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Metadata and Meta Tags Jen Colby 11/16/2006
A Disclaimer: Metadata is a pain – a big, complicated, messy pain to define, explain and study.
On the road… • What is metadata in IS? • What is metadata in IA? • Meta Tags: friend or foe? • References / resources
Metadata for Information Scientists • Until the mid-’90s, “metadata” was a term used only in very specific contexts • Its definition is now exploding; “metadata” has become a term that can mean many different things in many different contexts • The cop-out definition: “data about data” • Gilliland’s suggested definition: the whole of what we know or can express about a given information object
…but what is an information object? “an information object is anything that can be addressed and manipulated by a human or a system as a discrete entity. The object may be comprised of a single item, or it may be an aggregate of many items.” - Gilliland More at: http://www.getty.edu/research/conducting_research/standards/intrometadata/index.html
Gilliland’s “three features”: A direct excerpt from “Setting the Stage”, available via the Getty website at the URL provided in the previous slide: • Content relates to what the object contains or is about, and is intrinsic to an information object. • Context indicates the who, what, why, where, how aspects associated with the object's creation and is extrinsic to an information object. • Structure relates to the formal set of associations within or among individual information objects and can be intrinsic or extrinsic.
IA metadata: Making it specific… Metadata is “structured descriptions, stored as computer data, that attempt to describe the essential properties of other discrete computer data objects—specifically, the data objects that make up the information on the World Wide Web, the world’s largest and fastest-growing collection of data.” - Tony Gill
Meta Tags! for search optimization • In the mid to late ’90s, meta tags were very important to site rankings in various search engines • However, as interest in SEO grew, the abuse of meta tags grew as well • Eventually search engines began dropping their support for meta tags (around 1997) until only Inktomi-based search engines [Gill] supported them • Newer search engines such as Google have never supported meta tags, and thus have never gotten any of the information they use to rank and describe a site from this source
Some search engines that still pay any attention at all to meta tags will penalize sites that appear to be using the tags to spam the search engine.
So what’s the alternative? The <title> tag! “Although the search engines all have different approaches with respect to metadata and relevance ranking, they appear to have one characteristic in common—they all use the contents of the HTML <TITLE> tag as the single most significant factor in the ranking of result sets.” - Tony Gill
Meta Tags, redux…(for pure metadata this time) If your concern is simply making sure that all the metadata about your data object is on the record, you may still want to use meta tags. Here’s how to go about it…
W3.org on Meta Tags: • All <META> tags go inside the header of an HTML document • Define a property using ‘name’ and assign a value to it using ‘content’ • Example: <META name=“Author” content=“Jen Colby”> N.B.: This property is not legally defined
Making it legal: • According to the W3, “The meaning of a property and the set of legal values for that property should be defined in a reference lexicon called a profile.” • The profile is an attribute of the <head> tag and is expressed in HTML as <head profile=“[profile name]” • The profile name is called a URI and is either the name of a popular profile or a URL containing an explicitly stated profile
Bibliography / Resources: “Meta element”. Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meta_tag The Getty Research: Gill, Tony. “Metadata and the World Wide Web”. http://www.getty.edu/research/conducting_research/standards/intrometadata/metadata.html Gilliland, Anne J. “Setting the Stage”. http://www.getty.edu/research/conducting_research/standards/intrometadata/setting.html The W3 on metadata and meta tag use: The <META> tag: http://www.w3.org/TR/html4/struct/global.html#h-7.4.4 The profile attribute: http://www.w3.org/TR/html4/struct/global.html#profiles