Metadata Magic? At Best, Sleight of Hand
I was rereading some of the commentaries from the last Microsoft Ignite conference, and happened upon one about metadata that I had forgotten about. The author was touting the addition of a prompt for end users to add metadata. I suppose something is better than nothing. Essentially end users can drag and drop their documents and assign metadata in bulk or by individual document.
The author was under the impression that this would solve the problem of metadata absence, because if end users were prompted then they would do it. Really? Statistics show that end users will select the first option in a drop down list – that is, if they dutifully obey the prompt and add the metadata, which in itself is questionable. Supposedly, even trained library scientists will tag the same document one way in the morning and another way in the afternoon. So much for consistency.
Another new feature announced, and made available in the fall of 2017, was ‘attention views.’ This capability allows you, with a single click, to see the documents in your entire library that are missing required metadata. I had to chuckle. This then must be the backup procedure for all the end users who still won’t apply metadata even when prompted? The author was quite enthusiastic about this ‘game changing’ feature, elevating SharePoint to a full-fledged document management system. Ok, so I am not gung-ho about this, and am really not ready to go there right now.
I guess the question becomes what are you using the metadata for? If it is to improve search, well maybe metadata entered by end users is ok – I shouldn’t let that slide, but I will. If you are using it to protect and secure confidential or privacy information to avoid a data breach, or to comply with GDPR, then maybe it’s not ok.
Manually added metadata is typically error-prone and subjective, simply because we are human. Many organizations aren’t yet metadata savvy, and are now testing the waters using the SharePoint Term Store – a good enough place to start. Some have moved on to the realization that tools offering semantic metadata generation, auto-classification, and instantaneous population of term sets and taxonomies present an opportunity to solve diverse and challenging issues for any application that requires the use of metadata. Only time will tell whether the Microsoft functions are good enough. What do you think?
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