Metadata is a Love Note to the Future, by Rachel Lovinger
Metadata is in code, it’s in security, it is context, and it enables connections.
It’s hard to convey that in a concise and powerful way.
Rachel’s fiance (ooooooh!) had a slide “metadata is a love note to the future” which has now made the rounds via retweets, Tumblr, other peoples’ presentations… and now it’s come full circle.
Rachel had to take ~10 years of magazine content (about 50k articles) and put them into a CMS. 3 years later, doing a redesign, they found almost 7000 different keywords (though they found ~12% were typos, or redundant keywords).
But they wanted the metadata to do more.
The Goal: immersive experiences
- If you like James Bond, you should be able to easily discover everything they had.
- Allow people to get from James Bond to Daniel Craig and so on
- Cross-over between media types (book reviews, movie reviews, DVD reviews)
What they did
- They created a hierarchical system of terms.
- They standardized the metadata relationships, (i.e. if it’s tagged with X, it automatically appears as related content on all other pages tagged with X)
- The relationships were defined and managed separately from the article content
- They built a “category tool”
- Better search results
- For example, searching “Green mile” gave you the option of “The Green Mile (book)” or “The Green Mile (movie)”
- User can see an annotated list of every article tagged with one option or the other, when they choose one.
- People found tons of older content!
- Other people wanted to use the categorization database
- Showing every related item is not scalable – it shows way too much information.
Challenges of metadata
- It is a lot of work
- Is it accurate?
- Is it credible?
For an archive, Jason’s team at archive.org does detailed metadata:
- Media type is automatically detected, and tagged
- Additional metadata is manually entered
- The attributes are determined by the community, which is a dedicated community – however, a lot of user-generated metadata is inconsistent or poor.
Metadata gives future people (sometimes future us!) information to find the things they need.