Friday, September 02, 2005

House of Lords debate taxonomy document

has a critique on library lingo from the House of Lords:

Lord Harris of Haringey asked Her Majesty's Government: Whether the time spent preparing the e-Government Unit's document Tomatoes are not the only fruit: A rough guide to taxonomies, thesauri, ontologies and the like, represents value for money.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, yes, the document was published in 2002 by the Office of the e-Envoy, at the request of technical users in government who were new to the subject. It was produced in-house at an estimated cost of less than £100.

Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that information. I ask him to congratulate the civil servants concerned on the diligence and speed with which they must have produced 12,000 words and four charts on the subject of Tomatoes are not the only fruit, containing such gems of information as: "How long has it been for many of us since the primary meaning of the word 'mouse' has been 'a small furry animal that frightens elephants?'," or the information that carrots can be either salad or root vegetables. That will no doubt come in very helpful in promoting e-government. Can we also congratulate the authors of the Guide to meta-tagging with the Integrated Public Sector Vocabulary, which gives another eight pages of valuable advice and information? It includes the information that the phrase "Common Agricultural Policy" may appear under the phrase "European Union" or under "Farming" but will mean the same under both. Given the diligence of the civil servants in the unit, can the Minister assure the House that the same energy and effectiveness is being applied to delivering information security throughout the public sector? ...

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I shall of course pass on my noble friend's congratulations. However, I have a sneaking suspicion that civil servants are as we speak listening carefully to his kind congratulations and warm words. ... The document, although it has attracted a certain levity, is I am sure most useful to those who work in government IT services.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, can the Minister not pass on congratulations to the civil servants on producing a document that is completely incomprehensible to a normal person and really does not make any sense at all? Why cannot they learn to write English?

Courtesy of cataloguer at work.

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