Understanding Metadata with its Types and Benefits

Metadata is something that provides information about the data or we can say it is data about data. This is the data that consists of information about the data or the data that describes the data on which we are working.

In our daily life, we observe various kinds of short descriptions for long information. These descriptions help us to understand the information in brief. For example, on visiting a shopping platform, without touching a product, without having any trial, we buy the product based on the given short but most useful information along with the product. This kind of short information about anything can be considered as metadata. In this article, we are going to discuss the metadata in detail with its different types and benefits. We will cover the below major points in this article.

Table of Contents

  1. What is Metadata?
  2. Example of Metadata
  3. Types of Metadata
  4. Type of storage for metadata
  5. Benefits of metadata 

Let us begin with understanding the metadata.

What is Metadata?

Have you ever thought about when working with any data in data analysis or machine learning modeling what information we can get about the data? We often pay our focus on extracting insights from the data we usually don’t think about the data like from where it came, how the data we are using got generated? Metadata is something that provides information about the data or we can say it is data about data. This is the data that consists of information about the data or the data that describes the data on which we are working. In some way, we can say that metadata is an explanation or summary of what the data is.

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A simple example of metadata for any image might include information like the name of the device, location where the image was taken, size of the image, the date when the image is taken, metadata about a  book can consist of the author-name, publication name, no. of pages, date of publication. More formally we can say it represents behind-the-scenes information that is used everywhere in multiple ways.

Examples of Metadata

We encounter metadata in our daily lives everywhere. Each time we purchase something, receive an email, takes photos with the phone or camera we get some information that we can consider as metadata.

In the above image, we can see that with the help of metadata of the article we can get an overview of the article, information we can get:

  • The title
  • The author-name
  • Publishing date
  • Time to read the article
  • Description of article

One more example can be your emails. Where in emails metadata we get the following information

  • Message-id
  • The date and time of the email were sent.
  • Email address of receiver and sender.
  • The subject of the email.

Using this we can perform an effective classification of the emails. So that using classification we can find the required email in less time.

Types of Metadata

For more clarity about the metadata, we can classify it in the following different types:

Structural metadata: this kind of metadata represents the structure of the data or file. It shows information about how the resource data or file is organized. An example of this kind of data can be the table of contents of any article or book and the name of the components of the human body.

Descriptive metadata: this kind of metadata represents the descriptive knowledge of any data. For example, it may include title, subject, genre, author name, etc. it helps in understanding the data in the context of discovery and identification.

Administrative metadata: this type of metadata includes information about details of the data or file like when it was created, rights, permissions, technical characteristics like size, file type, data type, etc. it is often created automatically when we enter the data in the database. They are helpful in managing the content. The below image represents a basic example of the classification .

Image source 

Types of Metadata Storage

We can store our digital metadata in the following two ways:

  • Internal storage system

In this type of system, we store the metadata of any data in the same place where the data is stored. This type of stored metadata is called embedded metadata. This is beneficial in terms of transfer of the main data because wherever the data goes the metadata goes with it which helps in understanding the data with it also whenever main data changes the metadata also changes accordingly. 

  • External storage system

In this type of system, we store all the metadata of all the data in one place. Basically, it can be stored externally to the original database, in a metadata repository. Storing these information in one place helps in making the search and management of the data efficient.

Benefits of Metadata 

First of all, as we know one of the most basic benefits for any data reader is that because of it he gets a general overview of the data on which he is going to work. This can be helpful in reducing the time taken by data analysis. Instead of this some of the benefits regarding business profit are given below.

  • For Websites with Embedded Metadata

Metadata is general information of any kind of data or platform which helps in the introductions, so if a website is embedded with the it which means the user or the viewer will get a description about the website before entering into the website. Information such as the description of the website helps viewers to know about the website whether it is useful for them or not. Instead of this using keywords, metatags, and more helps to appear in the appropriate search results which can play an important part in the success of a website.

Some common metadata of any webpage include meta title and meta description. The meta title describes the topic of the page which helps the reader to understand what information he will get from the page. Where meta description is a kind of short story about the content of the page which makes viewers understand if the thing they are searching for is presented on the page or not.

  • In Tracking the Behavior of Consumers

Most e-commerce websites use metadata to track consumer behavior and movements. In the digital market, people learn how to follow consumers by capturing your every click on the internet. From which they sort information like the type of advertisement you like, the device you are using, what is your location, etc. all kinds of information they track that are allowed to track.

All this information about any consumer helps in predicting his purchasing, selling, page visiting, etc. behavior. Using this information they target the consumer in the context of the consumer can find the services provided by the e-commerce fruitful. Since there are a huge number of consumers the tracked data can be converted into metadata.

This helps in classifying the number of people in the different segments and according to the segments websites makes the strategies to provide services to more and more people to earn profit. 

  • Management of Profiles in Social Media

Metadata of any user profile in any social media platform like Facebook, LinkedIn tell other users about you before making them connected in the platform. We can see profile pictures, basic information, and descriptions about anyone after using all this meta-information. If we find the person known we can send them the request to get connected. 

Every time we share posts on Facebook, tweet on Twitter the metadata works in the background for example when we set the board in Pinterest for articles of our field of interest, we get the related article because the metadata store for those articles works in the background.

  • Metadata of Files Stored in the Computer

Whenever we get stuck in such a situation where we need to find the file stored in the computer and we don’t know the place where it is available and its exact name. In that case, we start searching it on the computer with its metadata like if it’s a video we will search for all videos, and from the thumbnail, we can recognize the file. So in this type of situation where we know little information about the thing we search it using their metadata which is stored with the file.

Every file we store in the computer file includes metadata of itself with it. Which can be some basic information like size, name, location, origin, etc. Using this information operating systems understand the class of the file and this comes out as help in searching, managing, storing files in our computer system.

  • Cost Management and Maintenance

       Metadata can be helpful in optimizing the database management system since we know there are various types of data storage methods we can use and also they all have different costs. The easiest way to manage the cost is to go through the metadata of the database and find out which tables are really not useful for the work which can be known by the history of the table when it is being used for work. We can delete unused data to save space which directly affects the cost of the database. Using metadata we can set rules like if the table has not been used in 30 days it is moved to a less costly storage bucket. Metadata allows you to pinpoint exactly how much each dataset costs you according to storage cost and usage.

Final Words

As we have discussed, metadata is the data of data, but in actuality, it is not the whole data in itself. For example, the author name and title of the article is not the whole document it is just a detail of the article.  That is why most of the websites make the metadata public to give the details about them by this they influence the users and save themselves by sharing the raw data. Metadata is nothing but a normal thing that we are observing in our daily life frequently but making it beneficial for us is always appreciated. In the article, we have seen what is metadata and what can be the example of metadata that we meet in our daily life. With this, we get to know how we can store in different ways and use them for our own benefit.

Yugesh Verma
Yugesh is a graduate in automobile engineering and worked as a data analyst intern. He completed several Data Science projects. He has a strong interest in Deep Learning and writing blogs on data science and machine learning.

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