Although its simplest definition is “data about data,” metadata can be better thought of as a label that provides a definition, description or context for data. Common examples include relational table definitions and flat file layouts. More detailed examples include conceptual and logical data models.
Among its other possible uses, metadata often plays an integral role in determining your data usage, gathering your data requirements and defining your naming conventions. And sometimes the best way to know what’s the matter with your data quality is to ask what’s the meta with your data?
Since it matters so much to your organization’s success, surely you can’t be anything but serious about metadata. I am serious about metadata, but don’t call me Shirley. Or Meta Monty for that matter.
Let’s not play Let’s Meta a Data
Monty Hall hosted the popular game show Let’s Make a Deal where contestants chose a prize concealed behind one of three doors, ambiguously labeled Door #1, Door #2 and Door #3, behind which were the grand prize (e.g., a luxury car), a lesser prize (e.g., a small amount of money) and a “zonk” (i.e., a booby prize, e.g., a toy car).
One aspect of managing metadata well is choosing the right metadata to describe your data using unambiguous semantics. Don’t force your organization to play the unpopular game show Let’s Meta a Data, where users are contested to choose potentially useful data concealed behind, for example, a relational table definition that is ambiguously labeled Column #1, Column #2 and Column #3.
I’m not sure if a sound metadata management strategy can guarantee you’ll always win the grand prize, but without good metadata your data quality is more likely to be data zonk-ity.
Does your organization manage its metadata well? Or are you playing games with metadata?