SIGIA-L Mail Archives: RE: understanding metadata , was Re: SIG
RE: understanding metadata , was Re: SIGIA-L: future directions for IA
From: Louis Rosenfeld (lou_at_louisrosenfeld.com)
Date: Wed Aug 29 2001 - 16:14:07 EDT
Making me feel wistful about Argus, Peter Merholz wrote some more:
> > * Understanding and using metadata
> from BLoug:
> Understanding and using metadata: It was no accident that we
> Argonauts were
> so obsessed by controlled vocabularies and thesauri. They're increasingly
> necessary as a way to provide consistent and accurate representation of
> knowledge domains to both humans who are browsing and automated tools that
> augment searching. Many see IA as the structuring of
> information, but when
> are we going to start focusing on unlocking the *meaning* contained within
> those structures?
> I would agree that CVs, thesauri, taxonomies, and metadata will grow
> increasingly important. It's becoming ever more clear to me that Argus was
> simply ahead of it's time.
> I'm wary of any attempts to unlock "meaning" from information structures.
> "Meaning" is a slippery term, so maybe if you defined
> specifically what you
> meant it would help. When I read what you wrote, I'm worried that you're
> going to start trumpeting "The Semantic Web," the W3C's noble but
> oh-so-misguided attempt at embedding "meaning" in the content on
> Web pages.
> ("Oh-so-misguided" because it's yet another example of pointy-headed
> academic types trying to Do Good by imposing their values on a system that
> really isn't interested in their values.)
The pointy-headed academic stuff is good when it raises awareness. So while
I don't agree with a lot of TimBL's ideas, he's doing us all a service by
raising the bar a bit.
I was sharpening my skull just the other day when it occurred to me that too
many information architects still view their work as being about structuring
information. We are fixated on the *syntax* of the "finding experience"
but, IMHO, not the *semantics* of it. Both are important, but I'm afraid
we'll fall into the same trap as the XML, portal, and content management
communities: all kinds of great ways to structure your information, but
describing its meaning... huh? That expertise will have to come from
somewhere else, of course. And then we wonder why these solutions don't
I think that users aren't after information, they're after *meaning*. If
you look at it that way, the whole IA landscape suddenly takes on a
different look. Instead of staring at your information, you can ask
yourself new questions about it, like what is the actual meaning that it
contains, what are the "hooks" that will help identify and pull that meaning
out of that information, and what kind of meaning do my site's users really
want anyway? What does meaning mean to them: relevance, popularity,
authority, timeliness, consistency, availability, something else?
We know that Google is successful because its take on meaning combines
relevance and popularity. The New York Times' take on NYC's mayoral
elections is more authoritative than the New York Post's; even though it may
somehow be less relevant, it's more meaningful because most newspaper
readers want an authoritative account.
Hey, maybe this reads as utter nonsense; after all, I'm throwing stuff
against the wall and hoping that it sticks. But the concept of meaning,
well, I guess it just has a lot of meaning for me at the moment. ;-) Now
back to the head sharpener...
This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.2
: Sun Nov 23 2003 - 22:54:48 EST