Many knowledge and information workers are involved in maintaining systems to aid the findability and discoverability of resources by users. Almost without exception, such people extol the virtues of attaching metadata at source and bemoan the fact that resource creators seem totally immune to persuasion that this is not only of benefit to them, but also an altruistic act of benefit to those who come to seek after them.
Although the issue of metadata generation at source is quite complex, one is bound to wonder whether it might help to advance the argument if its advocates were to actually practise what they preach. I have been collecting papers and articles on knowledge organization, knowledge management and information management for ten years now, many of which are written by knowledge and information management professionals or academics, and are in formats (Word, Powerpoint, PDF) which afford the easy attachment of metadata.
What proportion do I find to have basic metadata – title, author, date – entered at source? Barely 10%, I’d say. And that includes academic papers from the likes of Emerald, Sage and other IS/IM/KM publishing houses. It’s not a matter of Grand Designs, more one of a straightforward makeover. Until we can show that we’re prepared to put our metadata where our mouth is, we’re not likely to get anywhere near winning the argument.