Taxonomies! No, really!

In which I extol the virtues of creating a set of categories for Bible marking, and only later reveal that I haven't actually arrived at a set that I'm happy with.

Last week I shared a post with the mildly entertaining title Rainbow Bible. This seemed like a succinct way to describe what happens to a Bible after a few years of note taking.

Which makes it all the more important that there should be a method behind the madness. A colour scheme to distinguish different types of notes; a Bible marking taxonomy!

Why you secretly love a good taxonomy

There are two good reasons to put things into categories. First, it helps you find them again later. If you're buying a car, then a good taxonomy to help find the car you want might be a hierarchy of makes, models, and engines.

Combining a taxonomy with a colour scheme is particularly useful for data that can't be re-ordered (like notes on the pages of your Bible). It's much easier to find your vehicle on a car poster if you know for example, that all Fords are highlighted blue.

Second, a taxonomy helps you spot themes and trends; particularly useful to a Bible student trying to understand the context of a verse or passage.

Check out this example of a taxonomy combined with an colour scheme, used to give an at-a-glance view of iPad apps [credit:].

5 reasons that a taxonomy might be rubbish

I once asked a Senior Youth Group class to come up with a colour scheme for Bible marking -- just the "top level" categories. A lot of their categories suffered from problems that only become evident in the hindsight of a rainbow Bible.

  1. Quantity - Too many categories means too many colours. Also, if you still expect to have that mauve pencil in a year's time then you're more organised than I am.

  2. Scope - Narrow categories means that you'll hardly have anything in orange on "Things Adam said". Conversely, if a category is too wide then everything will fall into the category of "Scripture".

  3. Overlap - Almost unavoidable, but you need a way to resolve overlap. Something could easily be a "Cross reference" and "Life lesson". Using a priority on colour scheme can help fix this.

  4. Fuzz - Subtly different from overlap, some categories just aren't clear. "Learning" for example. Does that mean something you learned, or something a character learned? Did you mean the lesson itself, or how they were taught it?

  5. Skew - When your category will be particularly unevenly distributed across your Bible. A category "Paul's themes" for example, is unlikely to get much use in the Old Testament.

Unfortunately my personal marking scheme is also rubbish:

I kept it simple because I'm always going to have access to a red, yellow, green or blue pencil. I'm also a bear of very little brain, so only four categories gives me a decent chance of remembering what the categories are without resorting to the key.

But there's a good deal of overlap, and I think my categories are too wide. On the bright side, I find these categories are useful all the way through my Bible.

What colour scheme do you use to mark your Bible? Share your experiences via Facebook or Twitter!


Bible enthusiast, husband, Dad, and tech-head with too many projects and not enough time.