What exactly is metadata? In 2020, it is common knowledge that everything you do electronically leaves a trace, but how is that. Just like most things, there is more going on beyond the surface when a file is created. When a document is created, the properties of that document are then recorded in the form of metadata. This is essentially a fact-based summary of the document detailing everything from the time of creation to the author or title of the document. A common saying is that metadata is data about data.
Metadata can be segmented across various types in relational to the specific purpose of the metadata property including but not limited to:
- Descriptive properties – Used for discovery and search identification of the document.
- Administrative properties – Used for information management.
- Reference properties – Used for statistical analysis and to describe the quality of the data.
- Structural properties – Used to identify relational properties between the components within a file such as the hierarchy of the title being before the description.
- Technical properties – Used for operational management.
Additional factors play a part in building out the metadata for a file including the syntax rules of the metadata, the granularity of the metadata also known as how detailed the metadata is, the type of file that the metadata is for, and more. Different file types will have different metadata fields, a photograph won’t have the same metadata properties as a word document, and so on.
However, you can still universally find some of the more common and standardized elements of metadata:
- Means of creation
- Purpose of the file
- Time and date of creation
- Author of the data
- Location on a network where the data was created
- Standards used
- File size
- File type
- Data quality
- Source of the data
- The process used to create the data
It’s important to keep in mind that metadata isn’t exclusive to local files and offline documents. Metadata is also created when a user is active online. This could include when you send a message over a social media site or watch a recommended movie on Netflix. Metadata can be used from describing situations and intent to digital marketers tracking metrics for their campaigns.
Metadata is the facts about a document, it’s concrete nature makes it available to be identified if the metadata has been changed or altered after the initial time of creation, making it reasonably hard to dispute. Even though metadata can often be a valuable resource in identifying the facts, it is not the full document. You can learn a lot about a file through its metadata but to get the full picture you will need the file itself.