Always fresh new new things!

Is metadata dead?

without comments

Harold Jarche asked in his post : Is metadata dead?

Here’s a question for any experts on learning object repositories, metadata, cataloguing, etc. Given the latest conversations around tagging, folksonomies and Google’s various search tools; is it still necessary to create a definite metadata structure for large web databases? Would it be better to focus on search? Can personal tagging address everyone’s needs? Should you address both? What would you do if you had to build a learning portal tomorrow?

Here goes my take on it :

I believe metadata is dead – we are just not ready to accept it. Think about our education pattern – from very beginning we start to categorize ‘objects’ into different boxes. We focus on the ‘box’ rather than a pattern matching and relationship of the objects. In KM Asia Dave Snowden illustrated this point by asking the audience to do a simple ‘odd man out’ from ‘Cow, Chicken and Grass’. Most of the audience took out grass from the list, because that is the only vegetable in the list. This is categorization, putting things into boxes – folders or metadata, whatever you call it. Now if we look from another perspective – Cow eats Grass, so Chicken is the odd man out – that’s pattern matching – tagging – where I have the flexibility to define the perspective itself.

Problems with folders and metadata – that’s a closed system, somebody else define the taxonomy. Theory of entropy proves itself when the closed system of folders and metadata goes into a complete chaotic mode.

Yesterday Dave Pollard mentioned in his post on PKM:

The old model, which we pursued from 1994-2004, is focused on content and collection — the acquisition, organization & aggregation, storage and dissemination of content under organization-wide taxonomies using customized tools and containers, just-in-case it might be reusable. The new PKM model, which we believe will replace it, is focused on context and connection — connecting to the right people just-in-time, canvassing them to gain their knowledge and advice in the context of a particular business problem or pursuit, synthesizing that knowledge and applying it to the issue at hand.

And that’s what tagging does; providing the context in a social perspective.

Thanks for raising this ‘disturbing’ question.

UPDATE : Jack Vinson’s view point

The answer to this question is a definite “it depends.” The concept of metadata is not dead. The way we think about it may be – particularly in light of Harold’s primary question about the gobs of metadata that are required in stuff management systems (CMS, wCMS, DMS, LCMS…). I’d be willing to see that drop out of sight, as the only thing this kind of metadata does is get in the way of people who are trying to save that stuff for others.

Recall, however, that we need all sorts of metadata to inform us as to what we have found: title, date, authors, etc. Search engines of the world need this information as well. If you’ve got a web page, search engines also look at the links to and from that page as additional information about the page (metadata).

In an ideal world, the tools by which this information is published out to the world should be smart enough to capture that metadata during the process of creating it. The tools need to be aware of the context in which the author is operating. They need to be aware of who the author is (what roles she plays). At the same time, we need to recognize that consumers will eventually be operating in different contexts than the original author, so the tools also need to have some mechanism for bridging from one set of references to another. Tagging has been promoted as a good way to do this. Maybe there are others. Before the tagging phenomenon took off, people wrote about tools that could automatically discern context to assist in a search.

Written by anol

November 25th, 2005 at 6:34 am

Leave a Reply