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The Metadata Lifecycle for Digital Content

Classifying metadata values along a “content lifecycle” timeline is an interesting exercise that can make your DAM easier to use and maintain. Applying the categories Historical, Current and Future, you’ll find that each metadata value describes something related to the content’s origin or history, its current state or its future use.

The most immediate benefits that come from this metadata categorization are:

  • It’s easier to ensure all required metadata (and nothing more) have been considered
  • It’s easier to wrap a meaningful per-field rights model around your metadata fields, which enables you to better govern who can edit and see each value.

Applying the Metadata Timeline

Think of your metadata values as each falling somewhere on a timeline, with Historical values on the left, Current values in the middle and Future values on the right. This visual exercise enables you to spot any holes in your metadata schema, and it also illustrates where your timeline might be overstuffed with values that are redundant or beyond your needs. (Rule of thumb: If you can’t imagine ever searching for or reporting on a given metadata value, chances are you don’t need it.)

Below are examples of some common metadata values and where they fit along the metadata timeline.

Historical Metadata

Digital cameras can capture a suite of metadata that are part of the EXIF metadata standard. Among these values are date and time, camera model, shutter speed and other values that describe the state of the camera in use at the moment the photo was taken. Other content types come with their own set of Historical metadata values, such the date of an audio recording, the frame rate of a video capture or the author of a document.

Values like these mark the beginning of the content’s Historical metadata timeline and they must be protected to ensure their validity. In fact, it’s good policy to configure your DAM so that Historical metadata values cannot be casually (or erroneously) edited by users. This is an important distinction between Historical and Current metadata values.

In addition to the “carved in digital stone” metadata that should remain unchanged throughout the lifecycle of your content, you’ll periodically add values to Historical metadata to reflect the content’s lifecycle journey. Examples include:

  • Licenses — To whom was the content licensed, and when
  • Modifications — When were updates performed, and where are those older versions
  • Approvals — Who granted approvals and when were they granted
  • Distributions — Where was the content shared or sent, and when

As with the content’s original Historical values, these values should be changed only in the case of error. And those changes should always be in accordance with official DAM policy, which might include reviews, audits and journal entries outside the DAM itself.

Current metadata

timeline_shutterstock_94490071.jpgCurrent metadata values describe the state of the content right now. Here you find your descriptive tags, production statuses, ownership, etc.

We think of Current metadata values as being subject to change as the content evolves, but it’s not uncommon for some Current metadata, such as the subject of a photo, to remain unchanged throughout the content’s lifecycle. Though it’s tempting to think of these static Current values as being Historical, it’s a good idea to keep them in your Current classification for one reason: they sometimes do change.

For example, no matter what happens to a photo after it’s taken, the shoot date will never change. This makes “Shoot Date” a perfect candidate for Historical classification. But the subject of a photo can change. A photo captioned as the “2002 Dancing Dolphins Kayaking Club” might one day become, “Forth-sixth President of the United States, Nancy Reynolds, with fellow kayakers.”

Future metadata

All metadata values that affect or shape the content’s future are, not surprisingly, Future metadata. This is where you’d classify rights permissions, usage restrictions, target audiences and other such values that collectively influence future use of the content.

Values like “Expiration Date” or “Next-review Date” could be thought of as Future metadata, but because they do not contain perpetually future values (like a usage restriction), you might want to classify them as Current metadata.

 

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