Taxonomy, Folksonomy, Metadata and other DAM buzzwords
As you probably know by now, this week we released our new font management server, Universal Type Server. In preparation for the launch of this product, I recently went on a press tour to the East Coast and Europe. While in London, I saw many “To Let” signs posted outside of buildings and homes. For us in the Western hemisphere, we see signs that read “For Rent”, so it got me thinking about the different terminology we often used for conveying the same information.
This becomes particularly important when working collaboratively with individuals, as is the case when using a Workgroup Digital Asset Management solution such as Portfolio. How do we make sure that the terminology we use to tag our assets (images, video, audio, PDFs, etc) appropriately describes the content in it, so that anybody searching for those assets can easily find what they’re looking for?
The biggest fears organizations face when looking at a DAM solution is that they don’t know how to get started, or they’re afraid they’re going to “get it wrong”. Successful DAM implementations start by understanding the way we currently do things. Once we understand how our existing processes work, we would then create the desired workflow – the specific set of tasks performed by various individuals to complete a procedure. A successful workflow will be built with the involvement of all stakeholders, so that users can understand the logic behind how we manage our assets. It needs to be practical and consistent, so that it is adopted throughout the organization.
Let’s also discuss some of the commonly used terms we utilize when organizing, managing and distributing digital assets. When talking about databases, your schema is the framework or concept that helps organize and interpret information. When talking about Portfolio, it is your structure, the list of fields (such as: date, author, name, subject, etc) that you would like your catalogs to contain. Organizations may have hundreds of criteria, but only a few may be required to be used. We recommend that you organize your fields in three buckets:
- Crucial information. Information you need to have about your assets. Make this a mandatory field for anyone cataloguing your digital files.
- Nice to have information. Data that you would prefer to have, but not essential in your workflow.
- Information that you could live without, but it does not hurt to capture.
Once your catalog structure has been determined, you can focus on the values that make up your criteria, the words we’re going to use to populate those fields. There are two ways to approach this:
- One of them is taxonomy, a technique of creating classifications, using a controlled vocabulary. It is hierarchical in nature, and represents information about your assets or metadata (data about your data).
- The second method is folksonomy. Unlike taxonomy, folksonomy uses a collaborative method to categorize your metadata, where freely chosen keywords are used instead of a controlled vocabulary. Many organizations prefer not to use folksonomy, as it creates inconsistencies in the classification of information (kitty versus cat; product SKU versus product part number).
So why bother with schema, taxonomy, folksonomy and metadata? Because the organizations that we represent possess large amounts of digital assets. Assets because they are much more than simple files. They’re important and costly and we need to centrally store, quickly search, and easily share them with others. We care about all these DAM buzzwords, because we need to have a strategy that helps us achieve our business goals. We need to be able to respond faster than our competitors, be more flexible with our solutions, and more successful than ever before. We need to be extremely organized and managed.
So go and explore the world of digital asset management.