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Posts Tagged ‘Taxonomy’

Link your Taxonomy terms to your custom categories


Searching for the right resource in iCarol is quick and easy, and can be done in two basic ways: either by its name or how it’s categorized. Searching for something by its name is typically most helpful to Resource Managers or other specialists who need to find an exact listing because they want to do a quality check or make changes. When it comes to assisting help seekers, it’s much more fruitful to search for something based on how it’s categorized, that is, the list of keywords or categories assigned to that resource that help describe what types of problems or issues the referral can assist with.

And then, there are two different types of categorizations one can use in iCarol: Categories or the Taxonomy. Each iCarol system will let you build your own hierarchy, as simple or complex as you like, of custom categorizations to assign to your community service provider listings to describe what they do. The Taxonomy is typically used by I&R helplines, 2-1-1′s, or other AIRS accredited information and referral providers, as this is an extremely detailed and complex categorization tree, which AIRS takes the time to maintain to keep everything consistent. This requires additional subscriptions both from AIRS and within iCarol, which you can read more about here.

Many of our users, for a variety of reasons, prefer to use both Categories and the Taxonomy in their iCarol systems. This allows for greater flexibility and other benefits, if requiring some additional time to categorize each resource with the proper terms using both categorization methods.

For these users, we’ve devised a new way that helps you ensure these varying types of categorization are ultimately working together well and producing great search results. Beginning with our next release, slated to occur on Tuesday July 19th, you can link one or more Taxonomy terms to your custom categories. This way, when someone is searching a certain custom category for a help seeker, the system ensures that not only will they be shown resources which have been coded with that category assigned, but also returns results that have been coded with a certain Taxonomy term or series of terms.

This can really speed up the process of collecting appropriate referrals for your caller, eliminating the need to do multiple searches by essentially creating Taxonomy groups. Here’s how to turn this feature on, once available:

  • Log in to iCarol as an Admin, or other user who has been granted access to Admin Tools
  • Click on “Admin Tools” from the left menu
  • Click on the “Resources” tab
  • Under the AIRS/211 Taxonomy section, click the checkbox for the setting “In category searches, also look in taxonomy terms linked to the category”

  • Enable linking taxonomy terms to custom categories

Next, you’ll want to begin linking your Categories to Taxonomy terms. To do that…

  • Click on “Resources” from the left menu
  • Click on “Manage Resources” to the right of the geographic filters
  • Click on “Customize your categories” from under the Taxonomy and categories section
  • Click on an existing category to view the Taxonomy terms assigned to this category configuration menu
  • Using the same process as assigning a Taxonomy Term to a resource, search for, or drill down to select taxonomy terms to link to the category.
  • Once terms are selected, click “Save taxonomy selections below” to add terms to the Category. To delete existing terms from a category, select the term to delete and click “Delete taxonomy selections above”

  • Linking taxonomy terms to custom categories

As shown in the example above, one way you can use this tool to group together similar Taxonomy terms to create Taxonomy groups, which are then linked to a single custom category. In the example above, an I&R Specialist can search for the category of Holiday Meals, and all records that have been assigned any of the singular and specific listed Taxonomy terms (Christmas Meals, Easter Meals, etc.), will be returned in that search. A note that while Resource Managers can create these groupings at any time, this tool will only work and actually return the proper results if the feature is turned on in Admin Tools, as shown in the first set of instructions.

We hope this new feature will help save your specialists time as they’re working with your clients, getting them even more appropriate referrals quickly, and without having to recall as many individual Taxonomy terms as they do so. If you have questions about this new tool that isn’t answered in our Help Articles or this blog, please reach out to our Support Team.

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How many of your taxonomy terms are being used in searches?


As often is the case, an interesting topic was recently posed on the AIRS networker, to which many of the Information and Referral industry professionals added their own thoughts and experiences.

The original question was one many can identify with: What database search method works best for your specialists? With a number of options available, such as your own home-built hierarchy of categories and keywords, or the taxonomy as another example, which do you prefer and use?

This prompted another related question: With the many thousands of potential taxonomy terms available for assignment and searching, how many terms account for the majority of your searches? Could your top 20 or even top 10 terms searched actually account for a very large number of your overall searches? Meaning that many of the terms assigned to your resource records are rarely if ever being keyed into searches.

Neil took a look at the data available to us to shed some light on this. Here are Neil’s findings as posted in the AIRS networker thread:

Looking at all iCarol clients in North America, which represent a substantial portion of 2-1-1′s and I&R’s, yields some interesting results.

In addition to tracking the actual Needs using the taxonomy, we also track what was searched as a possible Need (whether it was marked as a Need or not) by the I&R Specialist.

In Q4’2015, here are the percentage of Needs searched out of all searches for phone, chat and text interactions by an I&R Specialist (but for now, not public website searches):

  • Top 10 Needs searched = 45%
  • Top 20 Needs searched = 57%

This echoes what others have posted here. Granted, due to the season, there was a bit of a skew toward holiday-related Needs, but I wanted to work with a relatively recent date range. Rolling up to Level 3 of the taxonomy, to filter out the (significant) variation at lower levels:

  • Top 10 Needs searched = 55%
  • Top 20 Needs searched = 71%

…which not surprisingly shows even more consolidation.

So on a wider scale, this confirms what you’re seeing locally.

It does make me wonder what the cause and effect may be. Are these truly the majority of caller Needs needing consideration during a call/chat/text? Or do we have a bias towards searching for Needs with which we are more familiar? The truth is probably somewhere in the middle, but I’d be keen to hear ideas about changes we could make in training, in our software, and possibly in the taxonomy that could help I&R Specialists familiarize themselves with less-used Needs, as [name omitted] is pointing out in this thread using the medical and dental examples.

For this and more great discussion, as always we suggest you look at AIRS membership for networker participation.

We welcome your thoughts and input on Neil’s findings above, please leave us a comment below to continue the discussion.

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Using custom Taxonomy filters

US 211

The 211 Taxonomy is one of the ways you can categorize your resources in iCarol. It’s a highly detailed set of over 9,500 various terms and an extremely precise, structured way of saying what services each resource provides. The Taxonomy is most used by 2-1-1 centers and other Information and Referral agencies, as its use is an essential part of AIRS accreditation. And when you subscribe to this feature in iCarol, you get to benefit of our regular updates such as migrating resources from terms that have been retired to active ones.

Taxonomy users in iCarol can import their own Taxonomy “filters.” These custom taxonomy filters are administered on the 211taxonomy.org website and anyone with a subscription to this site can download them at any time. The filters are a subset of the full taxonomy and allow you to deactivate a large number of taxonomy terms at once.

Canada 211

There are a few different types of filters available on 211Taxonomy.org. A couple filters are officially released by 211 LA County, distributors of the Taxonomy. Some others were created by other subscribers and set up to be shared.

Importing a filter can be useful when you want your taxonomy customizations to match those of the other entities using the taxonomy who have shared their filter on the site. Using these filters also gives your organization a starting point for the Taxonomy, rather than needing to pour over the 9,500 + terms to decide which your helpline wishes to employ. Applying these filters in iCarol was previously possible, but required help from our support team. Now we’ve put the control directly into your hands.

This tool to import a custom Taxonomy filter, available to Admin users only, can be used by taking the following steps:

  • Download your custom filter from the 211taxonomy.org website. The file will be a .xml file.
  • In iCarol, click Resources > Manage Resources > Customize the taxonomy
  • Scroll to the bottom of the page to the “Admins only – Import a custom taxonomy filter” section (non-admins will not see this)
  • Click Browse and select the XML 211Taxonomy file
  • Click “Delete all existing taxonomy customizations in my iCarol system and import this new filter”
  • You will receive an email notification when the new customization has been uploaded and applied to your system.

Please note that by using this tool, all existing taxonomy customizations in your iCarol system will first be deleted. Proceed with extreme caution and be absolutely certain you wish to proceed before going through the import process.

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AIRS Conference Recap

The team had a blast in Dallas for this year’s I&R Training and Education Conference organized by the Alliance of Information and Referral Services (AIRS).

flight path Dallas Tulsa storms The weather was a big topic of conversation at the conference, as torrential rains, storms, and severe flooding wreaked havoc on the region in the days prior to the conference. In fact our developer, Spike, who attended the conference shared this image of the flight path towards the end of their flight into Dallas on Tuesday night. Just as their flight was cleared to land, the airport closed due to the storms and their flight was diverted to Tulsa where many others were also sent. It took several hours before they could get from Tulsa to Dallas. Getting there was an adventure for many conference goers due to the storms, but was ultimately well worth it.

And since disaster response is a component of the work of many 2-1-1 and I&R agencies, many attendees whose centers are located in the region had to split their time between attending their sessions and regularly checking in with staff at their call center. It was a great reminder of the never-ending and important work happening in the industry.

dealyThe conference was very centrally located in downtown, within a mile of interesting museums like the Dallas Museum of Art and the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealy Plaza which examines the life, death, and legacy of JFK.

AIRS_WallCrystal noted that the local art scattered throughout the area was impressive, “I loved the art all around the city, the hotel had an interesting mural painted all along one side. Outside a little pizza shop, walking distance from the hotel, there was a really interesting bronze statue of horses, and everywhere you looked there was art beautifying the area. Art was everywhere!”

There was plenty of opportunity for fun while in Dallas. Several iCarol team members and helpline staffers took in a Texas Rangers game one evening which was a lot of fun.Rangers game

We also found a delicious Mexican restaurant located about a block from the conference. YUM. Here we are again with a variety of folks from both our team and the industry chowing down.

Señor Bean

The fun and games were great, but we accomplished a lot professionally as well. The iCarol Usergroup session was well-attended. For those who haven’t attended one of these sessions before, we use this as an opportunity to speak with iCarol users and provide a synopsis of the major enhancements that have been deployed over the last year.iCarol_usergroup

Crystal’s session, “Taxonomy 102: How to make taxonomy customization decisions, and policies to consider” was popular among resource managers and the audience was really engaged! Be sure to keep an eye on the AIRS networker for the presentation if you’d like to check it out. Whether you use iCarol or another software vendor, please check into your Taxonomy capabilities and options for more information on how you can apply what you learned.

For more great photos from the conference, check out the album shared by AIRS. Our team would like to thank everyone who stopped by to say hi, attended a session, or engaged with us in any way while at the conference. We had a terrific time! iCarol_Team AIRS 2015 Continue Reading

Join us at the AIRS Conference

2015 AIRS Conference Dallas TexasCrystal and Neil are dusting off their spurs and cowboy hats – they’ll be in Dallas for the Annual I&R Training and Education Conference, held by the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems (AIRS), May 27 – 30th.

There are some special events we’d like to note, first that Crystal, who is a specialist in Taxonomy and I&R, will present a workshop titled
Taxonomy 102: How to make taxonomy customization decisions, and policies to consider.

Here’s the description of the session, which falls in the Resource Database Track:

So you understand the basic concepts of indexing records using the AIRS/211 LA County Taxonomy, but what comes next? Join us in discussing how to make Taxonomy customization decisions for your organization, and more importantly your resource database. Analyze a database and choose levels to index records. Learn the difference between horizontal and vertical indexing, and how to avoid these common indexing misadventures. Explore the different schools of thought on target terms, and work towards developing your own targeting policies. This session is intended for Resource Database staff with a basic understanding of indexing using the AIRS/211 LA County Taxonomy.

We should note that Crystal’s session is not iCarol-focused, it is educational and will be helpful to Resource Database staff regardless of the software solution used by their helpline. You can join her session on Saturday, May 30th from 10:45am to 12:15pm in the Dallas Ballroom B, 1st Floor, Conference Center.

There will also be an iCarol User Group session on Wednesday May 27th from 2:00-3:45 in Majestic 5, 37th Floor, Center Tower. The User Group session is aimed at leaders and staff at organizations who use iCarol so they can learn about our latest updates and ask questions. If your helpline would like to learn more about iCarol, whether you’re a current subscriber or not, you’re certainly welcome to attend.

Of course while in Dallas we’ll also be welcoming visitors to our booth (201) in the exhibitor’s hall. We’re looking forward to talking with everyone there in hopes of telling others about the iCarol solution, and welcoming more I&R centers into the iCarol family. If you plan to be at the conference and would like to chat with us, please !

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Changes to AIRS Problems/Needs Categories

If you use the “AIRS Problems / Needs” categories, there will be a small change to them coming with our next update of the taxonomy. AIRS announced they are splitting “Housing and Utility Assistance” into two separate categories: “Housing” and “Utilities”.

When you subscribe to the 211 Taxonomy in iCarol, you get the benefit of automatic updates and maintenance to the taxonomy about once per quarter, helping you stay current and meeting AIRS accreditation standards. Our next taxonomy update will be in early October 2014 so when that is completed, you’ll see this new Problems/Needs category change reflected in your iCarol system.

Once the change is in place, you can continue using any number of statistical reports on Problems/Needs to track and report on these issues, like this one showing the Problem/Needs categories with the current category breakdowns.


Our Taxonomy updates take care of things like adding new codes or replacing codes that have been retired by AIRS. With the October update we will apply the changes to the needs categories, and we’ll automatically and retroactively place previously collected needs into the new appropriate categories, making your annual reports fall in line with what is being requested by AIRS.

If you’re a current iCarol user and have questions about what it means to use Taxonomy in iCarol, check out our videos found in the ‘Help’ section of your iCarol system. If you have questions or want to add Taxonomy to your iCarol system, log a case with us and we’ll be happy to work with you!

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Resource search tips to get you great results

iCarol has many tools to use when searching for resources. Using these tools, call takers can fine tune their searches in order to find the most appropriate resources for your clients. Please read on to learn about these tools and how to use them.

Search Type

There are three search types in iCarol – Taxonomy, Resources and Keywords.

Resource Search Bar

Taxonomy refers to the AIRS Taxonomy, used by 211 agencies in Canada and the United States. This is a 7 level categorization hierarchy that is used to categorize human service agencies into over 9,000 categories.

Resources is used to search your resource database for the name of the agency or program.

Keywords refer to a categorization system that you can set up yourself. Placing your resources into categories can help your call takers narrow their searches quickly to find, for example, Domestic Violence resources or Individual Counseling resources.


There are several filters you can apply to your searches on top of the search type.

Search filters

Names should be used when you want to search by the name of the agency or program. Please note that searching Resources actually searches three different text fields in your resource records – Name, Alternate Name and Search hints. In this way, you can search for the Salvation Army by its official name, Salvation Army, its alternate name, Sally Ann, or a term that is placed in the search hints, perhaps the name of the building the agency is housed in, the Hope Center.

All fields can be used to search other text fields in the resource record besides Name, Alternate Name and Search hints, such as the Description field. This can be helpful if you are searching for a term that is not likely to be found in a name. For example, perhaps the client needs help obtaining diapers. It is very unlikely that there is a resource name in your database with the word diapers, but that word may appear in a Description field where the services the agency or program offers are outlined.

Specific field, with the associated drop-down menu, can be used to conduct a search in a very specific text field, such as address or eligibility.

Agencies, Programs, Sites or ProgramAtSite will appear for those using the three or four level resource hierarchy available in iCarol. In this way, the call taker can limit their searches to just certain record types. Best practices indicate that the majority of searches should be conducted at the program level.

Include Inactive and Include Active but do not refer refers to the status of the resource records. These filters can be used to search records of all statuses, not just the active resources.

Geographic Filters

These filters can be used to narrow searches by their proximity to the client or the coverage area the resource serves.

Geo filters

All resources means that no geographic filters will be applied to the search and all resources that meet the other filters indicated will be displayed

Resources within means that iCarol will search for resources that are physically located within the geographic area indicated by the country, state/province, county, city and postal/zip code filters entered. iCarol bases this search on the physical address entered into the resource record.

Resources serving means that iCarol will search the coverage area of each resource and return those that meet the geographic area indicated by the country, state/province, county, city and postal/zip code filters entered. iCarol bases this search on the coverage area field in the resource record.

Combining the filters above when conducting resource searches can result in a smaller, targeted list of results that is much more manageable for the call taker to look through. This saves time and increases the likelihood that the client receives the most appropriate resources to meet their needs.

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Introducing iCarol Folksonomy

Light Bulb copy

When people in the public are searching your public website for a resource that can help them, it can sometimes lead to frustration that they are getting no results. When you look closer at how they are searching, it becomes clear that they aren’t familiar with the way that resources are named or categorized. In other words, they are expressing a need, like “I am hungry” but the resources in your database are represented as services, like “Food pantries”.

In fact in commonly used categorization schemes, such as the AIRS Taxonomy or a custom categorization scheme built directly by your helpline, you won’t find the word “hungry” in any of the categories, terms or definitions. Multiply this by all the possible needs people have, and you can quickly see how a great deal of the population won’t get connected to valuable services. Other example searches are “I need a ride to work”, “My family needs a place to stay” and “I lost my job yesterday”.

So how can these help seekers, who are expressing a need, be connected with the services that can assist them? Clearly, we need to build a bridge between the two approaches. The solution we’re employing in iCarol’s Public Resource Directory is called the Folksonomy (an intentional mashup of the word Folk, as in “colloquial”, and Taxonomy).

In a nutshell, it helps find results if the search did not match an Agency or Program name, a taxonomy term or the officially defined synonyms for taxonomy terms (called “use references”). It does this by picking up colloquial words or phrases in a search and corresponds them to taxonomy terms, and then performs the search for resources assigned to those taxonomy terms.

A perfect example would be if someone typed “I am really hungry” into the search box. The Folksonomy fills the gap that normally would be mediated by a helpline’s phone worker on a call by connecting the expressed need to one or more taxonomy terms, like Food Pantries and Ongoing Emergency Food Assistance.

We have been testing this approach with clients and it is yielding exceedingly good results. Those clients also have an administrative interface to find recent searches yielding no results, and then to make Folksonomy entries so that future such searches will instead yield the right results.

Here is a scenario where the word “ride” is a Folksonomy entry corresponding to several taxonomy terms. If you had performed this search before we implemented the Folksonomy you would have gotten zero results. Instead you now get a number of transportation-related resources:


By building that bridge between the layman’s terms used by your web visitors and the detailed categorization of the 211 Taxonomy, iCarol’s Folksonomy will greatly improve the ability for your Public Resource Directory searchers to find what they are looking for and ultimately get the services they need.

We’ll have more information to share about implementing iCarol’s Folksonomy in the coming weeks. Want to learn more about managing your Resources with iCarol? Join us for our Resource Management Webinar on May 20th at 2pm EST.

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