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Information arrangement: it’s the metadata

About the Talk

March 23, 2018 1:15 PM

Chicago, IL

Chicago, IL

"Information Architecture involves arranging information. How to arrange and organize content is what information architects have been discussing this since we started meeting almost 20 years ago. Librarians have been discussing it too. But we still need to check with each other about how we do it and apply it. This presentation will share the approach we took in a media company with the hope that others can learn from it.

Where do you start? We start with what we can find. A previous taxonomy on a previous system. The words used by staff in description fields. What has already been cataloged and described. And then the fives: Five guiding questions to define five types of metadata. The five guiding questions are: who, what, when, how and why. We ask the questions in many different ways to capture as many different answers.

The five types of metadata are: descriptive, technical, administrative or rights, usage, preservation 1. What do you need to describe this? Are you describing it in the same way as your colleague? 2. What technical information is needed for it? How big is it? 3. Who is in charge of this piece? Who made it? Where does it get played? 4. What can you do with it? And can you do anything with it? 5. How long do you need it? What do you always need to know to identify it?

Ok. But really, where do you start?

Start with a standard. People have come together to collectively decide technical definitions around the world. Join in. Some we use are the International Standards Organization (ISO), International Engineering Task Force (IETF), European Broadcasting Union (EBU), and SMPTE (Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers), among others. They get together to help collective define things. If an international standard exists and then adopt it for what the organization needs. We started with an international standard to align information and create interoperability between departments, silos, people and systems. And we join the meetings for the international standard to help define what’s coming.

Then disambiguate the terms and what they mean. Start by defining what you mean in the organization and share it as a dictionary, a glossary, a thesaurus. Language constantly evolves and changes and sharing the definitions of common terms creates an atmosphere of transparency, openness, and cooperation. We accept changes and edits from anyone. The glossary creates a way to onboard team members across the organization.

We ask questions to figure out what categories to use, what terms are applied, which standard to start from, and what filter to make for specific needs.

The standards from international organization led to the creation of an internal metadata standard. The internal standard adopted parts from the others. Then taxonomies and controlled vocabularies grew out of the metadata standard. And we’re on the way to consistently describe the content the company needs to function. And that means the content is also organized. The engineers need the code, the designers need the words, and the cataloger needs the values to choose from. We translate between them all to arrange information and practice information architecture."

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