I have been spending an enormous amount of time preparing folks for Tech Ed and my corresponding talk.  This morning I invited my colleague, Pete McKiernan, into my office to show him my slides on MetaData.  We were laughing about the challenges associated with making people understand what MetaData is and why it is so interesting.  I showed him my metaphor, which you will have to come to Tech Ed to hear, and he made up one on the fly.  A good metaphor should never be wasted, so I figured I'd blog it.

Everyone knows what SWF stands for. MetaData exists in your mind helping to establish the meaning for the individual letters/words.  (If you have been married for some time, you may be ignorant to the ways of the dating world.  SWF = Single White Female)

What is the MetaData that brings context to these three words that your brain has automatically mapped?

<myProfile>

<marriedStatus> single <marriedStatus>

<race> white </race>

<gender> female </gender>

</myProfile>

Most people are so familiar with SWF that they automatically know that the words that the acronym stands for describe characteristics of a person. 

The metadata surrounding the words brings a sense of context for the person who's not familiar with the acronym.  But what if you just saw the words 'single,' 'white,' and 'female,' each in isolation?

For instance, if you just saw the word 'Single,' what would you think? 

What about 'White'?   Perhaps you would think about the abscence of color.

What if you just saw 'Female'?  Would that mean that you are one or that you are looking for one?

Metadata helps bring context to otherwise meaningless data.