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Existing work on creating terminology & names?

by ozziegooen1 min read31st Jan 20206 comments



I'm in the process of coming up with terminology for various theories, similar to lots of other work on LessWrong and The EA Forum.

Naming things is a bit of a unilateralist action. While community members don't have to accept a specific naming proposal, they are likely to do so if they like the concept. I can't think of many cases where Eliezer or someone named a concept, and the community decided that that name was poor, and renamed it.

However, I can't find much theory on how to figure out great names for things, or even what to consider when doing so. I would have expected there to be comprehensive discussion around Information Architecture, UX Design, or the Library Sciences on this topic, but couldn't identify much outside of card sorting and a few lists of rough heuristics.

This was also an issue for me when I did more software engineering, and I was then also frustrated by the lack of discussion I could find. The best there was work on Software Patterns, which I used primarily for naming conventions.

Some related links I could find:
https://ux.stackexchange.com/questions/48578/naming-features-of-an-app-or-site https://www.martyneumeier.com/strong-vs-weak-names

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I've found the term/field of "Information Architecture" to be the most useful for finding things here. Books that I liked reading in this space: 

A bunch of the books in this space also include chapters on naming and clustering things. The O'Reilly book also included a chapter on naming schemes. 

Most of it is focused on names within ontologies though, not really on stand-alone names. 

4ozziegooen10moThanks! I've looked at (2) a bit and some other work on Information Architecture. I've found it interesting but kind of old-school, it seems to have been a big deal when web tree navigation was a big thing, and to have died down after. It also seems pretty applied; as in there isn't a lot of connection with academic theory in how one could think about these classifications.

Kind of famous programming quote (Martin Fowler credits Phil Karlton for it, but it's likely much older):

There are only two hard things in Computer Science: cache invalidation and naming things.

Really, naming is idea compression in hard mode. You need to find very short strings that encompass your current and future desire for this category. In a semi-adversarial environment where other people will misinterpret your meaning by taking it too literally or not literally enough.

Their clustering of ideas is slightly different than yours, so the label will "naturally" not align across any two people, and may really hit different clusters across some. It's going to take tens of thousands of words to debate which is the "true" meaning, and the original namer isn't really in control of what ideas win.

I very much recommend Habryka's and Petter's idea: don't start with naming. First think about idea organization and transmission. Some things you should probably NOT name, in order to avoid compression artifacts.

Just did a quick search for librarian curriculum and skimmed what came up:

Classification Made Simple: An Introduction to Knowledge Organisation and Information Retrieval

by Eric J. Hunter Published 2009 ISBN 9780754675587

Is something like this what you're looking for?

2ozziegooen10moIt looks interesting, but my search shall continue. Seems pretty short and not really on naming. I may order a copy though. Thanks!