What is Metadata and Why Should I Care?

What is Metadata?

At its core, metadata data is data about data, or in plainer language it is a description about a thing.

What Metadata Does

Metadata serves a few basic purposes. Primarily it is used to organize things to make them findable. It also describes things so they can be understood without opening or using them.

What Metadata Does Not Do

Metadata is data about a thing, but it is not the thing itself. Sharing metadata does not result in the full item being shared. It simply lets others know the item exists and where it can be found.

Why should I care?

Metadata is pervasive in information systems, and comes in many forms. The core features of most software packages we use every day are metadata-driven. People listen to music via streaming services; post photos online in social media accounts and digital photo platforms, watch videos; manage finances with accounting software; connect with others via email, text, and social media; and store lengthy contact lists on their mobile devices. All of this content comes with metadata—information about the item’s creation, name, topic, features, and the like. Metadata is key to the functionality of the systems holding the content, enabling users to find items of interest, record essential information about them, and share that information with others.

Listen to Sarah and Deblekha talk about the history of Metadata