If data is the language upon which our modern society will be built, then metadata will be its grammar, the construction of its meaning, the building for its content and the ability to understand what data can be for us all.

Metadata matters because it gives structure and meaning to the data associated with all that we do in our business and personal transactions. It is both identification and discovery; it’s about access. Metadata matters because it tells you where your content came from, where it is going and how it can be used. Business needs, user needs, and language change … your metadata needs to adapt to stay relevant.

Kyiv Under Metadata Identity Relevance Conundrum

As the world is focused on the current situation in Ukraine, the capital city of Kyiv is currently amid a metadata identity relevance conundrum. Search results on Google are still showing “Kyiv” on Wikipedia as “Kiev” … no, it’s just Kyiv, thank you very much, as the people of Ukraine have stated.

Let us all consider this with humanity and respect. Without facts that are authentic, authoritative and replete with respect, trust will be hard to build. Information is coming at us from so many sources. This complexity is being compounded by the increasing rate of content production on social media.

And yet, trust is hard to come by. Social media is filled with falsehoods and misinformation, which are fashionable synonyms for lies. Irresponsible authors help propagate misinformation and confusion in the race to be first with the so-called facts to feed to the masses.

Related Article: Search Makes the DAM and Metadata Oils the Search

The “KyivNotKiev” Campaign

The “KyivNotKiev” campaign started in 2018 by the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs together with a 15-member centre for strategic communications (StratCom Ukraine) with a single, good and meaningful purpose: to influence English-language media and beyond to exclusively use Kyiv (derived from the Ukrainian language name Київ) instead of Kiev (derived from the Russian language name Киев) as the name of the Ukrainian capital.

This was about identity and respect, a removal of the linguistic relics of the past, and a shepherding in of the very modern and accurate artifact of the present. Thanks to the democratic and principled goals embodied by the freedom of the press, the media can assume the role of metadata steward, one who manages language, for following this usage, for using the correct spelling and pronunciation and sharing the proper use of Kyiv for all to learn.

This is not the first time this has happened in our history as many cities have changed their names for many good reasons ranging from newfound freedom, independence and ethnocultural respect. These include Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon); Istanbul (formerly Constantinople); Kinshasha (formerly Leopoldville); Mumbai (formerly Bombay); Tallin (formerly Reval); Toronto (formerly York); and Oslo (formerly Kristiania).

Metadata Is About Meaning, and Meaning Matters

Metadata can move beyond politics to food as evident recently where there have been instances of a “call to action” to change the popular and delicious meal of “Chicken Kiev” to “Chicken Kyiv” as a sign of solidarity with Ukraine. Food for thought, full pun intended.

And, it doesn’t stop there with similar naming instances with “White Ukrainian” replacing a “White Russian” cocktail, and “Moscow Mules” now under review for a name change by many drinking establishments. It matters indeed.

Metadata is about meaning and must change with societal norms in a respectful and inclusive manner. Ask yourself, what’s in a word? Well, everything. Language is always in a state of change, with new words and meanings being created — this happens quickly and globally, often in ephemeral ways that can take time to permeate into daily awareness.

It is important to keep current, and up-to-date on potential business impacts. And if we accept the fact that your metadata needs to adapt to stay relevant, then ask yourself if your metadata is out-o-date? Has the meaning has changed? Is it damaging? Is it something new? If it is, then yes, this is an opportunity for good changed to be made and socialized.

Learning Opportunities

Related Article: 'Something Else' and Why Metadata Matters

Metadata Governance Means Language Diplomacy

Think of metadata governance as language diplomacy. The best way to plan for change is to apply an effective layer of governance to your metadata. Governance is about the ability to enable strategic alignment, facilitate change and maintain integrity. Metadata is about meaning and must change with societal norms in a respectful and inclusive manner. If we accept that language is alive, then we must know that language will grow, evolve and change over time. Some things need to change as a matter of respect, and other things change as a matter of sociopolitical cultural changes in the words we use and their meanings.

I proudly acknowledge and welcome the quote by author Angela Duckworth, who avows, "Language is one way to cultivate hope; people can learn to learn.”

We love language; in particular, how words are used to describe and imbue emotion into their meaning. Metadata matters because language matters in how meaning is expressed in the words being used. You don’t know what you don’t know until they learn it, so now is the time to recognize the change, understand the change and learn from it. With this new information, you may now make different, well-informed choices moving forward, and that is a very good thing.

Metadata Defends Against Information Disorder

I never met a data I didn’t like, and I look forward to a future where data has been grounded in good governance and the ability to present itself as accurate, authoritative and authentic. Identify trusted sources of information, mute the “noise” and corrupted information on social media and take the time to evaluate what has been presented.

Metadata matters because it defines us at any given point in time with the best information available to us utilizing its managed foundation for content clarity. Metadata is the defense needed against our current information disorder and the pathway through which our individual and collective “aboutness” and “awareness” may serve us all well.

Let us all recognize this, acknowledge this change in our language, and show respect where respect is due.

"Slava Ukraini!" (Glory to Ukraine!)