OCT 27, 2011 10:26am ET

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The Metadata Crisis


I am reading the book “The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood” by James Gleick, which recounts a dialogue written by the ancient Chinese philosopher Gongsun Long known as When a White Horse is Not a Horse:

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Comments (10)
Revenue recognition debate has a framework of GAAP, income statement vs ROI vs cash flow to guide the debate. I don't think it is correct to call the presence of a debate on revenue recognition a meta data crisis.

We need similar framework for managing customer data like an asset. Then we can debate the definition of customer depending on the purpose and we will have made significant progress. Starting with "what is defintion of customer?" I think that is putting the white before the horse.

Posted by Ed U | Thursday, October 27 2011 at 11:50AM ET
This is an excellent topic, Jim, and one close to my practice. There is, however, another more systemic problem in play here (if that's possible) and that is the nature of the medium in which we are trying to solve these problems. You mention a number of the technologies (relational databases, file hierarchies and metadata) that are essentially set-based and therefore 'flat' trying to manage something (semantics) that is by its nature multi-dimensional.

Moving away from the 'flat' has large implictions, one of which is that any organization can have - and should manage - multiple dialects. By that I mean, in the dialect of accounting 'customer' means some agent who has contributed to increased sales. In the dialect of marketing 'customer' can mean anyone with a pulse that will sit and listen to a pitch.

This insistence on a single version of anything - embedded in controlled vocabularies, relational tables, object classes or a folder structure is the the single largest impediment to cleaning up the digital wasteland.

Posted by John O | Friday, October 28 2011 at 11:05AM ET
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