What is Metadata?

What is Metadata?

The most widespread definition of metadata has it that metadata is “information about data”. Thankfully, there’s is another way to look at it, apart from the dry description.

A Love Note to the Future

“A love note to the future” is how Jason Scott refers to metadata.

Metadata, you see, is really a love note – it might be to yourself, but in fact it’s a love note to the person after you, or the machine after you, where you’ve saved someone that amount of time to find something by telling them what this thing is.

Cit. Jason Scott’s Weblog

Describing physical and digital objects is what metadata is about. It helps the classification, access and storage of digital assets of all kinds. It is with metadata that the encoding of knowledge within any data element is possible.

Types of Metadata

Types of Metadata

Metadata comes in many shapes and flavors, carrying additional information about where a resource was produced, by whom, when was the last time it was accessed, what is it about and many more details around it.

Similar to the library cards, describing a book, metadata describes objects and adds more granularity to the way they are represented. Three main types of metadata exist: descriptive, structural and administrative.

  • Descriptive metadata adds information about who created a resource,  and most importantly – what the resource is about, what it includes. This is best applied using semantic annotation.
  • Structural metadata includes additional data about the way data elements are organized – their relationships and the structure they exist in.
  • Administrative data provides information about the origin of resources, their type and access rights.

Examples of Metadata

Metadata is everywhere, it is the digital trail of everything we do in the information space. The moment we get digital, there’s metadata involved.

Examples of metadata span from the size and the subjects of our emails through the dates of the files we have created, who last accessed or modified them, through the sensor data from our smartphones to the latest movie we searched for on YouTube. Facilitating the navigation and presentation of resources metadata also includes tags, semantic annotations, page numbers, sections of documents and resources, and more.

How Does Metadata Help?

Metadata underlies every digital object and is critical to the way they are managed, organized and used.

When created and handled  properly, metadata serves the clarity and consistency of information. Metadata facilitates the discovery of relevant information and the search and retrieval of resources. Tagged with metadata, any digital object can be automatically associated with other relevant elements and thus easy to organize and discover. This helps users make connections they would not have made otherwise.

With metadata you can:

  • Search resources by all kinds of criteria;
  • Identify various resources;
  • Collect resources by topic;
  • Trace resources.

Semantic Metadata

Semantic Metadata: The Metadata That Makes Things Happen Automagically

Metadata is powerful, but semantic metadata is even more powerful.

Semantic metadata (that is metadata expressed with the help of semantic technology) makes those “love notes to the future” reach their full potential.

Managing metadata with Semantic Web technologies in mind, (ref. Cooking up the Semantic Web) makes things happen automagically (to use a word by David Weinberger from his book Everything is Miscellaneous).

Semantic metadata makes everything easier to arrange and connect. And when everything is interlinked, elements are more easily remixed, put together, repurposed and ultimately made sense of.

Learn how you can make sense of metadata and transform it into a knowledge discovery tool – contact us for a free one-on-one talk.

Back to top