Guru Talk: Frank Milson – Chevron

Frank Milson - Digital Asset Manager

Frank understands that one of the hurdles in digital asset management is the speed in which a new asset can be created. Streamlining the ingest process helps to reduce costs and improve efficiencies within a company.

What companies/organizations have you worked for as a DAM professional? What was your role at each?

One thing that I noticed about working in DAM for some time, is that I was working in DAM long before anyone knew to call it Digital Asset Management. I spent over a decade in corporate sales for CompUSA, selling the first laptops, servers, and computer equipment to Houston businesses.

One of the earliest concerns of many of my clients was how to scan, and otherwise digitize their paper processes. I was well familiar with the need for high speed scanning, high resolution imagery, and secure storage, as well as databases that made all of those assets rapidly accessible. All of this was immediately familiar to me when I came to Houston Community College (HCC) to do a job that basically, no one else wanted to do. After all – it was “just filing”!

HCC had already been using ImageNow for student documentation, and they were looking to expand that to the documentation they had been using for decades to process and track their physical inventories. My job became the process of ingesting the physical documents into a database, creating metadata for those documents (what we called “tags”), and process the physical documents for destruction. Ultimately, I was able to become the primary source for researching and delivering the electronic copies of those documents whenever they were needed, as well as using the database as a method of tracking physical inventories.

I was then offered an opportunity to work with Chevron in their Image Library project. A huge corporation such as Chevron has a ongoing need for business imagery, and they were used to accessing it directly from stock photography sources. The Chevron Image Library was created, using Telescope, to store stock images, manage licenses, and create a central database of imagery accessible to all employees. I worked as a liaison to their Information Design And Communications (IDC) in house agency, ingesting finished projects, sourcing permissions, linking images to their online originals, and creating first-level metadata.

What’s the most important thing for someone new to DAM to understand about DAM?

The most important thing for someone new to DAM to understand is that the ultimate goal is to make the results accessible to the daily business user. A scanned document is just an image, and is useless to business purposes unless it can be applied to practical purposes, just like a file in a folder is just a piece of paper until it is found and used.

The creation of metadata is as important to the access of the document as an accurate scan. It is important to understand how your users will access the data, and thus the digital asset that the data represents.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

My ongoing greatest challenge with DAM is the speed, or the lack thereof, inherent in the translation process. It takes much longer to ingest and notate every single document, image, video, or audio clip than it is comfortable to discuss for budgetary purposes. Once it’s done, of course, it’s there forever, and can be accessed instantly, so the results are certainly there, and are tangible. For long periods of time, it doesn’t look like anything in particular is happening. DAM is definitely a background process.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

My biggest success in regards to DAM was when I was able to use our database to help the police track and identify a large number of stolen items. Before the process, all of those documents would have to have been physically pulled from files collated, annotated, and returned to storage. I was able to create a digital file from all the documents, and deliver to investigators within a day.

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DAM Guru Program Members for Hire

DAM Guru Program is now two years old and more than 650 signups strong. To enable the DAM community to better benefit from the growing range of expertise available within DAM Guru Program, we now connect participating members to organizations seeking freelance, temporary or permanent help.

Based on matching a needs profile to an expertise profile, DAM Guru Program managers will do their best to find the right Guru for every request, no matter what the area of expertise, global region or language.

We hope this provides hiring organizations with the expertise they need to make the most of their DAM initiatives, and we hope it helps our members find employment opportunities they’ll enjoy.

As with all DAM Guru Program member services, there is no charge for this service.

If you’re an organization looking to hire a DAM Guru, start here.

If you’re a DAM Guru Program member who would like to participate, start here.

More information about this announcement is available at the Picturepark website.

Guru Talk: Laurentia Romaniuk – Digital Asset Management Professional

Laurentia Romaniuk - Digital Asset Manager

Fresh off her internship at Apple and now managing assets for a well-known furniture company, Laurentia has learned quickly to find success it is important to understand how digital asset management is scaleable inside a company.

What companies/organizations have you worked for as a DAM professional? What was your role at each?

I suppose that I first got my feet wet with DAM at Apple as a Digital Asset Management Intern in the summer of 2013. That being said, I had used various document control and asset management tools in my role at the University of Alberta (in Canada) for three years prior to that. In mid-2014 I started working for a well-known furniture company as a (digital) Asset Manager.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

If I’m describing what I do to someone that has never been exposed to DAM before, I start by posing the problem I often try to solve as a digital asset manager.

My shtick usually goes something like this: At large companies with a strong creative marketing presence, you can easily end up with hundreds of thousands, if not millions of pictures. You may only see 20 pictures of a product on a website, but to get to those 20 pictures, thousands were shot. When a photographer or creative director needs to find that one picture with the happy smiling family in South Korea with a hot air balloon flying in the background, how does the photographer find that image when they have a huge pool of images to sort through?

My job is to facilitate finding that image and manage the lifecycle of that asset from the moment it is shot to the moment it shows up on the web. That’s DAM, and it doesn’t just pertain to photos. It can be anything – legal documents, blueprints, sound files, videos – large organizations are creating all sorts of digital documents that need to be sorted somehow.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

I learned DAM on my feet to begin with. At the University of Alberta it was just a matter of someone needing to do the work, and the University had tools in place to help along the way. I then interned at Apple where, again, I picked up a lot on my feet. At this point, I knew I wanted to learn more, so I took an online course as part of my masters program at San Jose State University in Digital Asset Management with John Horodyski. I learned a lot.

With all that said though, by far the largest DAM resource that I feel I have is our professional network, whom I have largely met through LinkedIn, the DAM Guru Program, and most of all through the DAM Henry Stewart Conferences. Having peers to bounce ideas off of, pick up tips and tricks from, and share frustrations with, is an incredible gift. So! Jump in! Start reaching out to other DAM folks in your area!

What’s the most important thing for someone new to DAM to understand about DAM?

Wow. Tough call.

I’d say it’s important for people to understand how DAM is scalable. Sure, you may need to hire a digital asset manager if you’re a large organization or if your company finds that you really need someone to manage a large pool of digital documents. But you can do DAM in little ways too; organizing assets and information can start with even a tiny pool of assets, and having an asset management strategy early on can only help you if your business / asset pool grows.

If you weren’t doing DAM as a career, what would you be doing?

Project managing. Working in User Experience. Working towards a PhD (it’s on my radar, someday).

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

Implementation & integration across the organization (both on the technical side and human side) is always a challenge. Also, creating a tool that is effective to users! Sometimes what may seem like a smart solution really just generates more problems.

What is your vision for DAM? What will it look like in 5 years?

I’m still pretty new to DAM and so it’s hard for me to comment on this one. I just don’t have strong enough knowledge and experiencing using most of the DAMs out there. So from a technical side, I can’t comment on DAM. In 5 years though, I do hope DAM roles become much more common and understood for their use in various organizations.

What was your biggest mistake with regard to DAM?

Hmmm…. Getting caught up on flashy DAM systems. At the last Henry Stewart conference (DAM LA) I was so excited to hear about all the latest DAM technologies and to bring this information back to my work. Then, I heard a lot of asset managers talking about their experiences using these DAM systems, and it sounds like sometimes the sparkle is just that – sparkle – and it can really inhibit getting work done. I’ve since learned that simple systems, though maybe not capable of doing everything I want, can be much more useful and reliable.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

Check back with me in a few years! I feel like I’m still too young in the field to be commenting on my successes just yet.

What more would you like to learn about DAM?

I’d love to get more experience in blending my love for project management with DAM.

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  Category: DGP Member Interviews
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Guru Call: USA

USA FlagLooking for a Guru in MN, USA. DGP member is looking to select and implement DAM for a web publisher and events organization.

Currently there is no shared storage solution in place, and digital assets are stored on a mix of google drives, dropbox folders, and individual team member hard drives. It is required that the solution be cloud-based and have WordPress integration built in.

Member is seeking advice on a low-cost solution.

Signup: signup

#GuruCall

Guru Talk: Sunil Krishnan – Cognizant

Sunil Krishnan Director of Technology

Digital asset management problems are not completely solved by tools or technology, Sunil knows it requires something else to attain success in the DAM industry.

What companies/organizations have you worked for as a DAM professional? What was your role at each?

Ford – I was a Program Manager managing a current state to future state road map, assessment along with strategic actionable recommendations.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

DAM is a combination of process, people and technology that helps manages the complete life cycle of a digital asset – starting from ideation, creation, collaboration, approvals , management and effectively distributing assets to call the consumers within in the Enterprise.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

Henry Stewart events, conferences, being active in the LinkedIn groups and local DAM chapters that may have connects to the marketing function.

What’s the most important thing for someone new to DAM to understand about DAM?

DAM is a journey that has its own maturity curve which needs patience, compelling governance, sponsorship for the enterprise to accept it. In other wards success behind DAM is more than tools – it is the people and process that makes it successful.

If you weren’t doing DAM as a career, what would you be doing?

I would be teaching in local school as I feel spending time with young and new generation is more rewarding or work full time with a non-profit.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

Articulating value of DAM and working closely with less technology savvy functional users and leaders to embrace the basic usability, navigation, relevance of metadata in a meaningful fashion.

What is your vision for DAM? What will it look like in 5 years?

DAM will be a strategic component in the future Digital workspace race that is going in the enterprise. DAM will be the central nervous system where all the front-end facing content management, social media platforms and other sales (SFDC) and marketing tools would directly integrate or access to consume the central repository of digital assets.

What was your biggest mistake with regard to DAM?

I thought for awhile that just a product or a tool would solve the digital asset management problems, but I was wrong. It’s more of a process, and solutions are people dependent.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

Helping my customers focus on process maturity around metadata, fine tuning search criteria, usabilities, navigations and Governance and sponsoring basic DAM training has been the biggest success.

What more would you like to learn about DAM?

Learning how the many puzzles fit together in the entire Digital work space that is upcoming within the enterprise.

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  Category: DGP Member Interviews
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Guru Call: Norway

NorwayLooking for a Guru in Stavanger Area, Norway. DGP member has started the process of planning and implementing a DAM strategy for a major Oil & Gas company. The core need is to handle digital assets used as documentation of a construction process.

Member is seeking advice on how to handle collections of photographs in a given context and on-site creation of assets to ensure sufficient indexing by inexperienced users pressed for time.

Signup: http://damguru.com/signup

#GuruCall

Commercial Exploitation of Digital Assets

This article was originally published on the DAM Coalition website, a property of Pro Video Coalition. As DAM Coalition was decommissioned in early 2015, this content was moved with permission.by Nick Sincaglia

As a continuation of the theme from my Finding Inspiration from Metadata Standards article, I want to discuss the challenges surrounding the development of metadata models for the commercial exploitation of digital assets.

One of the benefits of developing a business in the field of digital media is the versatility and flexibility that file-based digital content affords you. However, with these benefits comes the potential for increased complexity in how you manage the metadata for your digital assets—that is, if you want to be able to take advantage of the many new opportunities now available to you. I frequently say to people, “You might know what business you are in today, but are you certain you know what business you will be in tomorrow?” The pace at which businesses must adapt to threats and new opportunities is significantly greater today than just a decade ago. And from what I can tell, there are no signs of it slowing anytime soon.

Listen to the Music (Industry)

So, what are some digital asset management strategies you can apply today to help keep your organization competitive tomorrow? My response to this question is to try to learn from others, perhaps other industries, that might have already addressed some of the challenges your organization or industry is just now beginning to address, or will likely need to address in the future.

When it comes to commercially exploiting digital assets and experimenting with new business models, there is a lot one can learn from the music industry. It is easy to discount this statement, considering what you might have heard from popular news outlets about the troubles the music industry has experienced over the past decade. However, the music industry was the first of the media industries to have to address these challenges head-on, and they have been doing so for well over a decade now. As a result, they have gained a lot of experience and it shows when you look at the data models they have developed and included in their metadata standards.

For the past 10 years, the technical leaders at many of the record labels, collecting societies and digital retailers have been collaborating on a regular basis to try to develop metadata standards that will increase clarity and reduce frictions in their day-to-day business communications. The results of this effort can be found in the Digital Data Exchange (DDEX) standards.

Digital Data Exchange (DDEX)

I would like to focus on one aspect of the DDEX standards, which addresses the commercial exploitation of digital assets.

The DDEX standard is an XML data exchange metadata standard, which is used to exchange information between business partners. Content owners wanted a standardized way of communicating with their business partners that would clearly describe the contractual terms that govern how their digital assets may be exploited commercially. Music can be used and consumed in so many different ways, so great effort was taken to try to define data structures that were versatile enough to handle all known cases.

The DDEX standard encapsulates all its commercial exploitation information within what is called the “Deal” data composite. While no metadata standard is perfect, I think DDEX has done a very good job in expressing the combination of elements one would need to describe the many possible dimensions required in the majority of business scenarios that exist in today’s digital marketplace.

Let’s take a tour through the “Deal” data composite to highlight what is there and how we might be able to learn from or repurpose some of the ideas for use in your business and industry.

Deconstructing the “Deal”

Let’s start with the basics: The first thing to consider is territory information. Every “Deal” must specify the territory for which it applies. Every country has its own unique laws, in terms of taxation, intellectual property and decency, of which one must be cognoscente.

In addition, each territory has its own cultural standards, business environment and popular methods of content consumption that one must consider when defining the commercial terms of a digital asset. Obvious examples are wholesale and retail pricing, which must be specified in the local currency.

Finally, due to restrictions defined by other licensing contracts, release windows and marketing campaign schedules, content owners must define the start and end dates between which these commercial exploitation terms apply.

Once the time and place for which the digital assets can be commercially exploited is defined, the next area of focus for definition is in the content’s “Usage.”

Defining content Usage is more complex than it might seem. Content Usage encompasses not only the means by which the consumer will access or experience the content (download, on-demand stream, conditional download, content influenced stream, non-interactive stream, ringtone, ringback tone, etc.), it might also detail many other conditions that surround the act of accessing and experiencing the content. These might include:

  • the type of device or user interface the consumer is using (mobile, kiosk, personal computer, game system, home entertainment system, broadcast receiver, physical media writer, etc.)
  • how the content is delivered (wired, wireless, satellite broadcast, terrestrial broadcast, p2p, physical media, etc.)
  • the type of carrier on which the media is allowed to be fixated (CD, DVD, Blu-Ray, VHS, etc.)

Each unique combination of “Usage” dimensions may dictate its own set of restrictions or price differentiation. Because of this, the standard must support the ability to explicitly define commercial terms for each described “Usage” combination.

As complex as this might already sound, there are other dimensions one might need to express in combination with “Usage.” For example, one may want to tailor the deal terms for their digital assets to be more or less favorable based on what type of business model their business partner is using. If the content is being included in a monthly subscription service, the content owner might want to restrict certain types of Usage, or include incentives for subscribers to purchase the media. If one’s business partner operates a media rental business, content owners might want to define the length of the consumer’s rental period. Or, if the business partner is a promotional outlet, the content owner might want to define the number of free plays the consumer is allowed.

Another consideration that could affect the commercial terms is a digital asset’s technical specification or quality, such as encoded bitrate (SD, HD, lossless, etc.), number of audio channels (mono, stereo, 5.1 surround, 7.1 surround, etc.), 3D video, etc.

In recent years, there has been some experimentation around offering the consumer the ability to pre-order content before it has been released. Defining the terms that govern when a pre-order deal can be advertised publicly, and the price incentives offered to the consumer, must be something that can be defined and communicated to retailers.

And don’t forget about digital returns. Yes, you read that right.

The concept of a digital return was introduced by iTunes. iTunes allowed consumers to purchase individual tracks on an album but, if a consumer later decided to buy the whole album, iTunes would provide credit for the cost of the individual tracks. iTunes would then message back to the content owners that they were issuing a digital return for those tracks.

Allowing or disallowing digital returns was an unexpected communication requirement that most content owners were initially unprepared to handle.

The last significant component of the DDEX “Deal” describes a means by which content owners can tell their business partners that they are no longer allowed to offer the digital asset to the consumer.

I mentioned earlier a start and end date within the commercial terms, but this is slightly different. There are times when a content owner suddenly loses the rights to distribute a digital asset to their business partners. This can happen through expiration of a license agreement, a lawsuit, or transfer of ownership. No matter what the reason for the sudden change in distribution rights, the content owner must quickly notify its business partners that they no longer have the right to license a particular digital asset, and the business partner must remove the ability for the consumer to access it.

Clearly, commercial exploitation of digital assets is complex today. I feel fairly certain in saying that it is likely to get even more complex in the future.

If some of the circumstances described above apply to your business today, or you foresee your industry trending toward some of them but are not sure how to best handle these types of situations, I recommend taking a look at the Digital Data Exchange metadata standards. There might be some data modeling techniques that you will find useful in keeping your organization agile so that it can take advantage of new opportunities or stave off new threats and remain competitive in the digital marketplace.


Nick Sincaglia

Nick Sincaglia is President/Founder of NueMeta LLC, a consulting firm focused on digital asset and metadata management strategies. Nick’s company provides software development and system design consulting services for the leading digital media & entertainment companies. Nick has been active in several industry technical standards bodies as a Board Member and Working Group Chairman for the Digital Data Exchange (DDEX), NARM’s Digital Think Tank, and member of Metadata Working Groups sponsored by the European Broadcast Union and Audio Engineering. Nick has been a member of DAM Guru Program since 2013.

LearnDAM-Logo-75x75DAM Guru Program recognizes this article as worthy of the #LearnDAM designation for materials that provide genuine digital asset management education without sales agendas. Search #LearnDAM on Google for more materials.

Guru Talk: Linda Rouse – DataBasics

Linda Rouse - Information Manager

Librarians have a unique skill set that translates well into the digital asset management industry. Linda Rouse explains why this is, and how it has helped her better serve her customers and understand their needs.

What companies/organizations have you worked for as a DAM professional? What was your role at each?

I am the Information Manager at DataBasics, which is the distributor of digital asset management solutions and services in the Asia-Pacific region, based in Cairns Australia. I am a card-carrying professional librarian and found it was easy to transfer my skills from librarianship to digital asset management. The past decade or so I have been working with our clients and prospects to help them understand digital asset management and how it can help in their day-to-day work, as well as maintaining our own in-house DAM.

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Linda Rouse passed away on 11 March 2017. As this profile shows, she was steadfastly dedicated to the Library Sciences and helping others with their information management goals. Among the many digital asset management-related articles Linda authored was her contribution to the Librarian Tips for DAM Managers series for DAM Guru program. She was a longtime member and supporter of DAM Guru Program. She will be missed.
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My first job was at the State Library of NSW in Sydney as a cataloguer and then as a reference librarian on a busy reference desk. Now I manage the digital content at DataBasics for our website and all our marketing and client communications – helping to educate newbies on what is involved with managing and maintaining a DAM system, writing content on the many aspects of DAM and researching trends as well as tips and tricks to utilise your DAM more effectively. I posted the Image Library Requirements Guidelines that I’d written to our blog last year – as a number of people had mentioned it was helpful. My most recent posting is entitled DAM for Government: Digital Asset Management for the Public Sector and covers specific aspects such as secure access, distribution and media sharing controls, copyright and rights ownership as well as approvals, collaboration, crowd sourcing and content re-purposing.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

With my library background, I find the easiest way to describe DAM is to think of a library but instead of books, magazines and journals etc, we have a digital library of images, graphics, layouts, presentations, Office docs, PDFs, videos and so on.

Primarily I think the main difference is that whereas a library system describes its records in text format, a digital asset management system is visual. But just as “a picture is worth a thousand words”, a good picture is priceless as Deb Miller writes in CMSWire.

Just as a library only catalogues significant items, the best authors and writers rather than everything that is ever published, so similarly a digital asset management system holds the important stuff in your organisation – the images that make up your brand, the presentations that inform and educate, the training videos, records of events, and all the important documents created in your day-to-day work.

Your digital assets are those files that have value.

When it comes to searching and resource discovery, the same cataloguing and classification rules apply, only the terminology has changed a little: what is now termed metadata used to be called descriptive cataloguing; there were subject headings instead of category tree listings and containers. However taxonomies, thesaurii and controlled vocabularies originated in the earliest classification systems and these are still important for large digital asset management systems. For a great source of information about controlled vocabularies and the how and why of using them, with examples, see David Riecks’ website at http://www.controlledvocabulary.com/.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

I learnt DAM on the job really – and I was fortunate that some of my early mentors were people like Jennifer Neumann, the co-founder and CEO of Canto and fondly known as “the mother of DAM”. You can hear Jennifer speak about the early days of DAM in the Picturepark webinar and we have her Australian DAMAP conference presentation on our website in PDF format.

Otherwise, Webinars and White Papers are probably the best way to come to grips quickly with how a DAM works and what advantages it will provide. It is a lot easier than downloading a demo and trying to get it up and running when you are not sure what you are doing! Most DAM vendors have produced videos on their products and often these are specific to particular topics or they may have some of their customers describe their usage as case studies. David Diamond’s DAM Survival Guide is an excellent resource for those just getting started.

There is also a lot of info on social media sites such as LinkedIn – check out the DAM groups that you can connect with that keep you up-to-date with news, events and developments in the industry.

What’s the most important thing for someone new to DAM to understand about DAM?

Researching your organisation’s needs and in particular, workflows prior to selecting and implementing a DAM system is critical to your success. One of the big challenges to implementing any new system is user acceptance… users need to feel that it will improve their efficiency and make their daily work easier. The DAM Learning Center has an article entitled Digital Asset Management Best Practices: Key Stakeholder Involvement by Jim Kidwell that summarises the issues nicely.

It is important for people to realise that copyright issues, privacy restrictions and version control are critical for any organisation. It is so easy to breach copyright with an image or to use the wrong version of a file. But managing this depends on setting up your DAM system with enough checks and balances via user permissions, watermarking and using a central asset location and other methods that this can never happen.

Take the time to find out your real needs and then pick a solution that doesn’t just provide you with software but with the services you need to implement the system, configure it for your requirements, and train users.

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Finding Inspiration (and Solutions) From Metadata Standards

This article was originally published on the DAM Coalition website, a property of Pro Video Coalition. As DAM Coalition was decommissioned in early 2015, this content was moved with permission.

by Nick Sincaglia

The Value of a Metadata Standard

I have been active in a number of metadata standards organizations over the years. While the standards development process can sometimes be painfully slow, I recognize there is enormous value in being involved in such efforts. I have come to believe that if one takes the time to study and understand the design considerations behind the data structures that make up these standards, they will develop new insights and a deeper understanding of how that industry operates.

When designing new DAM systems, I always look to existing metadata standards, which I know have been painstakingly debated through committee. While there is no such thing as a perfect metadata standard, I believe that incorporating some of these elements into my work will likely help me avoid common data modeling mistakes, and ensure I have included important data modeling considerations into my design.

Metadata Standards from Outside the Box

I don’t limit my search for good metadata models to just those standards that have derived from the specific industry vertical with which I am working. Due to the malleability of digital content, industry verticals that were once considered separate and distinct from one another are now beginning to converge. There is a wealth of experience and knowledge that can exist inside these other standards, which comes from people with vastly different work experiences than mine, and of which I am interested in taking advantage. If I think the industry I am working in will eventually experience their same challenges, I will be able to anticipate those challenges by using aspects of these other standards.

One good example of this occurred about year ago, when I was looking for a well designed and versatile data structure to store metadata about creative artists. I wanted to capture the type of metadata that would enable me to uniquely identify a person and, in addition, store a variety of metadata elements that would describe how that person’s identity had changed over time.

I was certain I was not the first data designer to have this need. I did not want to build such a complex data structure alone because it would likely be inferior to one that was collectively defined by a knowledgeable standards community.

It took me about three days of searching, but I finally found what I was looking for when I came across the “Encoded Archival Context – Corporate Bodies, Persons and Families (EAC-CPF)” metadata standard. It was actually more than I was looking for, which was even better! The standard was reasonably new and it had been developed by the international library and digital archive community. Clearly, this was a community that had expertise and knowledge far beyond my own in managing the identities of people, groups and organizations. I was delighted to discover that the standard supported complex scenarios far beyond my immediate needs.

Metadata for Moving Targets

It should not be surprising that the library community had developed such a standard as this—one that addressed the challenges associated with capturing data about an individual or group whose identifying information might change over time.

An example of the value this offers would be a young woman who publishes her master’s thesis to complete her university studies. After she finishes her schooling, she gets married and changes her last name. Several years go by and she publishes more writings under her new marital name. Perhaps, she decides to sometimes use a “pen name” for some of her more controversial writings. Later, she returns to university and completes her doctorate and her name changes again. Perhaps, she is divorced or widowed and later re-marries, and again, changes her marital name. Finally, her writings are so influential, she is receives damehood (the female equivalent of knighthood) by the British Monarchy.

Many works, many names but all from the same person.

The EAC-CPF standard is designed to capture this level of complexity. It was well worth the time it took for me to find the standard. I could confidently design its data structures into my core data model because I was certain it would not only meet my current needs, but could support any future needs I might have.

I encourage you to do the same.

The ideas and knowledge expressed within metadata standards can be leveraged in new and useful ways if you take the time to understand them. Look outside your immediate industries standards and recognize that other industry verticals may have already experienced the challenges you are now facing.


Nick Sincaglia

Nick Sincaglia is President/Founder of NueMeta LLC, a consulting firm focused on digital asset and metadata management strategies. Nick’s company provides software development and system design consulting services for the leading digital media & entertainment companies. Nick has been active in several industry technical standards bodies as a Board Member and Working Group Chairman for the Digital Data Exchange (DDEX), NARM’s Digital Think Tank, and member of Metadata Working Groups sponsored by the European Broadcast Union and Audio Engineering. Nick has been a member of DAM Guru Program since 2013.

LearnDAM-Logo-75x75DAM Guru Program recognizes this article as worthy of the #LearnDAM designation for materials that provide genuine digital asset management education without sales agendas. Search #LearnDAM on Google for more materials.

The Concept of Trust in Your Workflow

This article was originally published on the DAM Coalition website, a property of Pro Video Coalition. As DAM Coalition was decommissioned in early 2015, this content was moved with permission.

by Nick Sincaglia

I was talking with a client recently about some of the challenges they were experiencing with a new workflow they had implemented. It was a bit of a departure from their existing workflows in that it relied much more heavily on external data providers. Until this point, their existing workflows were primarily driven by data that was originally from internally created data for which they had defined strict guidelines and relied heavily on throughout their workflow systems.

This client had expanded their operations into a new area of business which required them to rely on their outside data supplier partners to a much greater extent for the quality and consistency of the data which entered their systems. Needless to say, these new data streams were experiencing much higher failure rates and, as a result, were stressing their workflow systems in ways they had not experienced before.

The failures were causing a “log jam” of media files that would quickly fill up the workflow storage reserves and clog parts of their IT network, due to the re-routing and reprocessing of these files. A cascade of completely new workflow challenges had caught the organization off guard and was causing a significant amount of stress on their operations.

While talking through these problems that the client was experiencing, the concept of “trust” surfaced in our conversation. Since my background in workflow development has always tended to involve at least some amount of external data integration, “trust” was a concept I had deeply internalized and always included in my workflow designs.

It was through this conversation that I realized that building this concept of “trust” into my workflow designs was something that slowly evolved over time from experience. This client’s existing workflows had made assumptions regarding “trust,” which turned out to be no longer valid when applied to the external data they were receiving.

Trust in Workflow Design

So what do I mean when I refer to “trust” within the workflow design? Trust in this circumstance is the level of confidence one has in the quality and consistency of the data that’s being used as an input to any component within a workflow system. Trust can be applied to your business partner’s data feeds, your employee’s work quality, a server, the network, software applications, hardware devices or sub-components within your workflow systems. Each link in your workflow chain can be assigned a value of trust that you can use to drive your workflow designs and increase the robustness and reliability of your workflow automation.

And as the saying goes, “trust should not be just given, it must be earned.”

This was the mistake my client had made. Their confidence that these new data feeds would have the same quality and consistency as their internal data feeds was set too high. As a result, their workflow systems were stressed in ways they did not anticipate, and now they needed to re-evaluate how they did things.

So, how does one build the concept of trust into one’s system design?

I have learned to develop profiles for the various components that make up my workflow systems. There are no hard and fast rules as to the level of granularity one must establish for these component profiles. It really depends on your situation and the level of detail you want to track, monitor or control.

Each of these component profiles may also include data level profiling. The idea is that you assign a trust ranking to each data input component that can be used to programmatically make decisions on how to process the data.

For example, if your data is coming from a workflow component that has a high ranking of trust, and you receive an update to a previously delivered data record, you might programmatically design your workflow systems to automatically accept that updated data record. If, under the same scenario, the data is coming from a low trust ranking data component, the data update might be further scrutinized by running consistency checks against other data sources, or by routing it to a manual process for human review. Each component within your workflow is designed to check an input’s trust ranking before processing the data and, in doing so, might receive instructions on how to process the data.

Trust as a Variable

Trust ranking is not a bulletproof way to guarantee that your workflow systems will not inadvertently allow low quality data to slip through. There will always be data quality issues that will surface that are unanticipated. However, this approach, if designed properly, will enable one to expand the granularity of these data quality checks and decision-making responses over time. Remember, the data quality of your workflow systems is not static; your data suppliers and workflow components might change over time, and their level of trust might rise or fall.

Before a workflow component starts to process the data it receives, it can be designed to quickly check who the supplier of the data is and what other sub-components had previously processed the data. From there, it can be instructed on what data elements should be scrutinized during the processing of the data.

At the same time, this trust ranking concept should not unnecessarily impede the data flow through your systems. One needs to balance the need for total data quality with the rate at which data must flow through the system. In most workflow systems, it is unacceptable for the output of any workflow component to fall too far behind the data rate of its input.

One situation where I found the greatest need for this trust ranking concept was when I was working with systems that mixed data associated with content from the opposite spectral range of the “Long Tail.” The concept of the “Long Tail” was made popular by Chris Anderson’s book “The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More.”

Valuing the Tail End of the Long Tail

One side effect of the long tail that I noticed in my work was that the quality of the metadata degraded the further down the long tail one went. I don’t remember Chris Anderson discussing this “feature” of the long tail in his book. From my perspective this was the “dark side” of the long tail that the book failed to mention.

LongTail

Digital assets that are less popular typically don’t receive the same level of metadata attention more popular assets receive.

In a typical marketplace, there are a number of parties involved making content available. Typically there are creators, manufacturers, distributors and retailers. Even in a purely digital environment, these same roles tend to persist.

The “dark side” of the long tail is the further down the long tail one goes, the less incentivized one is to spend time on metadata quality and consistency issues. Time is money as the saying goes. The fewer copies of the content one expects to sell, the less likely one is to earn back the money invested in the content’s metadata.

If the creators of the content do not supply high quality metadata with their media, the responsibility of doing so is passed to the manufacturer. If the manufacturer does not have the incentive, they will pass the responsibility to the distributor. If the distributor lacks incentive, the responsibility continues on to the retailer. And if the retailer is not motivated to cleanse the metadata, it will simply get passed to the consumer.

So, when you are mixing metadata associated with both front tail content and long tail content, the concept of trust plays a very big role in how you design your workflows. Professionally produced content tends to have much greater metadata quality, because the suppliers of the content have a vested interest in making sure the content is properly prepared so that it can be easily received and processed by each party within the retail supply chain and on to the consumer for purchase. The opposite tends to be true for long tail content, for the simple fact that every minute spent addressing content metadata issues, the lower the probability one will make back the money spent in doing so.

If you think about it, this same situation exists in almost all content environments. Even in your company’s internal content systems, though perhaps not to the same extreme. There will always be high value content and low value content. Too much time and effort spent on the quality and consistency of low value content could result in a net loss to the organization.

Your organization probably already internalizes this reality in the way they run their business by putting more effort into the quality and consistency of the data surrounding their high value content. And if you think about it a little further, shouldn’t your workflow systems also be able to internalize these same concepts?


Nick Sincaglia

Nick Sincaglia is President/Founder of NueMeta LLC, a consulting firm focused on digital asset and metadata management strategies. Nick’s company provides software development and system design consulting services for the leading digital media & entertainment companies. Nick has been active in several industry technical standards bodies as a Board Member and Working Group Chairman for the Digital Data Exchange (DDEX), NARM’s Digital Think Tank, and member of Metadata Working Groups sponsored by the European Broadcast Union and Audio Engineering. Nick has been a member of DAM Guru Program since 2013.

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