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LEGO® Bricks & Metadata: Finding What You Need So You Can Build What You Want | Heretto

LEGO® Bricks are cool. From childhood to adulthood, they never stopped being cool.

I had several LEGO® brick sets. Once you have a bunch of different sets and you’ve already built them based on the model instructions, thousands of pieces would end up mixed together in a box. Which was awesome because then you could build whatever you want, break it, and repeat infinitely.

Except, there was always the frustration of searching endlessly for that one essential piece among the thousands. It took forever. It was a hassle. The sheer number of brick pieces you’d amassed was never really apparent until you had to find that one.

Imagine being able to search all the LEGO® brick pieces in your collection based on what they looked like, what they were meant for, and what they did. Then they would appear in your hand. It would be a game-changer:

“Red brick. Flat. Six studs. Two columns. Three rows.”

There’s your piece, right in your hand. That would be cool, right?

It’s not enough to know approximately where the piece is. You know it’s there somewhere. It’s about identifying a specific piece based on a set of characteristics.

That is metadata. Data about content. In this case, information about a brick piece. Unfortunately, we can’t use metadata to find a certain piece in a pile. However, we can — and do — use metadata to search through our content libraries.

Content Is Only Useful If You Can Find It

If you’ve ever read a blog post, which you are right now, you’ve probably seen tags. Tags are just labels that help readers identify what a piece of content is about. This way, when a reader wants to look for other articles about a similar topic, they can search for posts that share those tags. These tags are a simplified version of what occurs in Heretto.

Heretto’s Component Content Management System (CCMS) uses metadata because we know that navigating a disorganized content repository is somehow worse than searching for that one LEGO® brick piece amongst the thousands. Plus, no offense to your brick creations, the consequences are greater.

Heretto offers a unique metadata feature similar to searching LEGO® bricks based on their physical features and uses. It’s another method of organization beyond folders that enables you to learn more about your content library, find content quickly, and filter search results.

The Metadata feature in Heretto comes in two forms:

  • CCMS-Level Metadata
  • Custom Metadata

CCMS-Level Metadata: Because We’ve Been There

Metadata at the CCMS level is automatically assigned and tracked by Heretto as you create and interact with files. Why? Because we’re content creators short on time too. Heretto automates the mundane tasks like capturing basic metadata about each file that’s created.

At this level, you’d find automatically assigned metadata in Heretto with these labels:

  • Last Time Modified
  • Created Time
  • Needs Attention
  • Is Valid
  • Contains Broken Links
  • Contains Comments
  • Owned By
  • Locked By
  • Status
  • Content Type

We know that assigning general information about files would be needlessly tedious, so Heretto does it for you.

In context, CCMS-level metadata might function something like this:

  • What kind of content is in your content library? Perhaps you want to see the number of Task topics compared to the number of Concept topics.
  • This is easily achievable by using Content Type metadata.
  • If I’m going on vacation next week and there are things I haven’t finished, someone else will need to find and access my work.
  • Metadata allows you to check on my files to see which ones are Owned By or Locked By me.
  • What’s the workflow status of our documentation?
  • The Status metadata will show how much of your repository is In Progress, In Review, Approved, or Needs Reevaluation.

Custom Metadata: Because We Don’t Know Everything

Heretto is packed with included features that make your life easier, but we don’t know everything. That’s where custom metadata comes into play. Beyond the CCMS-level metadata that’s automatically assigned and tracked in each instance of Heretto, you’re also able to create custom metadata.

Creating custom metadata enables you to make bespoke tagging systems that apply to the context of your world of content. With the ability to build metadata systems unique to your organization, you’re better able to gain specific and useful insights.

Remember your oversized pile of LEGO® Bricks? Imagine you can search for certain pieces based on nicknames that only you use. Custom metadata makes this a reality for organizationally specific content.

Seeing Is Believing: Let’s Use Metadata In Real-Time

For the sake of example, I’ve created a file and hidden it in Heretto. You don’t know the file name, but here’s the metadata that’s been automatically assigned:

  • Status: Progress
  • Content Type: Concept
  • Owner: Tim Ludwig

Without giving too much away, that’s the basic auto-assigned metadata. I’ve gone a bit further to assign some custom metadata based on Heretto's own metadata construction.

  • Subject Metadata: Management → Content Management
  • Marketing Metadata: Complexity → Beginner, Persona → Writer
  • Internal QA Metadata: Failed
  • Content Maintenance: Needs Improvement

You get the picture. Without any filters applied, there are more than 44,000 files in our own content repository. Sifting through that would be ridiculous. Fortunately, we have metadata to help us. Now, all you have to do is track down a file you don’t know the name of. Easy, right? Check it out:

If you peek at the red arrows in the animation, on the left side you’ll see that I select three of the metadata filters I mentioned above. On the right side, you’ll see those filters narrow the files in our repository down from over 44,000 to four. Then we’re easily able to identify the file called metadata_example.dita, our hidden treasure. All in less than 10 seconds.

Metadata isn’t magic, it’s just thoughtful labeling and meaningful content organization. We’ve got a whole other article on metadata and why Amazon’s search tool is better than Google’s. It’s another fabulous example of how well-developed metadata makes a search that much easier. Head over there for a metadata breakdown and fast online shopping tips.

Constructing Your Custom Tailored Metadata

You already know that custom metadata enables you to create personalized metadata tags that uniquely identify information described in your files. You can create custom metadata using taxonomy or labels. Let’s pump the brakes and review these two branches of custom metadata.

  • Taxonomy: This is a fancy word for classification. Basically, when you create taxonomy metadata, you’re making classifications of terms that apply to your body of content. For instance, a medical software company and a heavy machinery company will require different taxonomies of terms for their respective documentation repositories. Taxonomy metadata needs to be established ahead of time and can be applied to your content as needed. This ensures that your team uses consistent, predefined terms and doesn’t duplicate or use non-preferred terms.
  • Labels: These work exactly like they sound. Label metadata can be made and applied on the fly. These are less rigid than taxonomical metadata but important in the case that you’ve not yet established a foundational taxonomy for your content.

We recommend starting with a brain dump of all relevant keywords used to describe your content and consider other data points you might want to use to classify your content. When we created our taxonomy, we determined that the most relevant information was about:

  • Heretto Interfaces: What interfaces are being written about? This makes it easier for us to find topics when we need to make updates.
  • Marketing: What type of users will want this information? This makes it easier for us to determine if we have content that covers all our personas.
  • Internal QA: Did this content pass or fail QA testing? This makes it easier for us to test our documentation and software.
  • Content Maintenance: What is the health of our content? This makes it easier for us to evaluate and maintain our content.

Applying Metadata

Creating custom metadata is just a part of an effective metadata strategy. Consistently applying custom metadata to your content is the other part. Whether you already have a large content set or you’re starting from scratch, you have several options for applying custom metadata.

  • You can assign metadata at the same time you create a file. This ensures that your metadata is correctly applied from the get-go.
  • You can assign metadata after you create a file. Assigning it after creation ensures that the custom metadata reflects the final version of the content.
  • You can assign metadata in bulk to multiple files or maps. Assigning custom metadata in bulk is useful if you already have a large set of content in your repository and are just starting to use metadata.

There’s no one-size-fits-all process to metadata organization and strategy, but not having one will cause more problems down the road.

Metadata & Beyond

We know you’ve spent (and will continue to spend) a considerable amount of time planning, writing, and updating your documentation. This is the reality with content, a collection of forever living documents.

But, it’s not really useful unless it’s consumed. And you know that won’t happen if no one can find your content easily. That’s where metadata enters the game, writing machine legible labels that make your content shout: “I’m right here!”

Metadata isn’t only useful internally for helping team members find and access content quickly, but it can also help your end-users. You can expose these metadata tags to your users so that they can filter their own search results using metadata that you created. And that is conscious content management.

Oh, and LEGO® bricks? Unfortunately, you still need to sift through those the old fashioned way.

LEGO® is a trademark of the LEGO Group of companies which does not sponsor, authorize, or endorse this site.

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