What is metadata? And why does it matter?
What is metadata? Whether you’re familiar with the term or not, this exploration piece will take you through the ins and outs of metadata, and will let you know why we think it will play an important role in the future of business intelligence.
The actual definition of metadata, unlike many other BI terms, is rather simple.
It is data describing other data.
Descriptive, structural, and administrative metadata
Let’s take it a step further and have a look at a general categorization of three different types of metadata (sourced from Wikipedia).
First off, we have descriptive metadata. This can be defined as data that describes or identifies the information resource of the data. Basically, this is data that describes unique attributes of other data, making identification simple.
Additionally, structural metadata describes the structure of other data, i.e. how objects are related or put together.
And, finally, administrative metadata allows for long-term and short-term management of data by supplying information related to the creation of the data, the file type, access control, etc.
Mind you, this is just one of many categorizations of metadata that exists in an attempt to clarify what metadata actually is. And, in the spirit of this, we’ll move on to look at some examples.
Metadata in action – let’s explore some examples
The use of metadata within web pages is a great first example. All of the information included in the metatag is there to describe elements such as creation data, page title, keywords, and page content. This data, in turn, is read by search engines and determines the positioning of pages in your search results.
The world of photography also uses a lot of metadata. For instance, the data contained in a digital photo file often includes ownership, copyright, and creation information.
Metadata is, of course, also used within business intelligence – allowing for increased data governance. Here, you might be looking at metadata that describes the creation, location, and relations of your data.
The role of metadata in the future
Ultimately, metadata, with all of its defining functions, allows you to structure your data. And, as we have discussed at length in our Dark Data piece, there is no value in unstructured data. In turn, metadata is a huge source of value for all players within business intelligence.
So what are we trying to say? Well, as many have said before, it is not the collection of data that matters, but rather the ability to govern and derive insight from data. Metadata allows you to do this – making it a vital part of successful data analysis.
To read more about the future of metadata, we recommend checking out PCmag’s piece “Your Company Collects Tons of Data: Now What?“.
That’s it for this time. If you want to explore more Big Data terms, we recommend heading over to our Qliktionary where you will find term upon term clearly described.
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