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How do you make choices?

Imagine a grocery store with no signs on the aisles, no labels on the cans, no lists of ingredients on any package and no prices anywhere. How do you choose what you want? How do you make decisions? How do you take care of your health needs? How do you manage your money?

Now think of the Internet. It's nothing but choices. But how do you make those choices? How do you find what you need? How do you know what you see is trustworthy? How can you evaluate what you read?

What is metadata?

Metadata is often described as "data about data." The signs, labels, lists of ingredients and prices in a grocery store are all examples of metadata. Metadata provides a recognizable way of describing something so that you can find it, identify it, evaluate it and use it. Metadata is the information that makes other information understandable, usable and sharable.

Metadata allows users to locate and evaluate data without each having to discover it anew with every use. Its basic elements are a purposeful content, structured format and a well-defined vocabulary, which together allow for a precise description of content, location and value.

What does this symbol mean?

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When you see this symbol, you are looking at information that is described by metadata created according to a recognized standard. Metadata gives you the power to find information quickly and efficiently through the state's North Star search engine or the GeoGateway. Metadata gives you the power to learn who created data, when it was created and why it was created. Metadata gives you the power to decide whether what you find is accurate, reliable and trustworthy.

What metadata standards have been developed?

So that many different people can use it and create it, metadata has to follow standards. In its technical architecture, the State of Minnesota endorses metadata standards for web content, geospatial data, and government records. For more information on these, please visit the Office of Enterprise Technology's web site and look at the data and records management chapter.

The technical architecture describes four primary metadata standards:

1. The Dublin Core is a fifteen-element metadata standard recognized and used internationally. It was designed principally by the library and archives community and its primary application is to describe web content. When you use the computer at your local library, Dublin Core metadata helps you find what you're looking for.

2. The Minnesota Geographic Metadata Guidelines are a standard format for describing geospatial data sets. They are based on a federal standard, the Content Standard for Digital Geospatial Metadata (CSDGM).

3. The Minnesota Recordkeeping Metadata Standard (IRM 20) is based on the Dublin Core. It is designed to support government accountability through the proper management of government records as mandated by law.

4. The ISO/IEC 11179 standard describes the definition, specification and content for data element dictionaries and metadata registries.

For more information on metadata, see the State Archives' metadata resources.


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