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The Case Against Files: How Metadata Transforms Data Into Assets

by Naresh Sarwan on July 22, 2011

In this O’Reilly blog article, Alex Bowyer argues that “files need to die” because they are an anachronistic way of organising content that has no relationship with how human beings operate in the real world:

The file folder metaphor makes no sense in today’s world. Gone are the smoky 1970s offices where secretaries bustled around fetching armfuls of paperwork for their bosses, archiving cardboard files in dusty cabinets. Our lives have gone digital and our data zips around the world in seconds as we buy goods online or chat with distant relatives.  A file is a snapshot of a moment in time. If I email you a document, I’m freezing it and making an identical copy. If either of us wants to change it, we have to keep our two separate versions in sync.” [Read More]

Essentially, Alex is arguing that metadata is more significant than the digital object containers called ‘files’ that we cling to for historical reasons:

Moving beyond files to associative and stream-based models will have profound implications. Data will be traceable, creators will be able to retain control of their works, and copies will know they are copies. Piracy and copyright debates will be turned on their heads, as the focus shifts from copying to the real question of who can access what. Data traceability could also help counter the spread of viral rumors and inaccurate news reports.” [Read More]

I contend that DAM consultants, vendors and trainers need to be at the forefront of this new way of thinking as these are problems we collectively deal with on a regular basis.  The actual file element of an asset in a DAM system seems to diminish in significance as the volume of digital assets grows exponentially and the amount of additional data (proxy assets, metadata, workflow and user data) increases and becomes at least as significant.  With ever increasing numbers of assets, it’s equally important that you know whether a digital object is suitable for your current needs as much as gaining rapid access to it.

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