Indexing/Taxonomies User Interface

1.     How does the opening screen introduce (or fail to introduce) the organizing system and search interface? For example, how easy or hard is it to find the displayed index terms as compared to the search box? Does your index have any 'hidden treasures', i.e., useful options in searching or browsing that are hard to find from the opening screen? Note that a well-organized opening screen won't necessarily give you direct access to all of the options the system offers -- you might have to click a few times to get to some of the options. But the opening screen should point you in the right direction.

Selecting the opening search screen (highlighted tab of a magnifying-glass at top right of the screenshot) leads you to a rather plain text page, in which all the displayed index terms, of the “advanced search” function, are accessed by clicking a heading (patterns, for instance, is highlighted via mouse-over in the screenshot).

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Most users of Ravelry will be at least familiar with search boxes as a convention of the web, but they will not have a sense for the powerful displayed index, and facetted browsing of Ravelry until after they have made their first search.

In the screenshot below, a few facets of the displayed index for “patterns” (which is accessed via the “advanced search” option) is shown:

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The difference between the opening page and the options available in the subsequent search page is quite large. These are dynamic, interactive tabs, rather than the static plain text of the hyperlinks on the opening page.

For the purposes of introduction, I think the opening screen sets the user up for success by not overwhelming them with numerous options at the outset: key top-level subject headings have been selected that will drive users to the appropriate facets for their search.

If, for instance, a user is interested in purchasing organic yarns, they can select the “yarns” tab of the advanced search on the opening page and limit the facets which appear to include only index terms which would apply to yarn documentary units. The screenshot below, in which the “sustainability” subheading of the “attributes” facet has been selected, shows such an index term:

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All of the top-level categories are clearly outlined in the opening page, and making these categories clear to the user at the outset is helpful to drive traffic appropriately. A user interested in purchasing or downloading a pattern for yarn they already have will not want to sort through the documentary units of yarn exclusively; they will want to limit their search to facets of patterns.

The “jump to a filter” feature is a hidden gem that has hidden gems within it, and it can only be accessed on the advanced search page itself, at the top left, above all other facets:

Unselected, but highlighted below:

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Selected, with an option under the “additional filters - not available on the sidebar” highlighted:

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These “additional filters” are hidden facets that are not visible to the user until selected. They appear as pop-up windows when selected:

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The “designer within” facet, above, would be helpful for users who are seeking to work with designers in their area, allowing them to filter results only to those who are “within x miles” of their location. This could help users identify local farmers, for instance, who sell yarn they make locally; purchasing directly from farms is a common practice among fiber enthusiasts, so this feature being so hidden was quite surprising to me.

However, the overall experience is planned well. The user is not overwhelmed by a flood of facets at the outset of their search. I think the limited selection of top level categories to drive user traffic to their main area of interest first is wise. It reduces the possibility that a user will give up from confusion before they begin.

2.     What kind of search options does the system offer? For example, can you search the displayed index, full text and/or the website? If there an advanced search, what kind of options does the system offer for broadening and/or limiting the search? What kind of search syntax must the user use? Does the system provide help or examples of how to use the search system?

The system offers both what appears to be full text search, and search of the displayed index via facetted browsing. The search bar, when terms are placed in directly, appears to search all documentary units uploaded to the site for the terms. It is unclear if there are automatic operators (AND or OR) at work, though they are likely given that Ravelry is powered by Ruby on Rails, and Boolean operators are preferred methods of automatic full-text search.

The “advanced search” option is the displayed, facetted index. Searches can be broadened or limited by selecting or de-selecting the index terms within these facets. Below, for instance, the search has been limited to “coats” (check-marked in the top, left, and highlighted in green) in the “category” facet, under the top level heading of “patterns”:

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Users searching via the search box alone are not made aware of the controlled vocabulary at the time of their search, but once a result is displayed, the facets appear as a means to help direct further refinement of their initial full-text search.

The only “help” with regard to the system I was able to find is an old Vimeo file that appears in the “help” menu from the bottom of the screen:

“Help” tab, 4th from left:

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Because Ravelry’s audience is expected to have at least novice familiarity with the controlled vocabulary terms at the outset, as they are fiber enthusiasts, I do not think it is unreasonable of them to allow the facets to act as teaching tools of the system itself. Presumably, a fiber hobbyist or professional would see the facets upon making their first search and “learn” to browse with them or incorporate the terms into their full text searches by virtue of their display. Further, many of the terms in the controlled vocabulary would likely be part of their initial searches because they are terms common to fiber art processes.

3.     How are the search results displayed? Does the system give you options for controlling the display of the results (e.g., level of detail in the record; arrangement by date, relevance, ...)? Do the results provide links to related documents, e.g., by clicking on broader, narrower or related index terms or by some other device?

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There are multiple levels of detail that can be chosen for search result display, as well as additional options for sorting by arrangement. These options appear side by side next to the search bar:

The sorting options are as seen below:          

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While the detail level options are:

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The sorting options, such as sorting by “name” or “publication date” are fairly self-explanatory, while the “best match” and “most popular” are somewhat less obvious. In the course of my research, I am still unclear as to what metrics contribute to the “best match” or “most popular” options; much as users of Google do not have full visibility into the Popularity ranking algorithm that drives their automatic search.

The level of record display, however, is a much clearer feature and has a few perks worth pointing out:

Below, the “List with Images” record display property has been selected:

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List with images is the most detailed record display, and includes numerous facets that might drive user selection. The primary details in this display that I wish to highlight are the “free” tab next to the documentary unit’s title (in this case, the first entry, in a highlighted red box), and the stitch conversions, which are present in some units (in this case, the first entry, “36 stitches = 4 inches”) and not on others.

The “free” tab is a fairly quick way to sort results that you want to access or not; if you are a user who is not seeking to spend money, you would only select the units that featured this tab.

The stitch conversions, the distance each stitch is per inch or millimeter, is a way to sort by your available yarn or your desired speed. A project that requires less stiches per inch/mm will be a quicker project, so if you want to do something fast, you would select documentary units that had less stiches per inch. By contrast, if you had very fine yarn on hand and wanted to do something delicate, you would seek documentary units with a larger stitch count per inch/mm.

Controlling this display thus supports advanced and less advanced users; the more advanced can filter with more detail, and those who are more interested in browsing can reduce the display accordingly.

4.     Discuss the ways that the system provides for the user to interact with the index or search interface, e.g., arranging index terms in different ways, searching or browsing index terms, graphical displays, faceted searching...).

Interaction is built on facetted searching, and the facets are organized, roughly, by their ability to reduce the documentary units displayed. For example, under the top-level category of “patterns,” the facets are organized top-to-bottom with the following: craft, category, availability, has photo, attributes, gender/age/size/fit, weight, yardage, colors used, source type. Note these are not all the facets, but the primary facets as they are the first to appear to the user on the left-hand side of their screen, and thus will likely be used first to filter the results:

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These facets appear first because they are the facets with the most ability to limit search results; they have the most documentary units tagged underneath them.

All the search results on Ravelry support this facetted browsing or refinement after a full-text search.

Selecting any index term of a facet will dynamically update the search results, meaning that users can “play” with the terms and see what effect their selections have in real time, without refreshing the page each time. This is a similar experience to zooming in and out of Google maps; each refining element of the search occurs without the entire search needing to be re-submitted. This dynamic user experience is particularly helpful for users who are browsing, because it keeps them engaged as they refine their search. Users with specific search goals are also well served because they can see if their index term selection is producing a more or less refined search each time, with the amount of search results displayed shrinking or growing as they select.

For instance, selecting “knitting” and “free” results in 2048 pages of results, while my selection of “knitting,” “free,” and “coat/jacket” index terms refined my search to only 45 pages, and adding “corrugated ribbing” resulted in 1 page, of 5 results. This interaction was very satisfying, because I was able to refine my search quickly to produce highly relevant results, and I did not have to resubmit a form at any point.

5.     How hard or easy is the website to navigate? Does the design help keep the user oriented or does it have features that make it easy for them to get lost?

There are 39 facets to select within, with an estimated number of index terms of 700, and these facets display along the left side of the search results in a descending order. On my 13 in. computer screen, it requires a fair amount of scrolling to access all the facets (referred to as “filters” by Ravelry) and even with the “Jump to Filter” option discussed in question (1), it can feel quite overwhelming to sort through all the facets and select those that would lead me to my desired result.

Scrolling, in this case, is troublesome because it creates a situation where a user can get lost during a search. For instance, if I am looking for a pattern that is free, and can accommodate a needle size of 7, I have to scroll beyond the displayed search results to go from the “availability” facet to the “needle size” facet. If, during my scrolling, I pass the facet I want to access, I may find the experience rather frustrating; I may have to search for the facet itself, rather than using it to search for the thing I actually want.

That said, the display of the search results are clear to navigate, and easy to clear if they limit my search too far. From my example above, the following appears:

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Note that I have a very clear understanding of how I arrived at these results from the green, highlighted index terms (above the images). I can clear any of these terms by selecting “clear” and I do not have to refresh or restart my search to do so.

Aside from the extended scrolling, the website is structured very clearly; there are no superfluous features or design elements. Although this does not create a great deal of visual excitement, it maintains user interest by providing easily navigable results.

6.     To what extent is help for classification, the search interface and navigation available? What impact does this have on the user of the information system?

As discussed in question (2), the “help” for using the search interface and navigation is limited to a short video tutorial. Any additional questions must be shared by a user on the forums.

However, help with regard to navigation of the documentary units themselves, and some of the classification features are provided by a guided tutorial. Access to this tutorial is prompted at sign-up and first login, as well as via the “help” tab and the “guided tips.”

Shown below, and highlighted in green, is the guide link for documentary units, patterns and projects:

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Upon clicking the hyperlink above, the user will access a guided tutorial, the first screen of which appears as below, with the instructions in the yellow box titled “welcome!”:

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This guided tutorial is helpful for users to understand each aspect of a documentary unit, in this case, a pattern or project, and a similar tutorial would be helpful for the search interface.

Although facetted browsing is a common feature of e-commerce websites, Ravelry would likely see less frustration with search attempts on the forums if such a tutorial was offered.

7.     Assess the design of the web site in terms of its usability and maintainability. Be sure to consider the features the system could have as well as those it does have. How does or does not the UI represent priorities of the organization? Consider in particular whether the UI is intended to help people find information or purchase products. 

Ravelry sits at an interesting intersection of information and e-commerce. The “products” Ravelry sells, and the revenue it generates, are built on the sales of both physical goods (yarns, needles) and non-physical goods (text files and pdfs that contain instruction and information to create products). Thus, Ravelry is intended, in large part, to help people find information that they will purchase as a product.

As the UI is intended to prioritize sale and/or ad exposure, the search system is designed to be one of the least visually interesting, but easily navigable elements of the website. Users are intended to access the search features on their way to a purchase; the search is not an end in-and-of-itself, it is simply the means by which they access the products they purchase, and purchasing more than one product is preferable. An academic journal database, by contrast, would want to support user access to specific documents with high relevance; a search result of one, specific result may be desirable. In Ravelry’s case, more results are preferable in most cases.

For instance, the facets of the index are organized with “craft” and “category” first. Ravelry places these facets at the top because they are the primary limiters of search results, and will produce relevant results quickly. Users can reduce their available search results from 848,420 to 422 by selecting “craft: knitting” and “category: leggings” and no other index terms from other facets. As a result, some of the later facets become almost superfluous, only available for extremely specific use cases, as users can find a very manageable amount of results with very few index terms.

Further, the focus placed on images within the search results signals that users are intended to access visually stimulating products, and not be distracted by any visual elements of the search itself.

Consider the results from my “craft: knitting” and “category: leggings” search:

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The most engaging feature of these results is the picture of the product; thus, it is the element that takes up the most visual space. This is the element that will drive most user traffic once facets have been selected, so it is the element that is prioritized by the design.

As a result, Ravelry’s design creates usability by focusing on maintainability. There index terms are limited by a large, but controlled vocabulary system, which allows them to have many products available across every facet, and support search results that rarely hit zero, because users access documents of some degree of relevance before limiting their search that far. Further, by limiting the design – not employing tricky or uncommon JavaScript elements, for instance – they guarantee that the site will be equally accessible across different browsers, and devices. The images will be the primary focus of any user’s experience. Thus, any updates made to the index can focus on improving search result speed. Depth of Indexing

1.     Select and Cite an Exemplar Indexing (Documentary) Unit
Identify all top index terms associated with this documentary unit in your database (to the extent possible or practical).  

West, S. (2014, October 13). Exploration Station pattern. Retrieved March 25, 2019, from

All top index terms associated with the above documentary unit:

brioche-tuck, female, halfcircle-shape, male, one-piece, seamless, short-rows, stripes-colorwork, top-down, unisex, worked-flat, written-pattern

2.     Exhaustivity 

How large is the indexing vocabulary of the index, i.e., the number of unique terms in the vocabulary? Explain how you figured this out. If you had to guess, explain the reasoning behind your guesses.

The number of unique terms is approximately 692 (+/- 30-40 terms). I calculated this by counting each facets’ displayed index terms (a selection of some shown in Figure 1). The (+/-) is given to account for any duplicate terms across facets that I did not account for in my category by category count. The possibility of duplicate terms is particularly possible in hook and needle sizing across knitting and crochet, as there is overlap of numeration (ie. 3 mm hook and 3 mm needle).

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Figure 1

On average, about how many terms are assigned to each documentary unit? Explain how you figured this out. If you had to guess, explain the reasoning behind your guesses.

The average terms assigned to each unit are approximately 10. I arrived at this estimation by averaging 10 documentary units’ terms. The selection had a relatively average distribution (12, 4. 13, 9, 16, 10, 7, 7, 14, 8) which signaled to me that they were representative of a likely curve to most other documentary units. I also selected the top 10 “most popular” with no other facets selected, as I felt that many users would follow the tagging processes of popular user posts in an effort to match their success.

Does the number of index terms assigned to documentary units constitute high or low exhaustivity and explain the rationale for your judgment.

Number of documentary units: 842,000 (as of 1:30, March 25, 2019)

Estimated number of terms assigned per documentary unit: 10

Estimate of total number of indexing terms assigned per document: 8,420,000

In my evaluation, I consider this to be highly exhaustive, and a likely by-product of the manual indexing by users when uploading each documentary unit. In order to maximize their “reach” (the possibility that another user will see the documentary unit of another), many users will apply as many tags as possible: “irrelevant” tags to maximize exposure are common on social media sites, and Ravelry is likely to experience this as well. However, the highly exhaustive nature does ensure that users using the index to browse will be able to find highly relevant results as well. Due to the limited number of unique terms and the highly controlled vocabulary, the relevance is increased even further.

3.     Thematic Specificity 
Discuss the thematic specificity of the index. Provide some illustrative examples of index terms that are typical in their thematic specificity. I recommend that you review the definition of thematic specificity from the class lecture before you answer this question.

I will use the documentary unit from (question 1) in this discussion:

West, S. (2014, October 13). Exploration Station pattern. Retrieved March 25, 2019, from

All top index terms associated with the above documentary unit:

brioche-tuck, female, halfcircle-shape, male, one-piece, seamless, short-rows, stripes-colorwork, top-down, unisex, worked-flat, written-pattern

Figure 2 shows the documentary unit overview including terms:

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( Figure 2 )

Thematic specificity refers to “closeness of fit” to main themes and sub-themes, with high specificity referring to terms that illustrate numerous details rather than only main ideas, and low the opposing situation.

In the case of the selected documentary unit in this example, the thematic specificity is relatively high. I will explain this in light of a few groupings of index terms:

Group 1: user: female, male, unisex

Group 2: technique: brioche-tuck, halfcircle-shape, one-piece, seamless, short-rows, stripes-colorwork, top-down, worked-flat

Group 3: execution type: written-pattern

As Ravelry’s controlled vocabulary does not have terms that address “Style” of documentary units, the specificity of the units will be evaluated for how well they illustrate the main and sub-themes of construction. The primary purpose of Ravelry is to connect users to documentary units they can use to “make things:” so the construction themes are the primary concern of the index.

In the case of my second grouping (Group 2: technique), the construction process of the documentary unit is described with depth. The terms that address the main themes of construction are: halfcircle-shape, and one-piece. With only these two terms, the documentary unit would be tagged with enough information to be retrieved by a user with some relevance to them. However, the terms which describe the construction sub-themes: brioche-tuck, seamless, short-rows, stripes-colorwork, top-down, and worked flat, illustrate a more detailed (and more specific) concern for construction. Rather than being worked “in the round” (on circular needles), this unit is worked flat. So a user seeking something with the construction sub-theme of “in-the-round” for their circular needles would not have to access this irrelevant documentary unit. The same can be said of each other sub-theme term.

4.     Critique 
Assess the appropriateness of the depth of indexing in terms of the type of documents being indexed, the information needs of the intended audience and maintainability the index. Maintainability includes both building the index and keeping it up to date. 

High exhaustivity is best coupled with high thematic specificity: due to the numerous terms assigned, the index is best used when the large number of terms acts to produce highly thematically relevant results. 

The users of are seeking documentary units that they will make or use in some manner for their own creative process in fiber art, thus thematically relevant results are highly valued by them. Due to the nature of Ravelry as a social media site, as well as commercial retailer, the company is also best served by high exhaustivity: this will often result in users accessing results that are more relevant to them, and where it does not, it will put more results in front of the user that they may still consult or buy.

Additionally, the high exhaustivity allows users more choice when assigning terms to their documentary units during the upload process. This increased choice results in users who feel more empowered and able to contribute to the index, which encourages them to assist in maintaining the index. Many users update their index terms after feedback from other users who suggest additional more relevant or encourage less irrelevant terms, which is an excellent example how the highly exhaustive approach can actually increase maintainability in a social media setting.

As the documentary units are primarily commercial or social vehicles for users, I find the depth of indexing appropriate. Users of Ravelry are artists or hobbyists with specific creative goals, so an index with high thematic specificity will serve them better than one without; and any of the disadvantages of high exhaustively are outweighed by the advantages of allowing users to use the index terms to further their social interaction. Vocabulary Management

1.     Does or does not your index have a controlled vocabulary? How can you tell?

Yes, Ravelry has a controlled vocabulary. Ravelry’s controlled vocabulary works in combination with a folksonomy system. Note in Figure A: The “tags” of the folksonomy describe the thematic elements of “style” or “design,” such as leaves, garden, or summer, while the taxonomy and controlled vocabulary describe the properties of construction (needle size, yarn weight, etc.). By combining the ability to search by “tag” and the ability to browse by facet, Ravelry is able to create a system for users to find documentary units effectively. They are able to search by their design-specific keywords and community-related tags, and they are able to browse detailed construction specifications of the displayed index terms.

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( Figure A )

Please note forthcoming references to embedded image, Figure 1 (which can be accessed by registered users at ), to illustrate the controlled vocabulary aspect further:

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( Figure 1 )

The Weight category has been selected to show the controlled vocabulary: yarn weight must be specified as one of these 12 terms. The terms are standard to commercial yarns, and used by professional and hobbyist fiber artists to distinguish the relative gauge of a fiber. The terms in parentheticals refer to “wpi” which is an additional technical term referring to “wraps per inch.” This term is especially helpful for spinners (those who turn fiber into yarn) as it helps delineate what term is applicable to the yarn they intend to sell. Users who are purchasing 14 wpi yarn will commonly refer to it as the commercial term “fingering weight,” but a spinner will classify their yarns by the more detailed specifications of wpi, so it is important to distinguish the ranges for both purchasers and producers – both of whom can be users of Ravelry.

This same structure is applied to each category. However, there is also a “field” for “notes,” where un-controlled vocabulary can be used. This coincides with the social tagging that users can use beyond the required controlled vocabulary of the index.

2.     If your index has a controlled vocabulary:

a.     What systems, if any, are used to manage the vocabulary? Sometimes you may need to deduce the presence or absence of a system for vocabulary control.

The systems used to control vocabulary are the drop-down menus with headings/subheadings to be selected. Figure 1 shows management via one dropdown. Figure 2 (accessible at to registered users) shows how a multi-tier dropdown is structured to address a heading and subheading at once:

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( Figure 2 )

The side dropdown (corrugated ribbing, etc.) are the subheadings of the “colorwork” heading, which appears on the left as a folder.

b.     If the index makes use of an authority file, thesaurus or standard set of subject headings, describe the system. Is it publicly available and if so, where? What kind of information does it contain? Who is responsible for maintaining it? Sometimes, especially in a back of the book index, the index itself serves as the authority file.

The index has a standard set of subject headings. The headings are structured hierarchically by parent categories; Figure’s 1 and 2 show some of these. These relationships of displayed index terms can be seen by users both when uploading and when browsing; it is the existence of this system that allows users to browse the collection. Figure’s 3 and 4 show the public availability to both users who produce the documentary units and users who access them or purchase them, and demonstrate the is:a relationship structure of headings and subheadings within the vocabulary (ie. A cardigan is a sweater, a sweater is clothing):

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(Figure 3 - Producer view)

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( Figure 4 – Purchaser view )

The Ravelry team, a 6 person collective whose biographies can be accessed here by registered users: , maintain the subject headings.

c.     Provide examples or evidence from the index or elsewhere (e.g., documentation)  to demonstrate that your index does or does not have a controlled vocabulary.

Please refer to Figure’s 1-6 for evidence of the controlled vocabulary.

d.     What are the characteristics of the users to whom the language of the index terms is most likely to be useful? Support your answer with example index terms and relate them to user needs.

Ravelry’s vocabulary is best suited to an intermediate or experienced fiber artist. As I discussed in User Information Needs and Types of Entities, “The users are all also at minimum familiar with some technical terms (such as knit, purl, cast on, knit together, etc.) as they are required to make maximum use of the platform, but novice knitters will find documentary units that are accessible to them as well.” Although the website supports novice knitters by offering access to forums and groups to assist them in navigating the collection, and many documentary units are accessible and usable to a novice once found, the index and controlled vocabulary are designed for optimal use by those who understand the terminology.

Figure 5 (below) is an excellent example of users requiring intermediate to experienced knowledge:

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( Figure 5 )

Construction’s subheadings (bias, bottom up, etc.) are highly specific terms that describe particular strategies of form in knitting and crochet projects. A novice user would likely not find “entrelac” a useful term, because it is a construction technique they are unlikely to be familiar with, nor would they find the resources particularly accessible once selected, as entrelac is a textural knitting technique with relatively complex architecture.

The controlled vocabulary of Ravelry not only requires relatively high knowledge of specialized terminology, but benefits users for whom access to documentary units of a relatively complex nature is a goal.

e.     Is vocabulary assistance (scope notes, equivalence, homographic or relational) provided?  If so, describe and illustrate with examples.

Vocabulary assistance is provided to some terms. As seen in Figure 6, below, the term “bobble” is shown with equivalences “popcorn” and “nupp.”

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( Figure 6 )

Similar vocabulary assistance in the form of equivalence is offered for “chevron” and “flame stitch,” among others. The structure appears, in my opinion, to be that the lead term is the preferred term and each subsequent “ / ” is an equivalent term.

Vocabulary assistance beyond this is not offered formally, though users are encouraged to seek out the assistance of other users via the forums: and due to the large daily active user rate, this is a relatively effective form of addressing confusion around the controlled vocabulary.

3.     To the extent that vocabulary assistance is unavailable or limited, provide some examples of what kinds of assistance could have been used.

Scope notes would be helpful, particularly to address the gap between novice users and intermediate or experienced users. The introduction of scope notes for each term would eliminate a large number of redundant posts on the help forums, freeing up user and moderator time to address more complex or novel questions, and it could be combined with language equivalences to help non-English users better navigate the index as well. Currently, Ravelry assumes a certain level of knowledge of its users; by eliminating this assumption, the vocabulary becomes more meaningful and the index more helpful.

4.     If there are cross-references, give some examples. Are there a lot of cross-references or a few? Are cross-references used only for certain types of entities?

As equivalences are lumped together as one subheading by the “ / ” convention in Figure 6, cross-references are not used.

5.     Comment on the impact of the systems for vocabulary control and for vocabulary assistance (or their absence) on the maintainability and usability of the index. If your index has very little or no vocabulary control, discuss about the kinds of vocabulary control the index could have had and on the impact vocabulary control would have had on the index vis a vis usability and maintainability.

Despite limited vocabulary assistance, Ravelry’s vocabulary control, with highly limited and highly specific heading/subheading structure, allows for effective maintainability and usability. By requiring users who upload documentary units to classify them within a limited number of predetermined headings and subheadings, the collection remains manageably hierarchically structured. Additionally, the index remains highly usable, because there are consistent, is:a, relationships between all headings and subheadings and because the documentary units are products of a specialized practice, users are – with rare exception – able to classify them quite easily within the confines of this specialized language.

As discussed in (3), scope notes could be helpful to address the specialized nature of the terms; although assigning scope notes to all terms would be considerably time-consuming for a small team of 6, the resulting reduction of user queries would likely outweigh the time consumption in the long term. Additionally, scope notes would reduce confusion where a term is not easily translated into non-English languages, and make the index more navigable for those accessing it in a different language. Thus, the scope notes would make the index more usable. I would argue that the scope notes would also not require a tremendous amount of upkeep -  low maintainability cost -  because knitting and crochet are very established practices with terminology that has endured through time with relatively little change compared to a more recent or ambiguous field. Examining Classification and Categorization

1.     Does your displayed index have subheadings? About how many levels of subheadings (depth) does a typical heading have? What's the deepest number of levels of subheadings you can find? Give examples.

Yes; the displayed index has subheadings. The typical subheading depth is 1 level, but 2 level depth is common as well; the deepest are 3 levels.

Example 1 level subheadings:

      Heading: Fiber

                  Subheading: Acrylic

                  Subheading: Alpaca

                  Subheading: Angora

                  Subheading Bamboo…


      Heading: Weight

                  Subheading: Thread

                  Subheading: Cobweb

                  Subheading: Lace…


Example 2 level subheadings:

      Heading: Attributes

                  Subheading: Construction

                                          Subheading II: Intarsia

                                          Subheading II: corrugated ribbing

                                          Subheading II: mosaic…

Heading: Needle Size

                  Subheading: Small Needles

                                          Subheading II: US 000 – 1.5 mm

                                          Subheading II: US 4/0 – 1.25 mm

                                          Subheading II: US 5/0 – 1.0 mm


Example 3 level subheading:

      Heading: Category

                  Subheading: Clothing

                                          Subheading II: Sweater

                                                                  Subheading III: Cardigan

                                                                  Subheading III: Pullover…

                                          Subheading II: Tops

                                                                  Subheading III: Sleeveless

                                                                  Subheading III: Strapless

                                                                  Subheading III: Tee…

2.     Does your index has a restricted set of top level categories intended to convey the subject scope (i.e., the top level categories encompass all subcategories in the classification scheme and all documents that might be added to the collection)? Explain by giving examples of the top level categories and some subheadings.

Yes, there are a restricted set of top level categories that shape the scope of the collection.

Example 1: This top level category encompasses all subcategories of pattern classification, and limits the collection to include documentary units with pattern information.

Top Level Category: Patterns

            Heading: Craft

                                    Subheading: Crochet

                                    Subheading: Knitting

                                    Subheading: Machine Knitting

                                    Subheading: Loom Knitting

Example 2: This top level category encompasses all subcategories of project classification, and limits the collection to include documentary units with project information.

Top Level Category: Projects

            Heading: Pattern Category

                        Subheading: Clothing

                        Subheading: Accessories

                        Subheading: Home

                        Subheading: Toy / Hobbies

                        Subheading: Pet

                        Subheading: Components

3.     Are there consistent semantically meaningful relationships or associative relationships between headings and immediate subheadings in your index? If so, what types of relationships hold between headings and subheadings? Are the relationships between headings and subheading clear and consistent or is it hard for the user to intuit these relations. Give positive or negative examples.

Overall, there are consistent semantically meaningful relationships. This is likely the result of the programming language used to design the taxonomy, which requires consistent semantic relationships to allow for meaningful computation. However, there are instances where some associative relationships have developed.

Example 1: Semantically consistent:

            Heading: Craft

                                    Subheading: Crochet

                                    Subheading: Knitting

                                    Subheading: Machine Knitting

                                    Subheading: Loom Knitting

Each of the subheadings have an is:a relationship: Crochet is a craft, Knitting is a craft, and so on.

The is:a relationship is the one which founds all relationships on, and it is a consistent and common association which allows users to easily intuit the relationship across headings.

However, there are still some associative relationships within this structure. Consider:

Example 2: Associative relations:

      Heading: Category

                  Subheading: Clothing

                                          Subheading II: Shrug / Bolero

                                          Subheading II: Sweater

                                                                  Subheading III: Cardigan

                                                                  Subheading III: Other

                                          Subheading II: Tops

                                          Subheading II: Other

The bolded elements are those which the subheading breaks the is:a relationship; the italicized element is one that breaks a subheading relationship depending on your understanding of the term.

“Other” is not a sweater, though a sweater is a type of clothing. Similarly, “Other” is not a top, though a top is a type of clothing. This subheading is not particularly damaging to user navigation because the overwhelming majority of subheadings are clear and consistent and the documentary units in each category are small, however; it is worth noting that any “misc.” category such as “Other” usually indicates a need for additional, clearer subheadings.

In the case of “Shrug/Bolero,” it is somewhat disruptive to the parent/child relationship for the “Shrug/Bolero” to be a parent with no children, while “Sweater” is the parent to comparable items such as “Cardigan.” I would argue that colloquially speaking, most English users would associate a shrug to sweaters as they do a cardigan. This too, however, is relatively undisruptive because the is:a relationship is not broken between shrug/bolero and the subheading “clothing.” A shrug is a type of clothing, so users can still easily navigate to it with relative ease.

4.     Are 'sister' categories (ones that share the same parent/heading) complete, distinctive and mutually exclusive? Give positive or negative examples.

As discussed in question 3, there are some sister categories that share a parent and include “other” as a subheading:

Heading: Category

                  Subheading: Clothing

Subheading II: Sweater

                                                                  Subheading III: Cardigan

                                                                  Subheading III: Other


With regard to completeness, categories which include “other” are likely incomplete, as they do not address a specific term with which to identify the documentary units inside.

There are, however, numerous sister categories that are complete/distinctive/mutually exclusive:

            Heading: Needle Size

                        Subheading: US 00 – 1.75 mm

                        Subheading: US 0 – 2.0 mm…

Needle Size is an excellent example, as each subheading is a distinct, mutually exclusive size (a US 00 needle cannot ever be a US 0 needle), and the collection of subheadings contains all manufactured sizes of needles available to users. “Completeness” could be argued should any new sizes be introduced, but for the purposes of the collection, the size range is complete.

5.     To what extent is alphabetization used to help users browse displayed indexes?

With rare exception, all subheadings to a heading are alphabetized. In the case of “Has Photo,” the subheading “Yes” appears before “No,” but the size of this tree (only 2 subheadings) is not any less navigable as a result of this.

6.     If your index uses faceted classification, what facets does it use and how are they ordered?  Are the facets distinct and complete? Provide examples of facets.

Although is not entirely faceted classification, it does use facets for its heading structures within top level categories. In the case of Patterns (a top level category); the facets are:

Craft, Category, Availability, Has Photo, Attributes, Gender/Age/Size/Fit, Weight, Yardage, Meterage, Colors Used, Source Type, Hook size, Fiber, Needle Size, Rating, and Language.

As facets of Patterns, they are distinct and complete. All patterns will address these facets; a pattern that does not include hook or needle size is effectively not a pattern. Some facets are more important than others to locate a documentary unit of interest, and not all facets must be addressed to access a documentary unit.

Consider, the Craft and Category facets are ordered first. The Craft facet addresses what kind of pattern the user would like to use (knit, or crochet) and the Category facet addresses what kind of product the user would like to produce (clothing, toys, etc.). These are the predominant determining factors to a users’ pattern selection, so it is reasonable to order them first.

7.     If your index has neither top level categories nor faceted classification, explain how the index terms are displayed/arranged. For example, an index might have a combination of a traditional classification schema plus a set of filters (facets) for characteristics of all or specific subsets of resources. This is particularly common in taxonomies.

Although I have presented examples of top level categories and facets, ultimately displays and arranges index terms using a combination of traditional classification strategies and facetted classification; it is a great example of a blended taxonomic classification.

As discussed in question 6, the facets of each top level category are displayed in order of relevance to the user. In the case of Ravelry, “relevance” can be defined as the facets that most quickly filter a top level category. By organizing facets by their “strength” to filter results, the scheme allows users to browse at high speeds. The intended users of are customers, so the classification scheme is optimized to allow the user to refine the documentary units displayed to them very quickly: they can arrive at a unit of interest and make a purchase (or encounter an ad along the way and make a purchase at an affiliated site).

8.     What impact does the classification system (or lack thereof) have on the usability and maintainability of the index? For example, assess your index's classification schema with respect to predictability and collocation. If there are no top level categories or few subheadings, what is the effect of the absence top level categories or of subheadings on the index usability and maintainability? What kinds of top level categories or subheadings or facets could be usefully added? Feel free to discuss any other aspects of the classification of your index relevant to this assignment.

Similar to the usability and maintainability concerns I addressed in Scope, the entities involved in indexing are usually established products: clothing, accessories, or soft furnishings. There may be ambiguity in some entries, but most documentary units will be straightforward to identify.  As a result, the blended structure of top level categories and facets with headings/subheadings is efficient at allowing users to use the collection. They are able to filter quickly, and arrive at documentary units of interests with relative ease because their primary concerns (the facets) are addressed in order of importance.

Additionally, the classification system has established facets to use. If the facets were more ambiguous, the index would be less usable and maintainable – it might very quickly contain facets beyond what would support a successful browsing experience. However, knitting and crochet have very established facets (such as products created or techniques used) and this limits the facets to a navigable degree.

Where there are “Other” subheadings, I think there is some room for additional research to increase usability. If I want to access a “tube-top pattern” (of which there are numerous documentary units), it would be reasonable to establish this as a subheading to “tops” rather than lumping into “other.” Overall, however, I believe has a very consistent and navigable classification structure for its intended users, and will be able to maintain the index well with the structure they are using. Examining Collection Scope and Domain

Indexing (documentary) units:

Documentary Unit: Free downloadable pattern with CC0/Public Domain designation

Young, C. (2010, September 18). Rainbow Ripple Baby Blanket pattern. Retrieved February 8, 2019, from

Documentary Unit: User Project Post

DayanaKnits. (2010, November 15). DayanaKnits' Fabulous Freija. Retrieved February 8, 2019, from

Documentary Unit: Trademarked, downloadable 4.60 Euro pattern

Behm, M. (2010, November 15). Hitchhiker pattern. Retrieved February 8, 2019, from                     

Collection (documentary) scope:

o   Creators and their characteristics:

Creators share a registration to, experience with knitting, crocheting, or both, experience with following or creating a pattern, and access to knit and crochet tools/implements. Creators of the documents may also share traits such as: patience, attention to detail, knowledge of knitting technical terminology, knowledge of crochet technical terminology, knowledge of knit/crochet construction techniques, and basic web navigation skills.

o   Medium:

Display medium of documentary units include: patterns and pattern project images (.pdf, .jpeg encodings) displayed on web browsers, paper – if patterns are printed out from the web browser or hard disk after download, server – all units are hosted in the cloud by Ravelry, and yarn – as patterns and projects made are encoded as physical objects upon completion.

o   Periodicity:

Documentary units are uploaded regularly, and may also be updated periodically or regularly depending on the creator of the unit. For instance, User A may upload patterns every 4 months, and post updates to each pattern every 3 months, while User B may upload and update daily. Some units may never be updated, however.

o   Time of publication and/or creation:

This criteria is varies across each documentary unit – but there is no unit in the collection that precedes the time of publication of May 2007, which is the launch date of Ravelry as a website.

o   Place of publication and/or creation:

As with time of publication, this varies across each documentary unit – as the documents can be uploaded from any server with Internet access – but the place of publication for each unit will include (but not be limited to)

o   Copyright status of the documentary units (are most of the documents in copyright? if yes, who holds the copyright?)

The default copyright of each unit is as follows according to Ravelry’s copyright notice: “All Rights Reserved. All Content Copyright and other rights reserved by its Respective Owners. No Content May Be Duplicated Without Express Written Consent.” However, many users waive this right in place of Creative Commons licensing, and/or CC0/Public Domain listing for their documentary units.

o   Level (audience):

Documentary units are intended for the audience; this audience shares characteristics with the creators of the documents: a registration to, experience with knitting, crocheting, or both, experience with following or creating a pattern, and access to knit and crochet tools/implements. The level of “skill” required of each audience member to interpret the unit varies from unit to unit.

o   Form/genre/style/domain:

“Form” is the most applicable of these scope criteria, as each documentary unit is linked, or could be linked, to a pattern: the “blueprint” to a knit or crochet project.

o   Language:

Documentary units will be in knit or crochet technical terminology; Ravelry lists the following languages as linked to documentary units as well: English, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Icelandic, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Afrikaans, Arabic, Catalan, Chinese, Croatian, Faroese, Galician, Greek, Hebrew, Indonesian, Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Malay, Persian, Romanian, Serbian, Slovak, Turkish, Ukranian, and Welsh. These languages are Romanized and non-Romanized across different documentary units.

o   Symbols:

Documentary units will include specialized knit and crochet symbols (charts, and stitch diagrams) as well as the Roman alphabet, and various non-Roman alphabets (such as Hangul, or Cyrillic characters).

o   Any qualitative criteria used to limit coverage:

Aside from the above, the most limiting qualitative criteria is registration and copyright. All documentary units in the collection are placed in the collection by registered Ravelry users. All documentary units in the collection cannot infringe on copyright holders (for instance, Ravelry cannot host an illegal upload of a designer knit pattern not provided by the designer).

The collection scope of is vast, but there are key criteria that allows the index to be reliably usable and relatively effective to maintain. The first of these criteria: registration. Requiring users to become registered in order to add documentary units to the index will limit the amount of units that are added. Not all knitters or crocheters will register for The second and third criteria: Form and Audience. Each documentary unit will either be representative of a knit or crochet pattern, project, or product – or, it will be otherwise representative of a related knitting or crochet topic. The audience, as the users, is limited by the forms of knitting and crochet. A fiber artist interested in sewing will not consult, further limiting the scope.

Additionally, the entities involved in indexing are usually established products: clothing, accessories, or soft furnishings. There may be ambiguity in some entries, but most documentary units will be straightforward to identify.  There are competing collections to Ravelry; most notably, collections from and which prioritize video documents. Someone may use Ravelry in place of these competitors, however, because many documentary units are free to access and reproduce, and the index itself is also free to access.

Collection (documentary) domain:

·       Is the collection open or closed? If it is closed, why is it closed? If it is open, how active is the process of acquiring new resources for the collection?

The collection is open. New resources are added in relatively large numbers weekly; the acquisition process is quick and large because of the amount of unit creators – over 1 million users have accessed the collection in the last 30 days, and of those, a proportion will add new resources.

·       Identify and describe the source(s) from which documents have been or can be obtained:

All items being sold are primary sources (products), and the people who create the documents are registered users of Items are, on the whole, relatively inexpensive because they are not “finished,” consumable goods. For instance, a sweater pattern for 6.00 euro, and accompanying yarn of 60.00 euro (both documentary units that could be in the Ravelry index) is less expensive than a 600.00 euro sweater from a designer brand. Additionally, important to note: Ravelry resources do not include resources outside of Ravelry users. As with Wiley Journal Finder, Ravelry has not economic interest in connecting users to resources outside of their collection.

·       Assess the impact of the collection domain on index usability and maintainability.

The limitation of registered-user uploaded items gives the collection a high level of maintainability but limits usability. Restricting the flow of documentary units to those placed into the collection by users makes the index finite and more easily maintained. However, the usability of the index is affected in that anyone who accesses the index will not be able to access documents not affiliated with Ravelry and it’s terms of service.

Display medium of the index

·       Identify and describe the medium used to display the index (not the documents in the collection). Comment on impact of display medium on access and retrieval.

The index is displayed via a website; the website is built with the encoding language of Ruby and the framework of Rails. The index is then hosted on a Ravelry server.

The index’s construction with Ruby on Rails is consistent with current web standards; making it effective and reasonable to access Ravelry from most browsers. Retrieval is similarly effective because of the display medium. Web standards and web security are two factors that may impact this effective access and retrieval. If most browsers, say, began to eliminate Ruby as a supported programming language they would display, then the index would become inaccessible and irretrievable. Similarly, if the Ravelry website is under DdoS (Distributed-Denial-of-Service) attack, the index will be inaccessible and irretrievable. Examining User Information Needs and Types of Entities

1.     Indexing units (documentary units):’s primary documentary units are open-source products (such as free download patterns) and commercial products (as with pay-to-access patterns).

Representative Unit 1: Open-source sock pattern

      Lueder, E. (2009, July 9). Hermione's Everyday Socks pattern. Retrieved February 2, 2019, from

Representative Unit 2: 6.00 euro shawl pattern

      West, S. (2014, October 13). Exploration Station pattern. Retrieved February 2, 2019, from

2.     Characteristics of the intended users of the collection: 

The intended users of are hobbyist and professional knitters, crocheters, and fiber artists. Due to the nature of this hobby and/or profession, the typical user has either some disposable income, financial interest (a company, a fashion line), or is supported by someone with disposable income, such as a parent. The age, as a result of these factors, is quite wide – though children under 13 are required to provide parental consent, which may limit access. Users access the platform primarily for patterns or inspiration, so the personality type is one that tends toward planning and consideration. The users are all also at minimum familiar with some technical terms (such as knit, purl, cast on, knit together, etc.) as they are required to make maximum use of the platform, but novice knitters will find documentary units that are accessible to them as well. Multiple language options are offered, but act as a limit on intended users in that each language does not share the same amount of pattern or product offerings; English speakers are the primary intended users.

3.     Description of user information needs in terms of the kinds of questions they might ask when they use the index: 

Potential user questions could include: What are gifts I could make with 300 grams of light fingering weight yarn? Which of these gifts will take me the least amount of time and skill to complete? What magazines can I purchase with color patterns that include 5-6 yarns within the pattern? What are different sock patterns with no shaping and with shaping? Can I complete this project in less than 2 months if I am a novice knitter? What traditional Irish patterns can I produce with only 2 color-ways of yarn? How much of each color will I need to complete the project? Are there US 3 needle size patterns that I can access for free? Of those, are any of them for one-piece projects?

4.     Types of entities: 

What kind of entities are represented by the index terms? / List about 10 types of entities and give five or so examples of each type of entity.

Entity: Clothing

Example Index Terms: Coat, Dress, Leggings, Pants, Robe, Shorts, Vest

Entity: Accessories

Example Index Terms: Bag, Belt, Hat, Jewelry, Legwear

Each subclass has additional index terms (such as beret, backpack or brooch) which allow users to refine their interest in the accessory entity.

Entity: Bag

Example Index Terms: Backpack, Clutch, Duffle, Drawstring, Purse, Tote, Wristlet

These could be grouped under the more general class, Accessories.

Entity: Jewelry

Example Index Terms Brooch, Bracelet, Earrings, Necklace, Ring

These could be grouped under the more general class, Accessories.

Entity: Toys

Example Index Terms: Ball, Blocks, Puppets, Dolls, Games

Entity: Construction

Example Index Terms: bias, double knitting, felted, gusset, seamed, short rows, three needle

Due to construction’s abstract nature, the collection refers to terms that are concrete actions. The term could be grouped more generally under an entity of Making.

Entity: Pattern

Example Index Terms: chart, schematic, photo tutorial, recipe, video tutorial

Distinguishing the type of pattern used in the project can indicate an important distinction for users, particularly in cases of screen-reader use. The term could be grouped more generally under the abstract entity of Making.

Entity: Sock Technique

Example Index Terms: seamed sock, shaped arches, toe up, Dutch heel, short row heel

A subclass of the Construction entity, the collection specifically allows users to distinguish between different types of actions to create a sock.

Entity: Crochet Technique

Example Index Terms: Irish crochet, broomstick, bruges, clones knot, filet, granny square

As with Sock Technique, the subclass, and the index terms act to pinpoint specific Constriction methods.

Entity: Regional/Ethnic Style

Example Index Terms: Andean/Peruvian, Danish, Estonian, Latvian, Swedish, Turkish

This collection refers to patterns that have a connection to a particular location or region, and may have specific techniques or meaning to these regions. This entity could be expanded and grouped into the more general class of People or Place. Each of these would have differing implications.

Entity: Needle

Example Index Terms: US 00, US 1, US 3, 7.0 mm, US 11

This collection is highly specific because needle size is a specific limiting factor to knitting projects. Users need specific, physical needles to produce projects, and this collection refers to different sizes to distinguish each project.

Entity: Yarn Weight

Example Index Terms: thread, cobweb, lace, fingering, sport, aran, bulky

As with needle size, this collection is highly specific because of the physical constraints that yarn weight plays in a knitting project. However, this entity could be classified more broadly into the entity “Yarn” which could include additional index terms around the fiber content or color of the yarn.

Types of entities that are left out / examples types of entities that would have been useful in the index:

“Event:” This entity has not been included with displayed index terms, though forums may provide links to specific events of interest to users. Inclusion of this entity could allow users to browse events or revisit events as part of their inspiration process.

“Theme” or “Style”: “Theme” could address specific inspiration needs of users. “Style,” although this entity could be absorbed into theme, would address more specific user intentions and allow them to select a pattern more quickly or appropriately for their intended use (ie. A gift for a cousin who is “minimal” in style vs. one who is “goth”).

“Time:” This entity would be helpful to include in the index to allow users to browse by era created, or by length required to complete a project.

“Knitting History:” As Ravelry is an e-commerce site at heart, an entity regarding history of knitting – such as knitting as it relates to cottage industry and industrialization – is not a useful entity and has been left out.

“Alexander Wang:” A named entity that does not work with Ravelry to provide patterns for commercial products, and has been left out. This would be useful to users, but is unlikely to be included without commercial advantage for Alexander Wang.

Consider whether the entities are descriptive of the content of the collection and are useful to a user seeking to answer the sample questions you identified above:

The user questions I created can likely be addressed by the entities I addressed above. Ravelry addresses a large number of limiting factors (specific index terms such as US 00 needle size) which would allow users to understand which patterns are available to them in multiple situations. As knitting and crocheting are established practices with long history, there are numerous entities included in the index already, but there remains opportunity to include others, such as theme. The documents in Ravelry’s collection, however, are limited to construction and product. Ravelry does not, for instance, have a collection of books about the politics of knitting, but does have a collection of books with knitting patterns. Thus, an entity or subclass such as “Politics” would not be particularly helpful in accessing the documents in the collection.