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Organizing digital information for others

My new book on Organizing Digital Information for Others is out.

When we interact with web and intranet teams, we find many struggling to move beyond conceptual-level discussions on information organization. Hours on end are spent on discussing the meaning of “metadata”, “controlled vocabulary” and “taxonomy” without any strategic understanding of how everything fits together. Being so bogged down at this level they fail to look beyond to the main reason for their pursuit—organizing information for others (the end users) so that they can find the information easily.

Web and intranet teams are not the only ones facing this challenge. Staff in companies are finding themselves tasked with organizing, say, hundreds of project documents on their collaboration space. And they usually end up organizing it in the only way they know—for themselves. Team members then often struggle to locate the information that they thought should be in “this folder”!

In this short book, we explore how lists, categories, trees and facets can be better used to organize information for others. We also learn how metadata and taxonomies can connect different collections and increase the findability of information across the website or intranet.

Introduction to Metadata (online book)

Introduction to metadata

Tony Gill, Anne J. Gilliland, Maureen Whalen, and Mary S. Woodley

Edited by Murtha Baca

An online publication devoted to metadata, its types and uses, and how it can improve access to digital resources.

I was about to purchase this book when I stumbled upon this online version (free of course).

Here is the TOC

Metadata fundamentals for intranets and websites

James Robertson has written a simple and clear article on the use of metadata for intranets and websites.

Metadata is one of the key elements of site design and management, and is often a driving factor for the purchase of a content management system (or other similar publishing tools).

While metadata can be used in many complex and powerful ways, most sites benefit from keeping it pretty simple.

Only capture the metadata you need, and make it very simple for authors to enter it. Recognise that there is a cost (in effort and usability) for every metadata field established, and therefore focus efforts on clear business or site needs.

Changing Approaches to Metadata at bbc.co.uk

Here's a nice followup to the previous Weinberger post on metadata. This short article chronicles the BBC's experimentations of metadata. Their learning thus far: the marriage between traditional metadata and folksonomy is for real and has several business advantages. The balance, however, needs to be managed carefully as the process could take a long time.
[thanks Lou]

Metadata and understanding

Short KM World article by David Weinberger:

Traditionally, metadata has been used to help people find data. The metadata on a card in a library catalog is there to help patrons locate books on shelves. Metadata could do little more because metadata was a reduction of information: A 600-page book is boiled down to a few facts that fit on a 3x5 card.

But in the digital world, there's little reason to boil things down. Metadata can be expansionist. It can include the entire text of the book. It can include the text of a biography of the author of the book. It can include a map of the places the author of the biography of the author once visited. Why not? Suppose someone wants to find the book written by the subject of the biography written by that guy who used to live in Slough?

Folksonomies? How about Metadata Ecologies?

Nice analysis by Louis Rosenfeld on the limitations of folksonomies. He has a point, these user-generated meta-tags are not precise or scalable in the long term. And they are certainly not viable in a business environment.

Folksonomies - Cooperative Classification and Communication Through Shared Metadata

Wonderful treatise on folksonomies.

Metadata for the Masses

Peter Merholz 'ethnoclassification' -- the type of folk classifications we are seeing in sites like Del.icio.us and Flickr. "Ethnoclassification systems can similarly

Metadata? Thesauri? Taxonomies? Topic Maps!

"Topic maps are a relative newcomer to this area and bring with them the promise of better-organized web sites, compared to what is possible with existing techniques. However, it is not generally understood how topic maps relate to the traditional techniques, and what advantages and disadvantages they have, compared to these techniques. The aim of this paper is to help build a better understanding of these issues." [Thanks ColumnTwo]

Gerry McGovern: Metadata: seven tips for writing better keywords

Gerry McGovern: Metadata: seven tips for writing better keywords

Tip three: "Make sure that the most important keywords get used in the heading and summary. Always lead with your best keywords. You are not writing a murder mystery. Tell them who did it in the heading."

David Weinberger: Metadata and Desire

David Weinberger: Metadata and Desire

"Every ordering we come upon is one that we've made up to suit some purpose. The foods in the grocery are grouped by type (fruits, pastas) but also by type of container (canned fruits next to canned vegetables) and impulse buys (chewing gum and The Weekly World News) not because God has declared this to be the right way but because it happens to accord with the way we use and buy the goods for sale there... So, while it seems perfectly feasible to map one schema to another, it isn't always possible because they have different purposes in life and thus express life differently... But that means that metadata, an abstraction of an abstraction, is directly and intimately tied to human projects and human desire."

Webmonkey: Metadata, Mark II

Webmonkey: Metadata, Mark II

"In the pages that follow, I'll be giving you a bird

Gerry McGovern: Metadata is essential web writing skill

Gerry McGovern: Metadata is essential web writing skill
"Metadata gives your content context. Content that does not have effective metadata is not web content. It is sloppy, next-to-useless print content that has been unprofessionally published on the Web. If you don't have time to publish professional metadata for your content, you shouldn't be allowed to publish anything on a website."

NoiseBetweenStations: Metadata Glossary

NoiseBetweenStations: Metadata Glossary
Definition and relationship between metadata terms;
- Controlled Vocabulary
- Taxonomy
- Thesaurus
- Ontology
- Semantic Web
- Topic Maps
[thanks ColumnTwo]

CETIS: RELOAD releases beta of open source Metadata editor

CETIS: RELOAD releases beta of open source Metadata editor
"One issue that keeps popping up in debates about learning objects is the metadata question; how are educators supposed to make an interoperable description of a learning object that will allow it to be found by others? The Reload elarning tool development project decided to attack that problem before any others, with the first results already appearing."

CMSWatch: A Metadata Primer

CMSWatch: A Metadata Primer
"Unified content requires two types of metadata: categorization and element. Users tend to find information based on categorization metadata, whereas authors tend to retrieve information based on element metadata..."

Learning Technology: Learning objects metadata: implementations and open issues

Learning Technology: Learning objects metadata: implementations and open issues
"This special issue is devoted to the discussion of learning object metadata within and beyond the LOM framework, their implementations, extensions, limitations, and potential. A diversity of opinions, experiences, and solutions presented in this Newsletter stresses the variety of research directions and implementation issues related to metadata that may give birth to further guidelines and standards in this area."

Search Tools: Faceted Metadata Search and Browse

Search Tools: Faceted Metadata Search and Browse
This article explains the concept of faceted metadata using examples of popular websites. "Metadata is information about information: more precisely, it's structured information about resources. This can be a single set of hierarchical subject labels, such as a Yahoo or Open Directory Project category. More often, the metadata has several facets: attributes in various orthogonal sets of categories. This is often stored in database record fields and tables, especially for product catalogs."

Mappa Mundi: Demystifying Metadata

Mappa Mundi: Demystifying Metadata
In the faddish dot-com world it's tempting to dismiss metadata as this nanosecond's buzzer button, but metadata is really an age-old answer to an age-old problem. The problem is, how to get the most out of a stored collection of information. Datastores are bigger than ever and so is the problem. A consensus is growing that metadata is the answer. Metadata is often described as "information about information" but I prefer to think of it as another layer of information - simplified, distilled, made orderly - created to help people use an information source.

CETIS: Who said that? Metadata,

CETIS: Who said that? Metadata, trust, and the Semantic Web
A new paper from researchers in Stockholm looks to the future of metadata in eLearning, and in particular the next-generation Semantic Web proposed by Tim Berners-Lee and others. But to get there we need to past some of our preconceptions about metadata - like the idea that learning object metadata can ever be objective.

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