Wednesday, 10 November 2004

Meta-Data Repositories Meet Semantics

via OLDaily.

I echo strongly with Stephen's comment:

Sounds good, but look at the presumption it is based on: "Semantics define a concept's meaning in a manner that is both unambiguous and universally correct in meaning." This is not a sound presumption on which to base an industry....

Without going into the semantic level, metadata itself poses lot of issues. Different metadata profiles should not be completely harmonised into a common straight-jacket.

Metadata is "data about data". Without going into a recursive relationship of data and metadata and metametadata, let's just look at "metadata" of physical goods.

In most business, goods are kept tracked by using "metadata" - data about the goods. For example, the "inventory" is tracked and order for new stock is made, promotion program are used based on the records of the metadata of the goods. People seldom count their stock every minute or every day. Not even every month. They do their "reconciliation" half-yearly or annually.

Any accountant or auditor can tell you that every business has its own different sets of characteristics about the goods in their metadata. The freight company is more interested in the weight and size of the goods, the fashion industry interested in size and color, and so on. As an industry matures and needs interoperability, usually a common set of characteristics will stand out and get standardized. However, the competition is ALWAYS on the differences, not the standard features that everybody has. It is always the difference that distinguish a brand from another, and customers are making their buying decisions on the differences! When I bought an MP3 player for my daughter, I made a decision on the specification. She decided to want one against another is based on the look of the MP3 - not any standards or specification! It is because it looks "cool".

[Business hat ON] If a consultant to your company suggests you to convert all your critical company data (or metadata) into a common set of metadata which everybody else uses. Think twice! Who is that "everybody"? and where will your competitive advantage be once you adopted this approach? How can you keep track of your competitive advantage? [Business hat OFF]

If we can understand this, the issue of metadata is a "fitness for the purpose". Different communities will develop different "metadata profile" to meet their special needs. This development effort can be driven "top-down" or "bottom-up". Both approaches have their pros and cons. It is sufficiently problematic.

If we are trying to "cross-walk" and apply "semantic" to elements over a board range of communities, I am not optimistic!

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