Thursday, 1 November 2012

metadata - use it or lose it

Over this fall I have recruited representatives from our participating units who are working with me to simplify our digital asset management system.  Not surprisingly, we have no shortage of ideas for new functionality or updates!  However, our challenge has been to develop recommendations that we could implement ourselves, without requiring expensive customizations.  We focused on simplifying the descriptive metadata that must be applied to assets when importing.
As discussed in my previous post, there are principles we can apply when considering which metadata fields to hide or remove.  Streamlining also means reworking the remaining fields so they are easier to use for all groups.  Here's a few more general principles derived from experience and information standards:
  1. Use it or lose it
  2. Mutual exclusivity
  3. Use the language of your users
  4. Use terms important to organizational context

Let's take a closer look at how these principles and staff feedback can be applied to asset type and asset subtype, metadata fields with pick lists used by everyone that have been causing consistency and usability issues.

Here are item counts for each type and subtype:

Use it or lose it

It is clear that some asset types and subtypes are used frequently, while some not at all. Terms that are not used are good candidates to be removed.

The principle of mutual exclusivity

Another problem with the existing asset types and subtypes was overlap between terms. For instance, some assets could be High Res PDF for Print, but also Publications. This broke the important classification principle of mutual exclusivity. We needed to reduce ambiguity so the pick list terms wouldn't overlap and the right choice of term is obvious to staff.

To make matters worse we had another product type field whose pick list had some overlap with map, graphic and document. We are therefore proposing to merge many of the Graphic, Map and Document subtypes under single new Asset Type: Design Product. This will reduce overlap, making the file description process simpler.

Use the language of your users

Pick list terms should match the terms used by staff, the public, or whoever will actually be using the system.   In controlled vocabulary development standards, this is known as the principle of user warrant.  The closer the alignment, the more intuitive and easier it will be to pick the right term when describing and searching for assets.

Another challenge: the difference between digital imaging and photograph was not clear to users.  These two terms were originally included to distiguish between images that were born digital (digital imaging) and images that were analog before being digitized (photograph).   For an Archival system managing original physical artifacts this is important, but not necessary for our digital asset management program.

Consultations with staff indicated other subtypes that were not very useful to them.   Our exhaustive lists of every possible term actually just made the system more complicated without adding much value for search and retrieval.   We have therefore proposed a significant redesign in which most asset subtypes will be removed, while modifying a few to make them more meaningful.

Use terms important to organizational context

Standards also suggest controlled vocabularies should focus on the language of the organization (organizational warrant). Many subtypes did not have a clear business requirement to include them. For example, among document subtypes, only Client Request Form and Consent form had a core business purpose, needing to be linked to Photo Video assets

The updated Asset Type list is below.  Only design product has a corresponding list of product types. All other subtypes will be removed.

These are just a few examples of the proposed improvements.  Big thanks to the unit representatives who participated in this streamlining project.  We are still planning our rollout and training requirements but January 2013 seems likely.

We also discussed a number of other improvements that, while not in scope for this project, we will be exploring further later. Establishing a effective digital asset management program is very much a process of continuous improvement.

No comments:

Post a Comment