I’m not much of a book reader, so when I do read a good book, it sticks in my head. David Weinberger’s Everything is Miscellaneous is one such good book, that speaks to the added value of meta-data. For non-techies, that’s all the descriptive information of an object – like your library catalogue. When you buy a book in Amazon or tag photos in Facebook, you’re leaving a trail of meta-data that when properly harvested, can create an amazing experience for users of those services.
I was reminded of David’s work recently when I found my dusty matchbook collection that was forgotten on a top shelf for over ten years. The value of a tiny bit of meta-data was as striking. And the absence of meta-data was equally striking.
Through most of the eighties and nineties, before smoking was banned in public places, most restaurants carried souvenir matchbooks. I’ve already confessed in a prior blog post my bizarre habit of writing meta-data in my dictionary. So you won’t be surprised that I wrote meta-data in matchbooks as well. That’s right, every time I was out for a meal, I would ask for a matchbook if they weren’t already on display at the maitre-d stand next to the toothpicks. My wife Miriam collected matchbooks too, and she enhanced them with meta-data just as I did.
Now we’re talking very sparse meta-data, not anything rich like the Dublin Core standard. It probably took less than five seconds to record three basic attributes – When? Who? Why? Obviously the “Where”?” was pre-populated on the matchbook itself. At some point, restaurants lost interest in matchbooks and Miriam and I lost interest in this strange habit. But I kept all the matchbooks nevertheless.
The first few matchbooks I opened had no meta-data. I had an empty feeling knowing I had been somewhere but not remembering with who, why, or when. I probably had an enjoyable evening with a business colleague, a friend, or my wife, but who knows? Its totally forgotten now.
But for the matchbooks that had meta-data, wonderful memories jumped back to life. Here are a few that span a ten-year period. Leave a comment if you were there.
“We might not know what the publishing landscape will look like in five years, but metadata is the one thing you can confidently take control of now to future proof your business.”
see full article from Publishing Perspectives at …