5 Responses to Metadata is not an Afterthought

  1. Techquestioner 2011/11/30 at 22:25 #

    The whole purpose of having a content strategy is to have a structure or outline of what content you plan to present in what context, whether it is for a blog, a website, or even a single article. I’ve never been able to complete a writing project until I, at least mentally, if not in a formal outline, developed a structure that enabled me to introduce a topic, cover it in a structured order, and conclude it appropriately. As a student, and later as a technical writer, once I could “see” the structure, the writing would start to flow, and seem to finish itself. I thoroughly agree that the structure has to come first. You may still want to index it or append additional metadata tags that you did not think of initially, but without the basic structure, how do you know where to start?.

    • Mark Baker 2011/12/07 at 19:13 #

      Thanks for the comment. You are absolutely right, plans and outlines are metadata, they are created before the content, and they shape how it is written. The difference between structured and unstructured writing is not so much that structured writing has metadata and unstructured does not, but that structured writing unites the metadata and the content, whereas unstructured writing separates them, and often disposes of the metadata after the writing is done. But people trying to figure out where to start in the structured use of metadata should indeed look to all the planning and outlining tools they have used in the past as a starting point for defining the kinds of metadata they need to collect.

  2. Preeti Shukla 2011/12/02 at 02:17 #

    This is a really nice way of putting into perspective the real difference between structured and unstructured authoring. Especially, for those who believe that structured authoring is only for big organizations where content reuse and information mapping are a prerequisite.

    I just want to add here that considering that this is a one-time activity, the approach may change for authors after the schema is created and things have been streamlined in terms of metadata tagging and structured validations.

    • Mark Baker 2011/12/07 at 19:24 #

      Thanks for the comment, Preeti,

      Personally, I’ve always felt that structured writing is harder for large organizations than for small ones. Large organizations often believe that the only way to make structured writing affordable is to develop a single structure for use across the entire organization. But it is a gargantuan activity to develop a single structure that will satisfy everyone in a large organization, so these projects turn out to be expensive and time consuming, which makes small organizations think that they can’t possible afford them. In fact, smaller organizations with less diverse needs, can have a much easier time developing a working structured writing system. Larger organizations could too, if they stopped trying to please everyone with a single monolithic system.

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