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To meta-tag or not to meta-tag? A skeptical view. James Dalziel Adjunct Professor and Director, Macquarie E-learning Centre of Excellence & Executive Director, WebMCQ Pty Ltd. Overview. What do we mean by meta-tagging? The arguments against meta-tagging Some alternatives

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to meta tag or not to meta tag a skeptical view

To meta-tag or not to meta-tag?A skeptical view

James Dalziel

Adjunct Professor and Director, Macquarie E-learning Centre of Excellence &

Executive Director, WebMCQ Pty Ltd

overview
Overview
  • What do we mean by meta-tagging?
  • The arguments against meta-tagging
  • Some alternatives
  • A call for a moratorium: No more!
what is meta tagging
What is meta-tagging?
  • Meta-data is data about data
    • Very broad impact
    • Requires a more limited definition for clarity
  • Meta-tagging is the human act of tagging data with other data
    • Excludes automated meta-data creation
    • Requires a framework for meaningful human action: Categories and terms
what is meta tagging1
What is meta-tagging?
  • E-learning and information systems examples
    • Learning Object Meta-data (LOM)
    • Dublin Core
    • Discipline-specific taxonomies
arguments against meta tagging
Arguments against meta-tagging
  • Background
    • Given this is a debate, intentionally provocative
    • Core focus is “coal-face” users like teachers
  • Key arguments against
    • Incompatibility of standards
    • Human fallibility
    • Cost/benefit
    • Real-life usage
incompatibility of standards
Incompatibility of standards
  • Lack of harmonisation between e-learning and library worldviews of meta-data
    • Different standards
    • Objective vs subjective fields
    • Lack of controlled vocabularies for LOM
  • LOM and application profiles
    • CETIS example of divergence
human fallibility
Human fallibility
  • Who will do meta-tagging? Teachers??
    • What training will they get?
    • What are the rewards for the task?
    • Who will quality assure their work?
  • Even the best are fallible
    • How to buy a cheap palm pilot on ebay….

From Cory Doctorow - http://www.well.com/~doctorow/metacrap.htm

human fallibility1
Human fallibility
  • “Metacrap: Putting the torch to seven straw-men of the meta-utopia” by Cory Doctorow
      • People lie
      • People are lazy
      • People are stupid (Plam pilot example)
      • Mission: Impossible -- know thyself
      • Schemas aren't neutral
      • Metrics influence results
      • There's more than one way to describe something
cory doctorow quote
Cory Doctorow quote:

“People are Lazy

You and me are engaged in the incredibly serious business of creating information. Here in the Info-Ivory-Tower, we understand the importance of creating and maintaining excellent metadata for our information.

But info-civilians are remarkably cavalier about their information. Your clueless aunt sends you email with no subject line, half the pages on Geocities are called "Please title this page" and your boss stores all of his files on his desktop with helpful titles like "UNTITLED.DOC."

This laziness is bottomless. No amount of ease-of-use will end it.”

cost benefit
Cost/benefit
  • Meta-tagging is a costly activity
    • Definition
    • Creation
    • Quality assurance
    • Provision for use
  • What is the benefit of all the fields to users?
  • Are we just meeting the psychological needs of a small minority of cataloguers?
    • “Low tolerance for ambiguity?”
real life usage
Real-life usage
  • What does the research data show of the actual meta-data needs of teachers?

(1) Google

(2) Keyword (1 field!)

(3) Use of “Advanced” search features - minimal

  • Have we really asked them what they want?
    • Anecdotal “secondary meta-data” answers
  • Urgent need for more research and demonstrators
alternatives to meta tagging
Alternatives to meta-tagging
  • Google
    • “They’re not supposed to search that way”
    • Can we really keep ignoring its success?
  • Communities of practice
    • Emailing, newsletters, secondary meta-data, gossip
  • Automated textual analysis
    • Eg, Latent Semantic Analysis
a call to action moratorium
A Call to Action: Moratorium!
  • A proclamation for today: NO MORE!
  • Until….
    • We fully harmonise our standards
    • We solve the problem of quality assurance
    • We can truly justify the investment
    • We have thoroughly researched what users want
  • Otherwise….
    • We are wasting time and money on a fantasy