As much as I love what I do, I'm equally grateful to be away from the job, so I can deflate the overloaded world of data and return to my friends and pedestrian pursuits.

When I'm not out doing anything active, I admit to watching too much TV for distraction's sake, mostly sports and old movies. So forgive this bit of fluff amid things more serious.

I tune into very little network fare, though a co-worker of mine is into the Fox show "24" and always reminding me to watch. The show is overwrought with improbable action and full of cobwebs from my limited history of viewing. I think it's about done with its run.

But I admit to liking the premise of condensing a season series into a single day's timeframe, kind of like a novella or an old Hollywood serial, or, forgive me, something like an operational snapshot. The best novelists are masters at the same art of short time-span condensation, something that many of us secretly or overly aspire to. Many of the best data people also think visually about time compression.

On that front, "24" is mostly a tension builder full of unexpected turns (and explosions) but its producers are obviously geeks in their own right who test technologies and terms to the edge of believability. Last night's episode was full of uniquely capable surveillance drones over New York City.

"24" also employs the most brazen sponsored plugs and product placement I've ever seen. "The terrorists are trying to penetrate our Cisco firewall," was among some memorable dialogue from a season past, along with the Apple laptops ubiquitous to the set. Needless to say, the firewall held and the laptops carried on.

As I happened to tune in, last night's tech spin was even campier for being unbranded. In this episode, a caricature of a homespun and sweaty southern parole officer with nary a tech credential threatened that he could discover a national security breach through a word he'd only just heard of.

"Metadata, is that what it's called?" he drawled. "That allows you to trace the exact source of any service outage." His understanding sent shockwaves through the implicated gun-toting feds.

I laughed and then paused, for metadata is a word I regularly listen for and cite as a bellwether as data becomes more condensed, collated and understandable. I've bought into the idea of a metadata editor as a likely job skill. I've even started my own campy habit of putting in a plug by ringing a bell sound whenever the word is uttered on the DM Radio shows I co-host with Eric Kavanagh.

I may be closer to the reality of metadata management than a network TV show, but, if they're pinging the term, maybe the time horizon isn't as long as I feared. I'd still doubt that a quarter of the people in the workforce know what metadata is or why it's important.

But if it gets some kid to Google search metadata, all the better.

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