4 thoughts on “Working With Metadata is Like Voting

  1. I like your use of the phrase, “tag early, tag often”. I was an elec­tion judge in Chicago in the ‘80s and I used the same phase when I trained on our DAM. I have a few addi­tional con­sid­er­a­tions when set­ting up vocabularies/tagging.

    Unlike politi­cians, assets can be tagged using mul­ti­ple con­texts. For exam­ple, an image can have its own key words for search, rela­tion­ship tags if it is used in other assets, (such as incor­po­ra­tion into an ani­ma­tion) and ver­sion and prod­uct his­tory (why changed, who changed it and where used).

    The term dig­i­tal sup­ply chain gets used when describ­ing DAM work­flows. That is more than just a con­veyor belt metaphor. It implies that infor­ma­tion is cap­tured as soon as it is known. Tag­ging is one of those issues where, every­one wants use­ful meta­data but it is some­one else’s job to tag. I have never seen tag­ging work well as long as the “not my job” atti­tude is allowed to exist in a devel­op­ment work­flow. I have never been able to reach that per­fect orga­ni­za­tional state. Required fields seem to be the only way to assure con­sis­tency and com­pli­ance. Once every­one is invested in tag­ging, great things start to hap­pen with the DAM.

    • Great com­ment, John!
      Indeed, the issue of tag­ging meta­data is an ongo­ing strug­gle at my orga­ni­za­tion. We’ve tried to employ a “dis­trib­uted method of tag­ging” where the sub­ject mat­ter experts are respon­si­ble for tag­ging. But, get­ting the man­age­ment buy-in for that has been hard fought result­ing in it dying in com­mit­tee. We have had some suc­cess with art direc­tors being respon­si­ble for basic meta­data dur­ing photo shoots. And then too, only because assets won’t get processed for a pub­li­ca­tion with­out the proper base metadata.

      For­tu­nately, I think we’re near­ing the end of the “not my job” syn­drome as we loop in our edi­to­r­ial work­flow con­trol in a com­bined “XML con­tent repos­i­tory” push. I believe what will hap­pen is we’ll add staffers to focus on tag­ging for both visual/rich-media and tex­tual content.

  2. I’ve been a big advo­cate on “batch” adding meta­data, both key­words and cap­tions for a long while. Dur­ing a visit to the San Anto­nio Express news­pa­per in the early 90’s I learned of the ben­e­fit of break­ing up the process of log­ging your meta­data in waves. First get­ting some basic info into all of the files imme­di­ately. Then finess­ing the meta­data of the selected images at a later date.

    The “Met­a­log­ging” sec­tion of the Con­trolled­Vo­cab­u­lary site cov­ers this in detail, and includes a handy check­list for “cap­tion­ing and key­word­ing” : http://www.controlledvocabulary.com/metalogging/

    Don’t fall into the trap of get­ting par­a­lyzed by think­ing too much, and think­ing you have to get every­thing per­fect the first time. From a pho­tog­ra­phers per­spec­tive, it’s like salmon spawn­ing, and only a few images from any given shoot are likely to be used. Make sure those can be found, and if some­one wants to see the oth­ers from the take, they can fol­low the file name or other intrin­sic meta­data to locate the rest.


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