Make Your Content Findable and Reusable: Metadata Matters

Posted: Wednesday, October 28, 2015

To meet the needs of an increasingly interconnected, user-driven marketplace, organizations need their content to top the list of search results and provide useful information that solves business problems. And as Rob Hanna, ECMs, and President of Precision Content™ Authoring Solutions Inc., explained in a recent webinar with DCL, well-defined metadata brings content into the 21st century and beyond, all while improving utility, usability, and maintainability.

After a quick introduction of his background and current engagement with Precision Content, Rob kicked things off by explaining how metadata provides essential properties that identify and define content. Content producers apply metadata to structured and unstructured content in a collection, where it takes on multiple roles. In its primary role metadata helps identify, retrieve, and process content in any media form. Secondarily, metadata applies consistent structure to content for end users or for organizations that analyze content to extract business intelligence. Why is metadata so important? Because it is reliable, allows for better search and filtering than the content itself.

Rob describes the various indicators metadata contains, including plain text or even content that requires syntactic orders dates/time, or true/false. His metaphor that compare metadata to a soup can—with metadata representing the can and content representing the soup—was a useful way to understand the overall concept of metadata.

Content creators must understand the concept of descriptive metadata, which applies classification to order content based on similarity. He tied in an exercise to demonstrate content classification and to show viewers how a logical construction leads to valuable application of the metadata.

In the exercise debrief, Rob shared steps to make it easier to see patterns and classify information:

  1. Filter out all of the noise.
  2. Break information into smaller groupings.
  3. Organize words by similarities.
  4. Classify and label groups.

Rob contends that the real value of metadata occurs when applying various structures. For example, with controlled vocabularies and an agreed upon lexicon, a preference for “accessible” rather than “disabled” can connect and relate similar terms to make associations to other content. Companies often classify the organization’s business units, relationships, ownership of content, etc., but these items change often with turnover and multiple business initiatives, so these data points are not as reliable. Instead, Rob recommends “functional classification,” the happy medium that allows you to identify the right metadata for the content’s purpose.

After an introduction to varying taxonomies that help to control and understand contexts and types of information classification, Rob moved into a second type of metadata. Administrative metadata captures information about individual records to manage content throughout its lifecycle. A third type, structural metadata, describes the elements within structured content that relate to output and channels such as books and websites.

Rob then continued with a brief discussion on presentation and semantic markups, which exist to tell computers how to handle data, and he shared reasons to apply markup and metadata to get intelligent content out to multiple sources.

He wrapped up the webinar with a quick demonstration of how creating a simple document in a word processor connects content and metadata, so that you can see and apply metadata that automatically transfers into other formats and tools, such as PDF or easyDITA, to and pass through into CCMS and final publication.

The complete webinar playback for Metadata Matters can be viewed online.


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The opinions expressed by the DCL Blog and those quoted in it are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of DCL or any employee thereof. DCL is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the DCL Blog.

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