Archive of UserLand's first discussion group, started October 5, 1998.

Re: An RSS categorization proposal

Author:David A. Mundie
Posted:9/11/1999; 12:38:05 PM
Topic:rss channels via email
Msg #:10922 (In response to 10846)
Prev/Next:10921 / 10923

"Help me understand how this would work."

It would work like this. You would go out and acquire a copy of the one-volume abridged version of the DDC. You would spend half an hour reading the introduction, which explains the principles behind the DDC, and another ten minutes perusing the summaries of the schedules. You would flip to the index to find your first subject code, then read the instructions in the schedule for further refining and subdividing the code. Suddenly, you would feel as though a great weight had been lifted from your shoulders, as you realize that you will never again suffer the angst of the ad-hoc cataloger. Ethereal music will start playing in the background, and a chill will go down your spine as you hear the voice of Melvil's ghost whispering "You are not alone" in your ear and you almost feel the collective strength of a hundred thousand bygone catalogers bearing you up and carrying you bodily into the paradise of standardized classification.

At least, that's the way it was for me.

"A scenario. Suppose according to the DDS my channel should belong in the Mac Scripting category. But I also think it should be in the scripting category, since we run other other systems. If James feels it really belongs in Mac scripting, what happens?"

I'm not sure what you're asking here. The DDC provides explicit rules for generating univocal classification codes. If a given cataloger chooses to violate those rules, there is no Classification Police to haul her into court, but her customers are apt to be confused and will be less likely to find what they are looking for. If a given cataloger is uncertain about applying the DDC's rules, there are abundant resources to help: opening a book on the same subject and looking at the CIP information at the front usually settles the matter; otherwise, there is no dearth of DDC experts to consult.

"This raises a bunch of questions -- Does DDS know about scripting?"

It classifies them under system utilities, 005.43, or under 005.44 if they are for specific types of computers. It is always possible to extend the notation with subdivisions - as, "005.43 -Scripting". I personally do this routinely.

"Does it know about the Macintosh?"

The rule is to subdivide 005.44 according to the general type of computer system (mainframe, microprocessor, etc.), then alphabetically by the name of the platform, so it knows about the Mac in that sense.

"Does it tell James whether Frontier is a scripting system or a Macintosh scripting system?"

It is crucial to remember that DDC is a classification system for documents, not for objects in the real world. It will tell you where to place a document on Frontier, but has absolutely nothing to say about Frontier itself.

But if the question is whether it has guidelines for when a document belongs in a more-specific category, and when it should be moved up to a more-general category, the answer is yes: it is hard to see how one could hope to catalog millions of books successfully otherwise. An example of such a rule is the "Rule of Three", which says that if a document deals with more than three subjects that are all subdivisions of a broader subject, it should be classed in the first higher number that includes them all. For example, a history of Portugal (946.9), Sweden (948.5), and Greece (949.5) is classed with the history of Europe (940).

"I was a user of the DDS for quite a few years, but that was a long time ago. I never knew how it worked behind the scenes I was just a user. Inform us."

I am working on a Dewey Decimal Crib Sheet that might give you a sense of "how it works". I'll let you know when it's ready.

"Also if possible tell us a little about yourself."

I have no credentials in library science. I'm a computer scientist who happens to believe it's tragic that the library science community and the computer science community don't seem to talk to each other. My fervor for the DDC is based on purely pragmatic grounds; all I want is a quick, easy system that works, and after years of inventing my own ad-hoc schemes before finding DDC, I never ever want to go back. The story of my quest is contained in "How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the DDC", at

My home page is at the obvious truncation of that URL.

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