Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Metadata January 13, 2012

No radiation it that snow. I hope. It looks all white and clean.
Creative Commons License photo credit: Glenn Waters ぐれんin Japan.

I have just finished reading (at lunch time today!) John le Carre’s The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. It was fantastic! My first le Carre experience and I loved it. My appreciation of the story was enhanced even further because a crucial aspect of the case against alleged double agent Mundt hinged on metadata!

In Chapter 12, East, the East German operative Fiedler is interrogating the British spy Leamas. In my edition of the book, they spend five fabulous pages discussing the distribution list metadata (the subscription label they call it) attached to the front of a file and what that metadata means in terms of who may have accessed the file and how this may have impacted on the conspiracy. It was fantastic! This simple set of metadata led to critical deductions that contributed to the final dramatic outcomes of the book. Go metadata!

Now while few of us will ever require metadata to help resolve critical issues of international security, the business and corporate value of metadata in all its diverse forms is unfortunately still very widely overlooked. Most organisations are still  not fully aware how reliant they are upon metadata. Essentially, in digital business environments, information use and management is virtually completely dependent on metadata. Yet comprehensive metadata strategies are not still commonplace. Metadata interoperability and reuse are not widely considered, and strategies to sustain metadata, to ensure its ability to search, authenticate and interpret information over time are barely implemented.

In March State Records will issue draft guidelines on recordkeeping metadata, explaining what it is, the roles it serves and the issues you should consider in its creation, use and management. We would love to receive full and frank feedback on the advice provided in the guidelines and so will keep you informed about their release via the blog. In the meantime, feel free to share any advice, issues, concerns, war stories or love sonnets about metadata via the Future Proof blog.

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