One of the few funny things to come out of the PRISM scandal is the extent to which the term ‘metadata’ has suddenly become mainstream.
For me it has been a case of being too close to something to even realise it was geeky. From my days contemplating a career in librarianship, to my early web career at ESRC wrestling with the E-GMS, to years at JISC (still caps on this blog) dealing with Dublin Core and all manner of other specialised schemas and now at the ONS where once again it is high on the agenda around data sets in particular it has always just been part of the landscape.
Early on in all of this it was explained to me as ‘data about data‘ and that has always stuck with me. As you can probably tell though the majority of my encounters with it were of the manual kind where adding it was perceived to add value – particularly around findability.
I think this is why the Guardian interactive published yesterday rubbed me up the wrong way a little. There is nothing wrong with it and its a very slick interactive but it essentially airbrushes out all other kinds of metadata that are not auto-generated by technology – it even defines metadata as “..information generated as you use technology” which seems like a limited, if not incorrect, explanation to me.
Metadata is much more than that and it was important long before the NSA started trawling through it.
Christ I have just realised I have written a blogpost in support of metadata. What have I become!