Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Metadata out of control - not a pretty sight

One of my projects for the next few months is to develop a collection of business-related resources in Sharepoint. For those of you unfamiliar with Sharepoint, Microsoft itself describes SharePoint as Collaboration, Portal, Search, Enterprise Content Management (ECM) , Business process management (BPM) and Business intelligence (BI) (thankyou AIIM for that definition).

My business development collection is just one part of a larger process of rolling Sharepoint out across the company. And high on my personal agenda is to ensure there are appropriate guidelines to ensure a consistent approach to metadata across all teamsites (ie make sure we have consistent titles and subject terms etc for documents loaded into Sharepoint).

You don't have to look far to see how messy an inconsistent approach to metadata can get - just check out my "tag" list to the left. There's probably about 40 tags, some of which I remember to use consistently and many which I don't (meaning that if there are multiple posts on a topic they may not all appear under the relevant tag). Plus it doesn't look very appealing at all. And this is after only a few months of active blog posting by one person. Can you imagine what a collection with multiple contributors might look like after a year or two?

Now I am actually a pretty big fan of tagging items with as many relevant terms as possible, a la Delicious. But it helps to think about consistency as you go - tag with either "blog" or "blogs", or you'll end up with two separate collections which defeats the purpose. OR you tag with both so people can find them, but then that's extra work (not much, but it all adds up). And the graphic interface of Delicious is a big help in searching through the collection.

Sharepoint out of the box is not as flexible as Delicious and may not compensate quite so effectively for metadata shortfalls. While I haven't had much actual experience with it yet, I'm anticipating its metadata will be presented in a manner closer to my blog tag list - ie in a big list without Delicious' ability to combine and filter tags. So we're back to that big mess again - unless we get in early with some appropriate standards.

My next steps? Clean up my blog tags (sigh) and come up with a few standards for them. Then continue to establish and promote some standards for Sharepoint metadata within our company. I'll also be spending some time reading Mark Schneider's Sharepoint Taxonomy and Governance blog, which looks like it will be a good resource!


Veena said...

Standards for our Sharepoint teamsites? Sounds good to me!! I'm sure Martina (I'll send you her email) would like to hear about your progress...