You’ve heard the admonishment “don’t judge a book by its cover”. How about when that book has no cover? No author or even a spine? You’re probably not even going to bother with it, right?
The same is true for business Web sites that do not ‘tag’ or ‘title’ their data in some way. If search engines can’t locate them, then there’s little chance your customer will either.
Clear labeling is thus crucial to finding the exact data you are looking for. This ‘information about information’, or tagging data for easy identification is called ‘metadata’. But of course that’s just one of its many uses. The following should explain more on the roles of metadata especially with regards to content management systems.
The challenges of managing data
Your customers now demand increased interactivity, and it is imperative to have Content Management Systems (CMS) to manage diverse content. The Web 2.0 world serves content in multiple forms, with high levels of personalization available to each individual. That is because web pages are no longer static as the focus is now on participation, collaboration, and interaction.
Thus, it is vital to measure the success of online initiatives by tracking and analyzing different sources of user feedback such as comments, votes, subscriptions, leads, and the number of downloads.
The challenges of managing unstructured and ad-hoc content creation can be enormous. For instance, if you allow users to add tags to content on your site – how can you ensure the accuracy of such tags? How can you automate the process of managing and moderating information posted by readers? In all these scenarios, classifying content is critical in ensuring a satisfying customer experience.
Role of metadata in a CMS
In a CMS, metadata gives a computer the intelligence to search content based on the description stored about the content. With content in the form of traditional Web sites, intranets and extranets as well as Wikis, blogs, and podcasts, metadata can enable you to quickly “re-purpose” or reuse contentautomatically. For instance, an entertainment portal can use metadata to automatically generate related links whenever a user is browsing an article. If a user is browsing a news release about a new Disney movie, the CMS could use the metadata to identify related content in the form of movies stored on the portal’s shopping site, or ringtones based on classic Disney tunes. So as soon as a user browses a site, the CMS can automatically generate links that show the availability of movies on the Website’s shopping section. This is just a simple example, and the potential of effective metadata in a CMS is enormous. In a business where users quickly need access to information, a CMS using metadata prompts interested users to come back.
A CMS that enables users to define its own metadata has a better chance of creating more value for the content it manages. For instance, subject matter experts can define or tag content. Similarly, external users can be given permission to tag or associate content with keywords or summaries. A CMS which supports metadata can also be used to help users classify their information manually or automatically. For example, your business may classify its information according to metadata such as display name, title, summary, key word, author, expiration date, or the description of the content. Users who wish to lay claim to content they provide, therefore can simultaneously manage it for you as well.
In the Web 2.0 world, it is necessary that you have a central mechanism for ensuring that different pieces of an organization’s content information landscape talk to each other. In this scenario, metadata enables content to be quickly identified, tagged, and composed or assembled automatically. Also, metadata facilitates reusing content or improving information quality. For example, metadata can encourage content reuse by reducing duplicate content and storing each nugget of content only once.
Metadata can be used very effectively in an organization’s content management workflow. By assigning a metadata such as ‘reviewed’, ‘approved’, ‘published’ or ‘expired’, an organization can control and track each content element automatically.
The role of metadata is similar to a catalog in a library. Unless you have a catalog that identifies, tags and shows you the location and availability of the books, finding a book of your favorite author in a huge array of books seems like an impossible task. Metadata is that catalog that your CMS needs to quickly identify and retrieve specific data from your vast information landscape.