Metadata is an interesting piece, many corporations and individuals fight over the true meaning of metadata and the context to which it applies. This entry is a thought experiment and explores the question of context, deriving context and resolving contextual fights within an organization as they relate to enterprise metadata. I believe everyone can have a metadata sit-in, and maybe finally work this thing out. Note: this is a tiny bit of light reading...
Why should I even have knickers? What are knickers anyway? And why would they be twisted? Well, if you've never visited England, I suggest maybe you do so. It's a beautiful country - anyhow, knickers have multiple definitions depending on the time of reference and who's doing the referencing. For most of us who speak or understand English today, the statement usually refers to under-garments worn around the waist area.
Ok, so what's changed?
The TYPE of undergarment that knickers used to be, versus what they are today. This is an example of a time-sensitive contextual piece of metadata.
According to Websters Dictionary:
â€“noun (used with a plural verb)
1. Also, knickâ€§erâ€§bockâ€§ers Pronunciation[nik-er-bok-erz] loose-fitting short trousers gathered in at the knees.
2. Chiefly British. a. a bloomers like undergarment worn by women.
3. British Informal. a woman's or girl's short-legged underpants.
â€”Idiom4. to get one's knickers in a twist, British Slang. to get flustered or agitated: Don't get your knickers in a twist every time the telephone rings.
[Origin: 1880â€“85; shortened form of knickerbockers, pl. of knickerbocker, special use of Knickerbocker]
Now notice something interesting: At the end of the definition, it doesn't even agree with itself - they've twisted their knickers, and said see the word KNICKERBOCKER - let's see what KNICKERBOCKER has to say:
Knickâ€§erâ€§bockâ€§erâ€‚Pronunciation[nik-er-bok-er] â€“noun 1. a descendant of the Dutch settlers of New York. 2. any New Yorker. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- [Origin: 1800â€“10, American; generalized from Diedrich Knickerbocker, fictitious author of Washington Irving's History of New York]
Which not surprisingly has NOTHING to do with Knickers in the first place. Look at Definition #1 in the first quote, and definition #1 in the second quote - they DON'T MATCH!!! They are from close to the same time-period in origin. Ok, so we studied the root of the word, this is not so interesting...
But it gives rise to a contextual problem (one that we have throughout our enterprises today. We can't decide on how to define our own terms, and furthermore, the metadata (the definitions and contextual understanding) 1) changes over time, 2) changes based on individual or line of business.
Our enterprise metadata (Master Metadata) needs to be set forth, and needs to be built from an enterprise (top-down) view. That's not to say that we can't all have our cake / definitions and eat them too! We can, and we should. The best way to describe this type of effort is to look at existing Semantic Mapping Technology, or the Semantic Web, or Semantic Integration. Normally these things are done by hand, and if you choose to do so I would highly suggest an investment in a tool that can track, develop, and visualize Taxonomies, and Ontologyâ€™s of words.
In order to make this work you might need:
* Clear taxonomy - defined at different Work Breakdown Structures
* Clear Taxonomy - defined at different Organizational Breakdown Structures
* Clear ontology to manage the taxonomies, cross the WBS with the OBS for big success.
* Clear Version control - each piece of metadata MUST be versioned, and tracked to the CHANGE REQUEST that triggered it within the business processes. Yes, (sigh) this too is tied to BPM and SEI/CMMI level 4.
Yes, I'm suggesting Metadata at CMMI level 4, quantitatively tracked. Quality scores could be included, but are subjective to the individual scoring the metadata.
Now on to your knicker problem, uhhh I mean - the Knickers Twisting problem... I mean - don't wear tight pants and then exercise if you don't want your knickers in a twist... Ok - I digress (sorry).
In all honesty, Knickers are _not_ knickerbockers, although the word may have been derived from the original term. Knickers at an enterprise level may be accepted from a pants manufacturing corporation such as Levi Strauss - as the definition of PANTS or UNDERPANTS... but which is it?
In the real-world of metadata this needs to be resolved by the executive team, they need to be the ones to define PRIMARY metadata. Using Taxonomy trees, secondary, and tertiary metadata can be defined based on LOB (lines of business) and work breakdown structures (roles & responsibilities or uses of the metadata). As long as the metadata is tied to the CURRENT VIEW of the organization, and what the data set represents. So that when data is delivered to the enterprise the metadata goes with it, and the organization can drill up/down and across the metadata meanings (provided they have the proper security).
Unfortunately I do not know of any single tool that can accomplish this today. There are a set of open-source tools that manage semantic meaning, and a set of other tools that manage taxonomies, and another set of tools that manage version control / document management, security, and so on. Metadata tool set vendors are still in their infancy, hopefully someone will rise to the challenge - and hopefully I have not put your knickers in a twist!
We can help you sort out the metadata mess, and establish a contextual, enterprise based metadata system that will save you time and money. This is a serious issue and must be solved before the enterprise gives rise to an SOA initiative, or before the enterprise claims to have completed an SOA initiative.
As always, I'd love to hear from you - your thoughts, comments, poetry, haiku, and and tall tales are all welcome.
CTO, Myers-Holum, Inc
Posted November 7, 2006 7:23 AM
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