What is Metadata? It is data that provides information about other data. It summarizes basic information about data, making finding & working with particular instances of data easier.
Where is it? It can be internal, within the contents of the file. Or, it can be external, residing in a database, catalogue, library or an index associated with the file.
How is it created? It some instances, it can be created manually, but most metadata is created automatically by the applications used to create the file.
What is it good for? Now here is where it gets interesting….
The impact of metadata in the modern world is huge:
Considering the scope of data to which it applies – from document files, images and videos to spreadsheets and web-pages, along with the explosion in data quantity, it’s not surprising that understanding and managing metadata effectively has become an IT business priority. Understanding the structure, limitations, definition and description of data protects against misinterpretation or misuse and helps ensure database integrity.
Netflix understood this right from the beginning. But they had the advantage of brand new data, a platform and algorithms in place to analyze the data and allowing them to use metadata to make suggestions and recommendations to their customers based on their viewing habits. Unless your teenage daughter has been using your account and it starts suggesting you might like the dance show The Next Step.
But what if the basic metadata isn’t enough?
As a self-proclaimed music geek, it’s not. It’s great that I can sort my music player by artist, song, genre, and create a playlist etc. But what about the real nitty gritty (like the fact that Jackson Browne was the original guitarist for the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band).
I want more cowbell!
I want to know it all. Where was it recorded, who was the producer, who designed the album cover? I want the Wikipedia version of everything with links to related musicians and compositions. I want to know that the album cover of the Clash’s - London Calling, designed by the London art firm Hipgnosis, was paying homage to the first Elvis Presley record with RCA Records. From the beginning of Rock and Roll and the near end of the punk era.
And what if the data isn’t digitized, like my old vinyl records. Sure, I have them alphabetized on a shelf, but my shelves don’t reorganize themselves by genre automatically. And my favorite used record store, with milk crates, boxes and piles of records in the back room of which I asked the store owner “What’s in there?”, as he sadly replied, “I have no idea”.
Who Truly Understands the Power of Metadata?
Records Managers, Data Scientists, Analysts and Engineers are the humans that truly understand and are using the power of metadata to their advantage. Their big challenge is the amount of data that is being generated in combination with the unstructured data that is lying around in un-managed file shares and paper documents that have yet to be digitized. These are their milk crates, and boxes and piles to which if you asked them if they knew what was in there, they would sadly reply, “I have no idea”.
With new technology like AI(Artificial Intelligence), machine learning, and NLP(Natural Language Processing) at their disposal, they are connecting and making relationships between their data in order to gain business insights, identify trends, and make better predictions based on the knowledge obtained. They can enhance data security by flagging and tagging files as sensitive in order to protect themselves and their customers from data breaches.
They can create their own custom metadata with tags and classifications to further enrich their data and make connections between the data that was not possible with basic metadata that is automatically generated. They can tag all files with a project id so that on project close out, all the files and documents for that project can be packaged up for review. Better yet, through RPA(Robotic Process Automation), this custom metadata can be added to new and existing files automatically.
According to the New York post, 3 of the 6 hottest jobs for 2020 were:
Artificial intelligence (AI) specialist
Computer, cloud and data engineers and coders
Are these data professionals the new rock stars of the working world? Why not? Who ever thought that celebrity chefs would be a thing? (Bobby Flay is my favorite)
If you want to be a Rock Star, you gotta get out there and play. You must embrace the new technologies and leverage the power of metadata to your advantage. If you haven’t started on a digital transformation yet, don’t wait any longer.
It’s time to Rock and Roll.