Metadata – A crucial component of Intelligent Content

So what’s metadata and why is it crucial to intelligent content? And what’s intelligent content?

We define intelligent content as content that’s structurally rich and semantically aware and is therefore automatically discoverable, reusable, reconfigurable and adaptable.

So what’s metadata, and why is it important? Metadata is often described as ‘data about data’. Most of us are familiar with it as the stuff we see when we look at the properties section of a MS office document. The metadata contains basic information such as who created the document, when it was created, how many times it was accessed, how long it was open for editing, and other ‘housekeeping’ items.

In addition to these standard items, the metadata can contain a host of other items such as; Checked by, Client, Document number, Language or Typist. Each of these can be further refined by adding qualifiers such as a Type (date or text) and by Value (yes or no, or a valid date).

This means that we would be able to search for a document created by a particular person, checked by another, and released on a particular date. All without looking at (or even knowing) the name of the file – just by examining the metadata of the available files.

As can be seen in the example, I’ve added metadata information to the Custom tab in a Word file. By checking the metadata, a system query could find this document by looking for all documents created by me (Charles Cooper) and checked by Joe Bloggs that were in English.

But how often can you reuse a complete document? Not often. You want to find a file so that you can extract information from it, say a paragraph containing a description, or a procedure, and reuse that information elsewhere.

If we expand the ability to add metadata to individual elements within a document – such as paragraphs, or structures (like ‘tasks’ or ‘overviews’), we can increase the granularity of information retrieval, and increase reuse of information in an intelligent manner.

Of course, we don’t usually create simple documents and apply metadata to the ‘bits’ inside them. But when we’re working with structured documents, we can do this – and we can save those ‘bits’ into a database, allowing them to be found and reused in other locations and in other documents. And if we don’t want to export all of those ‘bits’,an XML standard called XQuery allows us to retrieve information from within structured documents based on tags and elements without having to break it into smaller components.

Intelligent query, use, adaptability and reuse – these are the essence of Intelligent Content and it’s driven by the metadata and structure applied to the content.

We’ll talk more about XQuery in a future blog entry.

For more information about metadata and taxonomy check out Seth Early’s Fall Tutorial Series about Semantic Technologies as part of his Community of Practice.

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