Looking at recent posts tagged to the category “sustainability” suggests that it has several non-overlapping meanings for SCN members, which makes the category less useful than it could be.
Here are some of the meanings that members seem to be thinking of when they use the “sustainability” tag on a post.
- Having to do with managing environmental impact, being “green”, being aware of energy use, concerned with ecological “footprint”, and so on.
- Concerning software which can be maintained over a long product life cycle. Its utility can be “sustained”, or prolonged.
- One poster using it in this sense told me, “I intended to tie together the ‘timeless software’ slogan … with concepts of resource usage that would be self-sustaining.”
These meanings of the term are quite different. Maybe we need two terms to help people who are interested in Green Data Management to find what they are looking for, while people who are interested in extending the life of software can also find items that interest them.
(The separate tag “Green IT” is reasonably applied to information about making data centers or software more energy efficient, which is different from dealing with environmental regulations and other environmental or “sustainability” issues at the enterprise level. See The Green Data Firehose: Where Is All This Green Data Coming From?.)
The same confusion affects the “sustainability” forums. Although the Sustainability & CSR states it is about “Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) + Sustainability”, many of the threads seem to use “sustainability” in the second sense of prolonged utility.
Here is a useful summary at Wikipedia of the use and meaning of “sustainability” in the ecological/economic sense over the past 30 years.
I am fully aware of the difficulties of tag proliferation, taxonomy, and classification. I know that trying to shoehorn any aspect of the natural world, including human knowledge, into a finite number of categories is, in the end, hopeless. The world is too chaotic, complex, and changeable. Also, human language has its limitations as a means of communication. But it is the best we have got at the moment.
We can only hope to create categories that are useful to facilitate communication, while not creating so many categories that we can’t find the information that we want. It may be that data indexing systems like Google’s are better than tagging-based systems, but that’s another discussion.
Please use the “sustainability” tag wisely.