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Monday, October 31, 2016

Babbling Metadata

My favorite topic.  Metadata.  In the end it makes the data work. Hardly babble.  Good piece.  In the CACM.

The Power of Babble
Expect to be constantly and pleasantly befuddled  by Pat Helland

Metadata defines the shape, the form, and how to understand our data. It is following the trend taken by natural languages in our increasingly interconnected world. While many concepts can be communicated using shared metadata, no one can keep up with the number of disparate new concepts needed to have a common understanding.

English is the lingua franca of the world, yet there are many facets of humanity and the concepts held by different people that simply cannot be captured in English no matter how pervasive the language. In fact, English itself has nooks, crannies, dialects, meetups, and teenager slang that innovate and extend its permutations with usages that usually do not converge. My personal idiolect shifts depending on whether I am speaking to a computer science audience, my team at work with its contextual usages, my wife, my grandkids, or the waiter at a local restaurant. Different communities of people extend English in different ways.

Computer systems have an emerging and increasing common metadata for interoperability. XML and now JSON fill similar roles by making the parsing of messages easy and common. It's great we are no longer arguing over ASCII versus EBCDIC, but that's hardly the most challenging problem of understanding.

As we move up the stack of understanding, new subtleties constantly emerge. Just when we think we understand, the other guy has some crazy new ideas!

As much as we would like to have complete understanding of each other, independent innovation is far more important than crisp and clear communication. Our economic future depends on the "power of babble".  ..... " 

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