Metadata Basics

Data with a purpose

Data with a purpose

metadata with a purpose

Metadata is often defined as "data about data" or even "information about information." I find these definitions to be less than useful, and sometimes even inaccurate. Sometimes metadata is about things, like the metadata in a store catalog, or the metadata in a library catalog.

The first thing to realize is that metadata is CONSTRUCTED. It is artificial, it does not exist in nature, it is definitely human-made.

Next, metadata is CONSTRUCTIVE. It is designed for a purpose, to accomplish something that needs to be done. It is a common mistake to approach the creation of metadata from a theoretical viewpoint, like the division of the world into neat categories of 10 items each. The best metadata is practical. It gets a job done.

Finally, metadata is COMPUTABLE. Today's metadata is managed in databases and manipulated by computer programs. Its success depends on having the qualities that make it usable in a computer environment.