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To meta-tag or not to meta-tag? A skeptical view James Dalziel Adjunct Professor and Director, Macquarie E-learning Centre of Excellence & Executive Director,

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Presentation on theme: "To meta-tag or not to meta-tag? A skeptical view James Dalziel Adjunct Professor and Director, Macquarie E-learning Centre of Excellence & Executive Director,"— Presentation transcript:

1 To meta-tag or not to meta-tag? A skeptical view James Dalziel Adjunct Professor and Director, Macquarie E-learning Centre of Excellence & Executive Director, WebMCQ Pty Ltd

2 Overview What do we mean by meta-tagging? The arguments against meta-tagging Some alternatives A call for a moratorium: No more!

3 What is meta-tagging? Meta-data is data about data –Very broad impact –Requires a more limited definition for clarity Meta-tagging is the human act of tagging data with other data –Excludes automated meta-data creation –Requires a framework for meaningful human action: Categories and terms

4 What is meta-tagging? E-learning and information systems examples –Learning Object Meta-data (LOM) –Dublin Core –Discipline-specific taxonomies

5 Arguments against meta-tagging Background –Given this is a debate, intentionally provocative –Core focus is “coal-face” users like teachers Key arguments against –Incompatibility of standards –Human fallibility –Cost/benefit –Real-life usage

6 Incompatibility of standards Lack of harmonisation between e-learning and library worldviews of meta-data –Different standards –Objective vs subjective fields –Lack of controlled vocabularies for LOM LOM and application profiles –CETIS example of divergence

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8 Human fallibility Who will do meta-tagging? Teachers?? –What training will they get? –What are the rewards for the task? –Who will quality assure their work? Even the best are fallible –How to buy a cheap palm pilot on ebay…. From Cory Doctorow -

9 Human fallibility “Metacrap: Putting the torch to seven straw-men of the meta-utopia” by Cory Doctorow People lie People are lazy People are stupid (Plam pilot example) Mission: Impossible -- know thyself Schemas aren't neutral Metrics influence results There's more than one way to describe something

10 Cory Doctorow quote: “People are Lazy You and me are engaged in the incredibly serious business of creating information. Here in the Info-Ivory-Tower, we understand the importance of creating and maintaining excellent metadata for our information. But info-civilians are remarkably cavalier about their information. Your clueless aunt sends you with no subject line, half the pages on Geocities are called "Please title this page" and your boss stores all of his files on his desktop with helpful titles like "UNTITLED.DOC." This laziness is bottomless. No amount of ease-of-use will end it.”

11 Cost/benefit Meta-tagging is a costly activity –Definition –Creation –Quality assurance –Provision for use What is the benefit of all the fields to users? Are we just meeting the psychological needs of a small minority of cataloguers? –“Low tolerance for ambiguity?”

12 Real-life usage What does the research data show of the actual meta-data needs of teachers? (1) Google (2) Keyword (1 field!) (3) Use of “Advanced” search features - minimal Have we really asked them what they want? –Anecdotal “secondary meta-data” answers Urgent need for more research and demonstrators

13 Alternatives to meta-tagging Google –“They’re not supposed to search that way” –Can we really keep ignoring its success? Communities of practice – ing, newsletters, secondary meta-data, gossip Automated textual analysis –Eg, Latent Semantic Analysis

14 A Call to Action: Moratorium! A proclamation for today: NO MORE! Until…. –We fully harmonise our standards –We solve the problem of quality assurance –We can truly justify the investment –We have thoroughly researched what users want Otherwise…. –We are wasting time and money on a fantasy


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