Last week Kristian Norling wrote a blog post about how they work with metadata at Västra Götalands Regionen (VGR). In the beginning of his post he states that metadata is boring, but extremely useful. A teacher in statistics that I had in college used to say that statistics is the most boring thing there is. It’s the things that you can do with statistics that makes it really interesting. So I agree with both of them, the metadata (or statistics) in itself is quite boring, but the things you can do with it is what makes it all worth it. The quality and structure of information must also be in focus when creating Findability solutions that aim to provide easy access to all information inside and outside the firewall.
Findwise is currently working on improving our findability solution which is our intranet. When we investigated our own business and user needs we learned that there is a need for a more flexible way of organizing information so it can be found from different entrypoints as well as in different contexts. Therefore one of the things at the heart of our intranet (except the search functionality off course) is metadata. As a fast growing (and changing) company we find it hard to create and maintain one single information hierarchy that is intuitive and self-evident to all our employees. Instead we are working with a taxonomy with a simple set of categories and concepts. All content is tagged with what, where and who.
Who describes which people or groups are allowed to see a document. It can be everyone, a single person or a group of people such as the finance department, or a project team. Since knowledge sharing is very important for our organization most of the information is open for everyone to see and use.
Where describes which sites the content should be visible on. A single document can be visible on several sites. So if contact details for a customer is relevant to show on several projects for that customer the same content can be displayed on all the different project sites, without us having to store duplicate versions of the content.
What describes the concepts the content relates to. These concepts include customers, projects, products & competences, information types as well as categories that are created through the means of user generated tagging. This way one single document does not have to belong to one specific site or folder, but can be displayed in several different and all relevant locations on the intranet. Thanks to this use of metadata it is also possible to use the different categories for search and faceted navigation. For example I can view all design specifications from different customer projects that include the concept faceted navigation, or all information about how to work with search analytics with the search platform Autonomy IDOL. The concepts and the information becomes the focus instead of the location where it is stored.
In the first stage this will be done manually as content is added to the intranet. In the future it would also be of interest for us to utilize the same type of service that we developed for VGR, for our own content. But instead of using controlled vocabularies such as MeSH we use our own taxonomy and the power of search technology to suggest or automatically add appropriate customers, projects and categories for a document. A first step in this will probably be to use entity extraction techniques to identify and automatically tag already existing documents with concepts such as customers and search platforms.
We hope to share our experiences from this project with you in the future. In the mean while I recommend that you read Kristian’s post about how they use different types of keyword metadata at VGR.