Neglected no Matter how you Spell it

When I was in elementary school, I always excelled at spelling. I can remember third grade spelling bees where the best spellers won prizes valued from a dime to a quarter. To me this was exciting.
I tried very hard (and I still try very hard) to spell properly.

Thanks to Word 97 and the other word processing packages, I get red squiggly lines under my misspelled words to highlight when I have made an error. If you see misspelled words in the newsletter,
let me know and I will change my settings from “red squiggly lines” to “sirens and 2×4 smackings” to make me aware of my errors.

Recently I have had a problem with one word that I can’t seem to get correct. (Or is it two words?) The word that I am talking about is metadata or meta data or meta-data. I can’t seem to please
my PC or laptop with a correct spelling. Or… Is there even a correct spelling?

We in the data management industry spell the word for “data about data” the three ways demonstrated above. So do the major data management publications, sometimes inter-changing the spellings
within the same article or column. You’d think that data professionals that stress standards in many aspects of our business could select a single spelling that would satisfy the masses. Yet we

Is there reason to pick a single way to spell the word? We all know what is meant by metadata (my new way to spell the word — better go back and change all of my old articles). Some data
professionals spend more time worrying about how to spell metadata than we spend managing metadata in our companies.

Metadata is one of the most valuable yet most neglected resources available to business and technical professionals. Metadata plays a considerable role in business intelligence and data warehousing
success. Metadata plays a role in application development success. Metadata plays a role in reducing data redundancy and improving data quality. And metadata plays a role in the success of the
database administrator.

[You should see the all of the red squiggly lines under each “metadata”. Kind of reminds me of the red ink on my college papers.]

Even with “data about data” playing a major role in the vitality and success of companies and IRM organizations, managing metadata is treated as an after-thought. Or as Bill Inmon starts his Data
Management Review (DMR 11/98) Enterprise Metadata article, “Meta data has long been the Wednesday’s child of information processing systems.” Also stated in this same article, “It is meta data
that holds the key to the context of data.” [Mr. Inmon spells metadata as meta data.]

So the questions remain. What will it take to get metadata over the top? What are the differences between the companies that put resources toward meta data management and those that say they
understand the importance but don’t provide resources to improve meta data management? To these questions there are no easy answers. Simply put, “You’ve got to pay to play.”

My guess is that we have just scratched the surface of understanding the role that metadata will play in our organizations and that metadata management will become even more important over the
coming months and years. From all indications – experts, authors, consultants, vendors, and DA professionals are not about to let metadata management pass as a “fad”. If metadata was a fad, the
issue would have been laid to rest years ago. Metadata will continue to grow in popularity as more and more companies jump on the bandwagon when they realize that they can’t be entirely successful
without it.

Even if we all spell the word differently.


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About Robert S. Seiner

Robert S. (Bob) Seiner is the publisher of The Data Administration Newsletter ( – and has been since it was introduced in 1997 – providing valuable content for people that work in Information & Data Management and related fields. is known for its timely and relevant articles, columns and features from thought-leaders and practitioners. Seiner and were recognized by DAMA International for significant and demonstrable contributions to Information and Data Resource Management industries. Seiner is the President and Principal of KIK Consulting & Educational Services, a data and information management consultancy that he started in 2002, providing practical and cost-effective solutions in the disciplines of data governance, data stewardship, metadata management and data strategy. Seiner is a recognized industry thought-leader, has consulted with and educated many prominent organizations nationally and globally, and is known for his unique approach to implementing data governance. His book “Non-Invasive Data Governance: The Path of Least Resistance and Greatest Success” was published in late 2014. Seiner speaks often at the industry’s leading conferences and provides a monthly webinar series titled “Real-World Data Governance” with DATAVERSITY.