NOV 10, 2011 4:13pm ET

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One thread of the comment discussion on my blog post “The Metadata Continuum” raised the excellent point that the demarcation of the border between data and metadata is important, but sometimes difficult to discern. By extension, we can say the same thing about the demarcation of the border between data and information.

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Comments (4)
Well done Jim, as usual you have great insight into these topics and your perspective includes the various components that often get mis-understood.

In my opinion, the who purpose behind data must be the use of the data or information. To define it with only a technical or only a business context isn't working.

Love this article.

Posted by Lisa M | Monday, November 14 2011 at 7:25PM ET
Jim, I've been working on a definitive solution for the data / information / metadata / attributes / properties knot for a while now and I think I have it figured out. I read your blog entitled "The Semantics of MDM" and we share the same philosophy even while we differ a bit on the details. Here goes. It's all information. Good, bad, reliable or not, the argument whether data is information or vice versa is not helpful. The reason data seems different than information is because it has too much ambiguity when it is out of context. Data is like a quantum wave: it has many possibilities one of which is 'collapsed' into reality when you add context. Metadata is not a type of data, any more than attributes, properties or associations are a type of information. These are simply conventions to indicate the role that information is playing in a given circumstance. Your Michelle Davies example is a good illustration: Without context, that string could be any number of individuals, so I consider it data. Give it a unique identifier and classify it as a digital representation in the class of Person,however and we have information. If I then have Michelle add attributes to her personal record - like sex, age, etc - and assuming that these are likewise identified and classed - now Michelle is part of a set, or relation. Note that it is bad practice - and consequently the cause of many information management headaches - to use data instead of information. Ambiguity kills. Now, if I were to use Michelle's name in a Subject Matter Expert field as proof of the validity of a digital asset; or in the Author field as an attribute, her information does not *become* metadata or an attribute: it is still information. It is merely being used differently. In other words, in my world while the terms 'data' and 'information' are classified as concepts, the terms 'metadata', 'attribute' and 'property' are classified as roles to which instances of those concepts (well, one of them anyway) can be put, i.e. they are fit for purpose. This is longer than I intended, but this separation of the identity and class of the string from the purpose to which it is being assigned has produced very solid results for me.
Posted by John O | Tuesday, November 15 2011 at 9:25AM ET
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