Twitter followers of Ian Matzen will have seen a link to the recording of this webinar: Metadata Is The New Gold which was hosted by film industry technology trade association, The Hollywood IT Society on Wednesday (30th July). The event has speakers from NoSQL database vendors, MarkLogic (Matt Turner), Avalon Consulting (Mike Green) and Condé Naste (Brian Cross).
The initial sections are not confidence inspiring as the three speakers give you the usual pre-rehearsed PowerPoint presentation run-through of their respective firms or key projects. Where things get more interesting is after the walkthroughs are completed and the more open-ended discussions between the speakers commences (at about 27 minutes for anyone who wants to skip directly to that part). Others hosting webinars might find that observation useful for optimising the structure of their own productions.
There are a number of good points raised which are worth highlighting. One which resonated for me was the importance of normalising metadata to enable it to be leveraged more easily. For those without a background in IT or information science, ‘normalising’ usually refers to a process of indexing items of data (i.e. cross referencing text with a number instead) so it becomes easier to carry out aggregate operations, like changing a description once and having that update everywhere. This is one of the core building blocks relied upon by scalable metadata models that are the basis of controlled vocabularies and other context-dependent search and cataloguing interfaces.
Another discussion area was permissions and the observation by Brian Cross of Condé Naste that an earlier iteration of their DAM system had an excessive number of asset access/download restrictions which were affecting productivity for their users. This seems to come up many times in corporate DAM implementations where the earlier editions are excessively restrictive and require approvals for even non-contentious assets, I wrote an article about this issue over four years ago and it does not surprise me that others have had similar experiences.
Mike Green from Avalon also described some of the basic Semantic Web concepts and how these have become particularly relevant with technologies like NoSQL which eschews the rigid relational/hierarchical model in favour of a more flexible ontology to link concepts. A further topic of discussion was crowdsourcing metadata cataloguing, the example shown was interesting, although it did appear to be cataloguing less specialist images which are generally straightforward to outsource (whether to crowdsourcing platforms or offshore suppliers).
Those who are already familiar with metadata concepts may not get as much out of this as people who are approaching this subject with less prior knowledge, but it is a few notches above the more simplistic advice that you often get about metadata as it relates to DAM specifically (which is frequently limited to telling you that it is a good idea, but not why or how you should go about applying it).
There are some conceptual subjects which I intend to discuss on other follow-up articles that have been prompted by this webinar. In particular I do not think I agree with the marketing premise of the “Metadata Is The New Gold’ title, nor that metadata (especially as it applies to digital assets) can be regarded as any kind of commodity. Those are more philosophical points, however, which would be better served in another piece and I would not want to detract from this recording by dwelling on them here. Assuming you have the requisite playback device, this is one you could just listen to rather than watch and probably get just as much information out of it (which might make it more useful for those too busy to devote the time to viewing and listening to it).
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