Metadata, Oh Metadata.

As I said the other day, Metadata is a difficult yet important class. Perhaps because of the textbook, which is a sadly overly complex book. So you understand what I mean, here is an example.

I just read a late chapter in the book that has a description of a concept in one sentence. That sentence explains the concept better than an entire chapter section that covers the subject earlier in the book. It’s like having a 2 page explanation about the pigment combinations that produce green and then 30 pages later saying, “it’s blue and yellow combined”. I will always prefer the latter style a quick, easy to understand explanation. Then, if needed, I will be happy to hear about the nitty gritty details, all of the techie talk, whatever is necessary to understand the concept. But if you begin with the techie talk, it’s almost counterproductive, filling the mind with complex half understood information.

Anyway. The definition that everyone gives when asked what metadata is goes like so, “it’s data about data.” While that may be the official definition it is also mostly unhelpful. My definition is: metadata is the information that allows people to find things, and know what they are. It is a description of an item so that you know what the item is. Webpages use metadata to make the page findable by google. So, if I was looking for the apple company webpage, and I search ‘apple company’, metadata is what google searches so that the results are the official apple company, and then also other companies that have ‘apple company’ in the name, or sell apples, etc.

Here is a visual example about a different type of metadata. Metadata is used to identify files like pictures and music. It is what allows iTunes to name the song you just downloaded without you having to manually enter the data yourself. This also works with pictures. 

This is a photo of mine, now the metadata is the little information box in the corner. With automatic information provided by my camera the information looks like this:

This is the metadata for this image. I can also change the metadata to be more specific, so that it is easier to find, like this:

The better and more specific the metadata, the easier it is to find what you are looking for. This is the basics of the course. Understanding what metadata is, how to find it, adjust it, change the format…


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