. This year’s event was no exception. Helen Lippell and the team at Information Today organised an excellent platform, especially with the high-quality of the talks and topics. Following the event, we reflected on our individual takeaways from the conference: which dialogues stood out, and which themes got us thinking. Below is a short summary of our observations.

“AI…will not replace the need for human curated taxonomies or ontologies.

On the contrary, it is taxonomies and ontologies that will empower AI with the semantics and logic to improve search, categorization and perform machine reasoning”.

Dave Clarke Keynote Presentation Catching the Wave at TBCL18.

AI and Machine Learning

Dave My biggest takeaway from TBCL18 was the consistent opinions that AI and Machine Learning were not about to sweep away taxonomy, as I noted in my keynote Catching the Wave (link to presentation). The message is clear – it is taxonomy and ontology that will power AI with semantics and logic.

I noticed this was a theme picked up and discussed by Paul Rissen and Tom Reamy in both their keynotes. Additionally, Andreas Blumauer, our colleague from Pool Party said we as vendors were both on the same page about the impact of AI.

“Whilst ‘big data’ and ‘machine learning’ might be hogging the limelight at the moment, I think that the work of taxonomists and those who architect and develop structured data is quietly, gradually, revolutionising the kinds of things we do with computers and the internet”

Paul Rissen talks with TBCL18.

Change Management

Ahren Two themes stood out for me at this year’s Taxonomy Boot Camp London.

First, while artificial intelligence and machine learning are technologies which promise to disrupt the way we create, manage, search, and find meaning in information, they require well-formed and governed data. Taxonomies and ontologies, as foundational practices for managing and normalizing values, will be essential components in governing data which feed machine learning and artificial intelligence applications.

Second, change management is still core to the work we do. In the simple yet valuable triangle of people, process, and technology, the people are the most essential factor in setting up or making changes to processes and technologies. The work people do and the culture of the organization drive process flows and technology selections, not the other way around. Process and technology choices not driven by or lacking input from the people who use them will more often end in failure than not. No matter the role you play in this field — as practitioner, vendor, or consultant or as business or technology — people are foundational in creating change in the organization and making those changes successful.

Knowledge Management

Jim Taxonomy Boot Camp London is proving to be a great setting for the exchange of information about knowledge management and the tools to do it. In just it’s third year, I’m very impressed with the turnout and attendees joining from all over Europe and the globe. Presenters are keen to share not only their experiences, but also their insights on the latest technologies, AI and Machine Learning among them. I find that, while opinions may vary, one can always pick out key threads and capture important information about new ideas in the field and how to take KM projects to the next level.

Attendees range from those just starting their investigation into Knowledge and Information Management and the tools that can assist them, to those with full-blown projects in place who are looking for the latest services and technologies to streamline their processes. That mix makes for a great platform to share and learn from the vendor side, and keep us on our toes.

Storeytelling and Value

Vivs This was my second Boot Camp event. A major difference for me personally was the ability to connect face to face with the Synaptica contacts I have interviewed over the past 12 months as part of our Insights series. I made sure I listed to several of the talks including Yonah Levenson, HBO on the Control your Language and the Plenary Session chaired by Stephanie Lemieux on Being Special – how to be the only taxonomist in your organization. The highlight though was definitely Tom Reamy’s Keynote: Selling the Benefits of Taxonomy.

Tom explored the benefits of taxonomy and outlined some recommendations and challenges for all Taxonomists. His talk impressed me with the emphasis on telling stories and the power of storytelling to show the value of taxonomy and software tools. Focusing on stories can help solve the big challenge – how do you secure support and buy-in and advocates for your knowledge management strategy? This theme was heard throughout the conference, the more we as thought-leaders can do to solve this issue can only be a good thing.


As October reaches its end this means November is just around the corner. The Synaptica team are ready for KM World in Washington D.C. There is still time to take advantage of our VIP 30% discount (simply quote VIPSYN).  We hope we will see you there to hear your personal highlights and challenges.

Make sure you come and find us at Booth 201. We may be able to solve them.

Author Vivs Long-Ferguson

Marketing Manager at Synaptica LLC. Joined in 2017, leads on marketing, social media and executive operations.

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