If you are reading this, you probably already have an idea of what metadata is. For those that don’t, the simple explanation is metadata is data about data. Metadata is how a digital object (photo, graphic, PDF, video etc) may be described using terms that are associated with that object. This association might include information like the “file create date,” the “file name,” keywords or a description. This information may be embedded in the file or included in a separate device (spreadsheet, sidecar or DAM).
Metadata Management, what does that mean in practical terms?
In terms of digital asset management, there are a variety of metadata models. The model used will likely depend upon context. Think about the industries that may use a DAM system to manage their photo, video or graphical content. The intended use of content will likely affect the type of metadata assigned to content.
In short, the metadata model determines they type of metadata associated with an item and how it is displayed to users. For information about specific metadata models or some more background, see my previous blogs here and here.
It all begins with Photo Metadata
1-It might start with your camera or scanner (remember film?). Basic information such as the camera manufacturer, model and serial number is added to the EXIF (Extra Information) part of a digital camera file. This may also include exposure information, and date/time of capture as recorded with the clock set in the camera. Even the camera model and serial number may be recorded as EXIF.
For scanned images from film (remember film) that file will also have embedded metadata (likely the date of the scan as create date and a file name).
2-Photographers may also add metadata to their pictures after they have been created, as part of the editing process using software like Photoshop, Bridge, Lightroom or PhotoMechanic. This is most common.
3-Your digital asset management system may add metadata automatically on import.
4-Metadata may be added to content after it has been added to the DAM System, either by manual review, or automatically.
5-Finally metadata may be added from external systems, for example a production system describes how content was used.
So, as you can see, there are lots of different times in the lifecycle of a digital asset to add or edit metadata.
Does this sound time consuming? It may be, especially if done poorly. If done well, this modest time investment during asset creation and import (to your DAM or CMS) will save much more time later when it is time to look for content. This is critical for a useful DAM.
“If You Don’t Have Time to Do It Right, When Will You Have Time to Do It Over?”
Hall of Fame basketball player/coach John Wooden
Here are some best practices for metadata management:
Best Practice Number 1-Determine your Metadata Model
Define what type of information (fields) you want to capture with your content. This should be done in the context of how people will be searching for and using the content you have added. You probably already have a metadata model and there is a good chance it is at least partially based on the IPTC Metadata specifications.
In defining your metadata model, you should think about how metadata travels with content that is shared with other users. Not all content is always embedded with digital assets.
Best practice Number 2-Partnership between Metadata suppliers and consumers
Think about how your users will search for content long after it has been input into the DAM. There is often a huge disconnect between the people that populate the DAM with content (suppliers) and those that want to use that content (consumers). A partnership between these different groups is important so that a common vocabulary is used. We both may say “tomato” and that is useful.
Best practice Number 3-Metadata Consistency is key
Providing consistent metadata and a search interface that reflects that consistency facilitates the metadata partnership.
There is much to be written about how to be consistent when applying metadata to content. This could include a file-naming standard, defined keywords, a caption (or description) “style,” and defined or controlled vocabularies that define how information is assigned.
Best practice Number 4-Take advantage of other Metadata tools
There are a number of additional ways to facilitate content discovery. These include creating a relevant thesaurus, using available search tools (wild card characters for example) or using an integrated request system (like Trax)
If you adopt these four best practices:
You will have a more satisfying DAM experience, and you will improve the discoverability and usefulness of stored items.
Want to learn more about DAM Best Practices? Visit http://tinyurl.com/pupawsg to download a free no obligation white paper.
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