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Simple Metadata

By Steve Jones,

We all know what metadata is, right? It's data about data, meaning that data that describes other data. In SQL Server, the column names are often a type of metadata, telling us some information about what data is being stored in them.

When we first built this site, we tended to try and classify things, which meant building a category system. I think many of us tackle things in a similar manner, even today, developing some taxonomy for organizing things. We tend to use a category and a sub-category, and if we're ambitious, we might develop a recursive CTE that easily handles sub-sub-categories and more levels.

A little over a year ago we rebuilt this site and implemented a tagging system instead of categories. At the time, the developers tried to tell me that many sites like Digg, Technorati, and more were using tags and this was a better way to do things. I'd seen tags on C|Net and some other sites, those clouds of words that seemed to clutter up the side of pages.

So I didn't really use tags. I tended to assign one or two tags to articles, scripts, etc. and used it as a category system of sorts, sticking with my old-fashioned way of looking at the world. I'm not sure how many people cared since we haven't had any type of cloud available for people to use. Our drill down in the articles doesn't necessarily make the use of tags that obvious.

However recently I've been using more tags on my blogs and on sites like Facebook, and I've realized that tags aren't really a taxonomy. They're more a search mechanism, keywords reborn, that let you quickly filter things down. Or find things.

It's a bit of revelation for me to see tags as meta data, and not worry about which tags make sense. If I think of a word that seems relevant, I add it to the tags. I think about search when I tag, and I think it makes for a richer system. And I find it amazing how well it has caught on when asking people to add "keywords" to their systems in the late 90s seemed like it would never work.

We'll see how this changes in the future and if we can incorporate more things into the site. I'm still learning and trying to figure things out as I go. Please feel free to give us suggestions and ideas if you have them.

Steve Jones

 


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