Content Is The King, And Meta Data Is The King Kong!

September 9 2010 13 comments

Lost in translation? Try reading this article for the big picture.

In an early phase of an SharePoint project, it is important to find a consensus with a customer on what matters the most in a specification. After all, quite a heap of mental playload is probably occupying the cognitive landscape of the customer representatives. They usually are full of ideas, wishes, needs, sales stories, feature lists, and thoughts about the future system. This all is the fuel that makes the project run, but unfortunately the material at hand has not been structured in any systematic way. The participants might not be able to articulate their needs and opinions in a way that would enable the project team to extract the needs and negotiate an acceptable specification overnight. In order to give an overall view to the work ahead, I usually draw something like the diagram below.  

This is what we will be working with


One cannot stress the importance of content enough. That is the number one element of an intranet project. If there is no content, there is no need to have an intranet. A general idea of what the system actually contains. It can be texts, pictures, documents, videos, sounds (heck, probably even smells or tactile responses in the next version) of something. Just a vague idea of putting documents in an intranet is not an idea specific enough. An idea of putting documents describing corporate code of conduct is a much better idea. Having a sense of what this something is a starting point for the discussions. After having an idea of this – or more like a bunch of ideas, the end user must be able to navigate. Navigation is something people understand from web, and SharePoint offers a couple of mechanisms for doing it. At this point showing a couple screen shots from actual systems might be a good idea. Make sure that you include the idea of having a relative left navigation – and do remember to say a couple of nice words about the bread crumb.  Oh, and do keep reading the article.

Explaining what meta data is and why it is important is where the game gets tricky. A metaphor of a library classifying their content according to the writer AND the genre might be a good eye opener. While navigation tells where to find something, meta data the end users what this something is all about. Both can be used as an entry point to the content. Navigation is mandatory. Other than system derived meta data is not. Having metadata helps recognizing the relationships between the different elements residing in different navigational sections. I usually just say, that “there is no need to understand this completely at this point - I promise we’ll be talking about this, a lot!”  

Basically search is the mechanism for finding content independent from navigation or meta data. It is a new direction to go for in the search of content – and on the other hand it is interconnected and entwined to both navigation and meta data. The stuff that gets found resides somewhere in the navigational structure and it has at least the system generated meta data. SharePoint has a nifty feature, that allows the users to first navigate somewhere, and then make a search below the current site. If the search center has been properly configured, users might combine this search with certain meta data through using managed properties.  

All this leads to more details regarding to each of the dimensios presented in this posting. Experience has shown, that it is a good idea to have a shared point of reference – just to remaind the team about the big picture.

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13 comments to “Content Is The King, And Meta Data Is The King Kong!”

  1. Juho Seppänen says:

    Whoopsie! At least Merriam-Webster and Wikipedia seem to think that “Meta data” should be “Metadata”

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    621737 855697Nice site, nice and easy on the eyes and great content too. Do you need many drafts to make a post? 596306

  3. Cassandra D. Everhart says:

    You definitely have something to say and you say it with style, my man!

  4. click says:

    This is funny but pure facts! Love this.

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    Content is what people are looking for,

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