How are you involved with Digital Asset Management?
What are the biggest challenges and successes you’ve seen with Digital Asset Management?
What advice would you like to share with DAM professionals and people aspiring to become DAM professionals?
Henrik de Gyor 0:00 This is Another DAM Podcast about Digital Asset Management. I’m Henrik de Gyor.
Who are you and what do you do?
Heather Hedden 0:07 My name is Heather Hedden, and I’m a Taxonomist. I design, create and edit taxonomies, which are structured, controlled vocabularies of terms or concepts used to tag, manage and retrieve content, and thus play an important role in metadata.
I’ve been a Taxonomist for over 25 years. This has included working both in information management roles and companies and as a consultant externally, both as an employee and self-employed.
For the past two years, I have been employed by a Taxonomy and Ontology management software vendor, Semantic Web company, whose product is called PoolParty, whereby I help our customers with their Taxonomy and Ontology products. I also teach taxonomy creation, through online and in-person workshops, both independently and through conferences or other organizations.
Finally, I am an author of a book about taxonomies and how to create them called The Accidental Taxonomist, which has just been revised for its third edition, which came out now in November 2022. I also author a blog called The Accidental Taxonomist.
Henrik de Gyor 1:22 How are you involved with Digital Asset Management?
Heather Hedden 1:27 I’ve been involved with a number of Digital Asset Management projects as a Taxonomist. Some of the past consulting projects for which I have created taxonomies included a photo editor and graphic design maker web application available to buy by subscription, which included its own stock photos, drawings, icons, and animations all needed to be tagged with a taxonomy. I did a consulting project for a hotel company, which included general marketing images for its websites, and images for specific hotel properties. And a project for our business information publisher, which had a large collection of short audio recordings from business leaders providing advice. That’s just some of them.
I also in my taxonomy training courses, I have had participants involved in Digital Asset Management. For example, in early 2020, I gave a two-day on-site training to the photo archivists of the US Senate House of Representatives and Architect of the Capitol. That means involving the building of the Capitol altogether,
Henrik de Gyor 2:35 What are the biggest challenges and successes you’ve seen with Digital Asset Management?
Heather Hedden 2:40 A continued challenge us in tagging image assets. For text-based content, text analytics-based auto-tagging has become common, but nontext content remains a challenge for tagging, audio and video can be transcribed and the transcriptions can then be text mined, but images remain a challenge. So captions and other manually added metadata is important.
Another challenge is in the issue of content silos. There is increasing interest in the fields of data and content management to break down silos and eliminate the use of so many different content management systems in an organization. But Digital Asset Management systems are optimized for the needs of DAM and it’s not practical to manage digital assets in a generic content management system. So the focus needs to shift from breaking down silos to bridging them.
As for successes, I think it’s been the wider recognition of the importance of Digital Asset Management in all industries, and organizations of all sizes, not just large media-producing companies.
Henrik de Gyor 3:50 What advice would you like to share with DAM professionals and people aspiring to become DAM professionals?
Heather Hedden 3:55 I advise to combine Digital Asset Management with another field or skills, such as taxonomy creation, or knowledge management or content strategy. Subject matter expertise is also good to have. And I recommend to think broadly to be open to work in any industry and not just those traditionally involved in digital, and media assets.
Finally, when it comes to specific implementations and projects, it’s important to consider metadata and taxonomy for a wider content use in an organization and not just the metadata and taxonomy specific for digital asset management.
How are you involved with Digital Asset Management?
Why is Digital Asset Management so complex?
What are the biggest challenges and successes you’ve seen with Digital Asset Management?
What advice would you like to share with DAM professionals and people aspiring to become DAM professionals?
Henrik de Gyor: 00:00 This is Another DAM Podcast about Digital Asset Management. I’m Henrik de Gyor. Today I’m speaking with Ian Matzen. Ian, how are you?
Ian Matzen: 00:08 I’m well, thank you very much, Henrik.
Henrik de Gyor: 00:09 Ian, how are you involved with Digital Asset Management?
Ian Matzen: 00:14 I’ve been involved with Digital Asset Management for about six years professionally. Four of those years, I’ve been a remote Digital Asset Manager. I’m currently working as the Digital Asset Management Librarian with Wells Fargo. They have a Marketing Department and they have a Digital Asset Management system there. I’ve been helping with the system’s rollout and testing new features, training new groups, and setting up the system for those new groups. I’ve also been working on asset migration, workflow automation and spending a bit of time on user adoption. In my work there, I have been serving as a consultant. We had a DAM reporting project that involves data analysis and display… or working with that… Visualizing that data for us to understand that better. I’ve also been working on some projects involving record retention and various user adoption projects including a DAM gamification project that I’m currently rolling out.
Ian Matzen: 01:24 Before that, I was the Digital Asset Manager at America’s Test Kitchen, which is a Boston-based publisher where I managed not only the Digital Asset Management system, but also their content management system and our workflow management system. I did a fair amount of metadata modeling for both the DAM and the CMS, Digital Asset Management system and the Content Management System. And one of the high points there is I built, designed and deployed an enterprise taxonomy and did a fair amount of automation, including asset ingest automation and digital rights management tagging automatically to digital assets for digital rights management tagging. I also did a bit of work on capturing raw data around system usage and analyzing that data to measure specifically the way that our users were reusing digital assets to show the value of the system.
Ian Matzen: 02:24 Even before that my work was as a Digital Asset Technician for a Net-a-Porter. They are a London-based luxury brand online retailer. They have offices around the world. And there, I developed a controlled vocabularies for various groups. I configured the user interface and did a quality assurance during various upgrades.
Ian Matzen: 02:45 But my work with digital assets really predates the six years I’ve been doing Digital Asset Management professionally. I’ve been working with digital assets ever since I took my first film editing class in university. I was part of the first class to really move away from the Moviola flatbed and into nonlinear editing. So, I’m really passionate about rich media, about audiovisual media workflows and technology especially as it relates to part of the creative process. For me, nothing’s really more exciting than helping art directors, designers, editors, and motion graphic artists and other artists create their work.
Ian Matzen: 03:24 That was the case when I first started working at an advertising agency and remains so in my work at I’m Marketing Department at Wells Fargo.
Henrik de Gyor: 03:34 Ian, Why is Digital Asset Management so complex?
Ian Matzen: 03:39 There are several different aspects that are complicated or complex about Digital Asset Management. I think the first that I can think of is the ever-expanding definition of what we mean by digital assets. And in most circles, when we think of or talk about digital assets, we think of audiovisual media including images, videos, animations and audio. However, more recently in some of the jobs that I’ve been in, we’ve added a lot, many more different types of files and formats for that list, including emails, text, HTML, even data are being managed by DAM Managers. So the question is, you know, should every type of visual file be supported by the DAM system?
Ian Matzen: 04:22 Ideally, they should be, but not all of the DAM systems out there are created equal. And really, you mean what it comes down to is, is choosing the best option for the digital content you’re managing. For example, the Digital Asset Management system I worked with at America’s Test Kitchen worked very well with images, whereas the current system that I worked with at Wells Fargo worked very well with video. So when it comes down to, you know, finding the right system for the material that you’re managing.
Ian Matzen: 04:53 Another aspect that adds to the complexity of Digital Asset Management is managing expectations. And that goes for users as well as the stakeholders and folks who you might report to. I think many users expect the Digital Asset Management system to behave in the same way that a search engine does. They might be similar, but the two are inherently different when it comes to search.
Ian Matzen: 05:19 Content is index differently. For starters, search engines rely on inbound links and sitemap indexing. Whereas Enterprise search requires applying terms from a controlled vocabulary and the context, of course, is very different. Also, companies want to capitalize on their investment in a DAM system. And so they turned customizing the system to meet their business requirements rather than opting for another best of breed product. So in this way, companies unknowingly risk customizing themselves into a corner, making system upgrades and migration, very challenging if not prohibitively expensive. So before or enhancing the system, it’s a good idea to ask whether another reasonable, reasonably priced system might be a better option and seek out other customers of that system who have done some enhancements to the same system that you’re using. There are risks for either option, whether you want to customize or build out your current DAM solution or go with another system.
Ian Matzen: 06:19 So a good project manager can help mitigate those risks. Finally, I think the other aspect that lends itself to the complexity is the accelerating pace of technology. Whether you know how to build an extension in Java, design a workflow automation using logic or having a solid understanding of what these are, I think it’s a good idea to at least be aware of them and have some idea of how to develop a software, how workflows can be put together and at least designed, because I think there are a lot of aspects to Digital Asset Management and the more you know, I think that the more valuable, the more helpful you’ll be in your work.
Henrik de Gyor: 07:00 Ian, What are the biggest challenges and successes you’ve seen with Digital Asset Management?
Ian Matzen: 07:07 I think one of the main challenges to Digital Asset Management is search. Search is dependent on metadata. Much of the metadata needs to be manually entered. Though some of it can be automatically appended to digital files or to the records within a DAM system. Really it comes down to users devoting the time to adding that descriptive information. it is challenging to get them to do that and even more so getting them to do it consistently and over time. That time never really ends because metadata must change to reflect new contexts and new users that are being onboarded. So I think that that is a challenge to managing digital assets. I think the other aspect that is challenging with Digital Asset Management is showing trust. And I think what I’ve seen with many of the systems that I’ve managed is that slow interfaces or slow experience, buggy systems. If there was poor UI or lack of transparency, they all had people’s view of that DAM system.
Ian Matzen: 08:17 Their trust in that DAM system will be impacted by those aspects. So it’s much harder to win back that trust if people are experiencing one of those issues. So it’s important to, I do a lot of testing to ensure that the system is working. Quality assurance is a huge part of my job. And also to a certain extent doing a fair amount of examining the user interface and doing a UAT to ensure that the interface itself is making sense to them. And, of course, having some sort of way of tracking the digital assets through their life will end, have they been downloaded when they’ve been used in a layout perhaps if there are images. All that adds to the trust that the users have in the system.
Ian Matzen: 09:05 Some of the successes that I’ve seen in Digital Asset Management have been that for one, Digital Asset Management is a bonafide profession. I think because we have conferences now there are many job postings that ask for Digital Asset Management professionals. I think that that is a win. I think it’s very important to acknowledge and acknowledge the work that you’ve done and that other writers and other folks who are in our industry, I think it’s that’s good. Also, I think another success is centralization, and I’m not just talking about having all of our assets in one system, but also consolidating the number of systems that are found at that various companies. I think, in a rather than having, you know, four or five different, systems, some of which might be system of records, some may not be. I think it’s important to acknowledge that being able to consolidate them, that the material, but also reduce the number of systems that are being used and paid for by companies is a success.
Ian Matzen: 10:11 Another aspect or another success of Digital Asset Management is realizing workflow efficiencies. I think there’s an opportunity to renegotiate and redesign workflows. And I think that many of us working in this arena in Digital Asset Management would say that that’s something they spend a good deal of their time doing. Some examples are auto ingesting digital assets into the system. At America’s Test Kitchen, I set up a fully automated ingest. We went from doing a lot of the cataloging manually and would, you know, the folks who were consuming those digital assets had to wait for that material to be ingested before they could see and use that. Having that automated allowed people to access us those much quicker. The other aspect I think of automation is validating metadata at, again, America’s test kitchen, we found a way to actually go through and ensure that the metadata was there, that it existed.
Ian Matzen: 11:13 Folks took the time to put it in, but also validating the name against a convention we had set up. And then finally there’s a way that you can do a fair amount of work auto-tagging material. The taxonomy, that I set up for America’s Test Kitchen. One of the aspects that I, or at least challenges that I faced was applying that taxonomy to our existing or legacy content. We had over 800,000 records. Having an enterprise taxonomy is a great accomplishment, but if you can’t go back and, and actually tag that material, it’s not going to have as much impact or value. So I did develop a means of auto-tagging or existing content through automation.
Ian Matzen: 11:59 So, the last success I wanted to mention was the increased value of digital assets. I think by having a digital asset sitting on your desktop, it may be the most wonderful, incredibly creative item, but if no one can see them… To see that asset, it’s not going to have as much value as it would if it was in a Digital Asset Management system where it can be found and reused. So I think access is a huge part of that equation. But I think ultimately our goal is to make digital assets findable and see that their value increase.
Henrik de Gyor: 12:35 Ian, what advice would you like to share with DAM professionals and people aspiring to become DAM professionals?
Ian Matzen: 12:41 I would suggest that they would navigate to my blog. I have a blog called tameyourassets.com and I do a fair amount of blogging and writing and my intent is to share my knowledge and experience with others, especially best practices. So I hope that listeners would consider going to that URL. I think another aspect or another suggestion that I have is just know your DAM systems. It’s important to know what current systems there are both within the organization that might be a part of, but also, systems that are being offered by other vendors. It’s important to see what current and upcoming features they’re offering so that you could ask for those features for the current system that you’re using. I think another aspect of that is as partner with other system adopters or other people managing the DAM system, the same DAM system that you’re using to drive that vendor road map. So I think partnering and forming that network of system users and managers is very important. And then, also another aspect is education. I think it is very important to learn and master DAM best practices, to ask questions, learn from other practitioners, take online courses or even take courses at a local community college.
Ian Matzen: 14:05 I think finding courses in library science or computer science or data analysis, will all help you at least to give you that understanding of what those aspects are that, you can talk with other folks in your organization to help manage digital assets. And then finally, I just wanted to mention, finding a mentor in the Digital Asset Management space. They don’t have to be necessarily someone with much more or any additional experience that you might have. It could be a peer, but the benefits of having a mentor would be to find some encouragement and support for your journey in the Digital Asset Management space. They can offer you honest advice and feedback, what you’re doing and how you’re managing digital assets, and then, of course, having a mentor is helpful to expand your professional network.
Henrik de Gyor: 14:57 Great. Well, thanks Ian.
Ian Matzen: 14:59 You’re welcome. Thank you very much.
Henrik de Gyor: [00:00] This is Another DAM Podcast of Digital Asset Management. I’m Henrik de Gyor. Today I’m speaking with Keith Bloomfield-DeWeese. Keith, how are you? Keith Bloomfield-DeWeese: Very well Henrik, how are you? Henrik: Keith, how are you involved with digital asset management?
Keith:I’m involved with digital asset management a couple of different ways. I don’t think quite like a traditional DAM person. I don’t work in a DAM system, let’s put it that way. I do work with digital assets, of course, photos, content of all sorts, but I am not managing licenses or anything like that. I actually am more at the end of, or along the processing line of digital assets or an asset, where trying to describe what the asset is about, how it should be used, what systems it should be used in and things that are, again, a little more outside of the, I think, the traditional DAM environment or DAM world.
[01:00] I work with content management systems very much. It’s interesting, because I’ve been thinking this through in so many different ways and from so many different angles, because I work in maintaining, developing, maintaining controlled vocabularies, relationships that link terminology between classes and so on and at a certain point, I think, whenever you do this for any number of organizations, you look at it and you say, “Okay, we’ve done all this work, what do we do with it now? How do we monetize it in a certain way and how do we start, perhaps, thinking of it more as a digital asset, with a right-to-use component?” For the most part, the work I do kind of skirts around that, but at the same time, there is this, beyond the right-to-use, there is this management aspect where we’re trying to join different types of assets together.
[02:00] We’re trying to make connections between a photo and text, a sound recording and text, and the management is there, it’s just in a different way, and again, not quite so traditional. I think, going back now for, I was thinking recently, it’s been almost 20 years, that I’ve been working for media companies of various kinds. You increasingly see the lines blurring between certain, the idea of content management and digital asset management and it seems like the more there’s a blurring or there’s just a lot of overlaps. I’m kind of, I guess I’m apologizing a little bit for not being more of a DAM person, or talking about DAM. I hope that’s all right. Henrik: No apologies necessary. Keith: I think a lot of this, I think that’s common these days and many people are in that kind of space, work in that kind of space and of course I have to be aware of the different restrictions that might be placed on an asset.
[03:00] One thing that I know I have run afoul of at times is okaying, and this is not anything recently, I’m thinking quite while ago, maybe when I was a novice more in the space, of using an asset, integrating it, associating it with another type of asset, a content item, primarily, when I shouldn’t have. When I didn’t, you know, heed what the attributes and the attribute values were telling me about how something could be used. I’ve become much more savvy in that respect and much more knowledgeable in basically how you have to be aware as you work with a variety of assets and especially in media things change so much that you sometimes just have to allow yourself to fall and that’s kind of my take on working with digital assets. Henrik: [04:00]How do you maintain the ontology for a national media company? Keith: Well, I think it’s a daunting task in some ways and sometimes I think I’m one of those fools who stumbled in where the angels fear to tread, so to speak, because it’s certainly no a one person task, of course. There’s so many people involved. There are so many systems involved. Maintaining so much depends on data formats being correct. I think this is where we start getting into more of the kind of semantic side of this or the linked data side of this because when you’re dealing with, say, well I’ve worked for an encyclopedia, I’ve worked for newspapers, you’re really just dealing with such a vast, so many domains of knowledge, that you’re both trying to development vocabularies to describe domains plus the relationships between them in such a way that they make sense to both the machine and increasingly the machine and human beings.
[05:00] Of course, those are a great deal of reliance on various tools. I’ve worked with, I think, everything from Protégé to there are different tools. I don’t want to sound like I’m endorsing anything but, you know SAS Teragrams tool, things like Synaptic and Expert System. You know of course you have to have that kind of support that these sophisticated tools provide and I think maintaining and actually developing them further is the real trick. It’s how do you keep incorporating other vocabularies? How do you harmonize vocabularies and not the unexpected results, because of course we’re trying to do so much of this to have a positive impact on everything from search to putting out new products, driving products, and again, I think it’s just a very, it’s daunting.
[06:00] I would also say too, that one thing has easier over time is the tools have become more sophisticated in the last ten years. I think it’s incredible what we can do know as opposed to when we used to have to maintain values in spreadsheets. That was just, you can only go so far with that. Today though it does, it takes a village to raise an ontology, let’s put it that way. I tend to think too that, where I sit, I do a lot of work developing, and again, the relationships that make terms, link terms, and those relationships, of course, now we can get them from different standards. We’re very fortunate on that respect. We’re very fortunate.
[07:00] When I say standards I mean that we have OWL or just schema.org and so on to work with, where as, ten years ago, these things, were around of course, but they weren’t, I think, as approachable in some respects, or I certainly found them a little more difficult to wrap my mind around at that time and I think now we have it, so many of these standards built right into these systems that we license and so on, that it makes it easier. But, to maintain an ontology for a national media company, it’s always trying to find, I think, that right balance between what machines can do and then where the human beings have to step in and clarify and disambiguate and so on. Again for news organizations, for an encyclopedia, for, well just any of these larger media companies, you’re dealing with, not just financial data or data about medicine.
[08:00] It’s not farm. Dealing with all the means of knowledge from health to sports to politics to entertainment and actually, I was thinking, I’ve worked on vocabularies that have a number of, you know like very simple ones, 20,000 terms, up to 160,000 terms and when you start thinking of all the relationships that link those terms together you suddenly feel like a very small person and you have to, I always say I always have to keep in mind that I can only do so much and we can only take things so far with this technology and we’re still trying to improve the technology too.
[09:00] One of the questions, later, that you asked was about what advice do you give to people and I’ll go back to that later some more, but one thing I’m thinking of here is that when you do maintain an ontology for a large media company you really need to be prepared to experiment and not be afraid to try different approaches and to realize that the technology, the guidelines, are there but there’s always that fine tuning that has to be done because you can also find yourself in a situation where you’re dealing with all this great technology but you’re still using legacy systems that aren’t quite up to snuff or compatible. I think trying to find that right balance is part of the maintenance of the ontology. Henrik: Keith, what are the biggest challenges and successes you’ve seen with digital asset management and ontology? Keith: [10:00] Well they say the challenges can range from just trying to get the buy in to follow a different direction, to getting the adaptation of the technologies, I mean that by, or adoption, the adoption of the technologies by a variety of people that interact with them and I’m thinking very much of database developers, developers of all sort, database administrators, developers, UX people, just a whole gamut, individuals who would be involved in managing the assets, developing the ontology to help manage them and I think there you do have to work a lot of times on people skills and trying to help people see the advantage of changing, going from working in relational databases to this entirely different approach, incorporating RDF, resource description framework and into the whole management process.
[11:00] It’s not always easy to make that leap and I think probably one of the challenges, biggest challenges, is managing expectations, because you will have executives, you will have stake holders just, again, any number of people who, well they do not have the interactions with the systems, with these technologies but they have heard the great benefits that can be achieved. Sometimes you have to do a lot of worker challenges and just making sure people understand that you’re not going to come right out of the gate charging at 80 miles an hour. You’ve got to work incrementally, strategically. Now a success is, sometimes my successes can be very small. When I see an inference made, engine based off of some data, when I see an implementation.
[12:00] Some years ago I was working on a search project and the final result or search results that then could expand into graphs, visual graphs, and that was very exciting. That was one of those successes of the kind where it was not only something very helpful but it that aesthetic quality too that I think, so often much of what we do, it’s not just science, it’s a little bit of art and to me, success comes in, really realizing that I’m allowed to work on some of the world’s largest word games, in a way, and be part of that, but I would really say it’s challenging to get to those little successes or even the bigger ones.There’s so many hurdles and you can’t just expect that you’re going to be successful the first time.
[13:00] You got to have stick-to-it-iveness I’d say, really keep with it and again, keep bringing people on board and everyone’s at a a different place on the learning curve with all of this technology which has it’s own problems when you’re trying to do something different and you’re working in an experimental area. I even thinking, I haven’t quite made the transition to saying goodbye to the concept of semantic web or semantic technology and saying hello linked data. I’m more at the point of actually combining the two terms but I really would say like, just even getting to that understanding of how linked data works, how linked data can apply to, just that interoperability, those are successes and you have to be open to them and see them where they are and not expect fireworks at the end of the day. Henrik: Keith, what advice would you like to share with DAM professionals and people aspiring to become DAM professionals?
Keith: [14:00] Well I think earlier I made the statement about being involved in way to just being open and being and experimenter, seeing yourself as a pioneer, but with DAM itself, like you’re really going to talk about the traditional, the digital asset management approach of course, it’s learn all you can about what’s available for managing rights issues and right-to-use issues and just anything to do with versioning and so on, that’s already available in data sets publicly. I think it takes a special kind of person. I don’t know if there’s a certain profession. A couple of years ago a friend published a book called The Accidental Taxonomist and I use that term now all the time, the accidental this, or the accidental that, but the accidental digital asset manager too because I think, especially in publishing, one way or the other you’re going to be involved in some kind of decision involving an asset and that decision can be a difficult one to make.
[15:00] It can be an easy one to make. So often I think, do you have the right set of tools, if you’re open to learning as much as you can. Just even simple things, like just get the basic syntax of RDF or some sparkle statements. You can really achieve a lot, I think. You can go into this feeling somewhat confident and you’re armed well. I would say just arm yourself, gird yourself as much as possible to always be working in an environment of change. It doesn’t mean you have to know everything. You don’t have to be expert in all these technologies. I think that’s a very special person but familiarity, many different data sets, many different technology, and by familiarity I mean just kind of a cursory familiarity.
[16:00] Then definitely find a niche, look for your niche, where you enjoy, what you enjoy doing. I’m very keen on just the linguistic aspects of what I do, then the automation that can be part of this. I really didn’t touch on that, the things like entity extraction and auto tagging, things like that, that can be applied in digital asset management, but that’s my niche and that’s where I feel comfortable. Certainly with all the assets that are being created there’s room for everyone I think, kind of wrap that up in a positive note. Just be open and positive. Henrik: Great, well thanks Keith. Keith: You’re welcome. Thank you Henrik. Henrik: [17:00] For more on this visit anotherdamblog.com. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to email me at email@example.com. For this and 180 other podcast episodes, visit anotherdampodcast.com. Thanks again.
Transcript: Henrik de Gyor: [0:01] This is Another DAM Podcast about Digital Asset Management. I’m Henrik de Gyor. Today, I’m speaking with Monica Fulvio. Monica, how are you?
Monica Fulvio: [0:09] I’m very good, Henrik. How are you?
Henrik: [0:12] Great. Monica, how are you involved with Digital Asset Management?
Monica: [0:15] I’m the senior taxonomist at National Geographic Partners, formerly National Geographic Society, before our merger and reorganization. I worked with other area stakeholders to establish a single taxonomy, a set of topics hierarchically managed, and locations that match our cartographic policies, a list of the people that features our explorers, organizations we’re interested in, events, other topics or concepts that we discuss frequently across our content, regardless of media type, and manage this in a central taxonomy management system.
[0:58] We use Mondeca since we also have some ontological elements that we’re using, we use of these with their auto‑tagging system. This is served to our internal clients through a taxonomy through a business layer API that we’ve built internally, the taxonomy service.
[1:20] This in turn is consumed by a growing number of our content systems. Like a lot of organizations out there, we have a lot of content management systems. We are working on consolidating on our alpha content management system is AEM, but we have a number of other systems that we use and we’ll probably continue to use.
[1:44] This is true, if in an earlier phase with Digital Asset Management and any large number of systems, and less that we’re going to necessarily end up with a particular alpha system, but maybe a smaller pack of them at the end of this and little more consistency between them. I work with various internal clients to help them standardize their metadata.
[2:12] I’m mostly focused on this set of taxonomy field. So I give them a schema, a set of documentation about how to interact with this internal web service. I train users, often producers, many writers, or art editors, whoever is expected to do the tagging or view the tagging. I help train them.
[2:33] I often tag archives of content, especially when we’re doing large migrations. I tune and refine the auto‑tagger. I manage the taxonomy itself. I also work with our digital product team and other people who are planning how our end user facing product may be using this taxonomy.
[2:55] Right now, we are using a text‑only auto‑tagger. We’ve definitely talked about starting to use some kind of an image auto‑tagging service. I will say I’ve long kept an eye on those technologies and been a little skeptical about them, achieving the level of accuracy and granularity that we really need for describing our content. We don’t need to know that it’s a bird. We want to know that it is a snowy owl or a bird paradise. We need a certain level of granularity.
[3:30] I’d say that I’ve suddenly seen leaps and bounds in the accuracy of image auto‑tagging tools over the last year and we are looking around at them. I hope to be able to add that to our suite of metadata enhancement tools here, sometime soon.
Henrik: [3:54] Monica, how do you maintain the taxonomy for one of the largest nonprofit, scientific, and educational institutions in the world?
Monica: [4:02] It’s a lot of work. It’s one totally fair answer. I’m also assisted here by a fairly flexible system. Each node in the taxonomy is not anchored by name, it’s a UUID. That is its core element, where that UUID follows the terms through its lifespan, in all the systems that it’s used in, it stays that if we rename it, if we have to move it within the hierarchy, if we merged terms, things like this.
[5:55] We architect it, our taxonomy system, and the way the client systems interact with it for flexibility. That is one thing that helps us. Also, the system assists us because Mondeca, when it’s processing text will extract suggested terms…candidates. We also allow users in the various client systems to themselves post candidates, post it through the Web services and add it to the candidate queue inside of Mondeca, which I can review and, if appropriate, add to taxonomy or discover that I’ve missed a synonym or any number of suggestions that I can confer.
[5:18] Some of them are junk and some of them are great. I’d say also about the users…I work with internal stakeholders in all of these various topic areas. I’ve invited in a number of other central data owners around the organization to help manage their data sets where relevant in the taxonomy system. I frequently review sections of the taxonomy. I’ll put down in review the travel section with the folks who work on Traveler magazine and our other travel products, and make sure that these terms make sense to them, that I’m talking about what’s important to them, etc.
Henrik: [6:03] What are the biggest challenges and successes you’ve seen with Digital Asset Management and taxonomy?
Monica: [6:08] It’s easier to start with the challenges. There are many of them. I think particularly, we wrestle with I think a lot of organizations do, we have a number of different systems. For us, this is the inheritance of a lot of groups making their own individual selections using their own separate workflows.
[6:31] So in the fall of 2015, National Geographic reorganized itself. Previously, there was the [National Geographic] Channel, which was a company that was primarily owned by 21st Century Fox and about a third owned by the National Geographic Society. The magazine, the book publication, the map publishing, all of that was part of the Society as well as what I described as more traditionally, nonprofit activities, giving out grants, running educational programs, running a museum.
[7:03] They struck an expanded partnership with 21st Century Fox, which moved all of the media portions of the organization or consolidated in National Geographic Partners and the National Geographic Society owned a third of interest of that, but otherwise, a free‑standing organization that’s very focused on their nonprofit activities.
[7:27] There’s a lot of change and upheaval, in fact, there always is at the end of any kind of big company reorganization like this. Personally, I’m suddenly interacting a lot with the folks from our Channel and talking to them about how we manage broadcast content, both domestically and around the world. The Channel particularly is directly and…I think it’s forty odd markets.
[7:56] They’re working on consolidating themselves, which is exciting, to see the work that they’re doing. Broadcast media, especially for me, is a whole new world of systems and workflows that I’ve previously really been very deep in the magazine, book side and associated assets, and workflows, and systems, and challenges. It’s a little bit of a personal challenge, but it’s exciting.
[8:22] As I may be alluded to with the Channel stuff, I’m being asked to look more at how do we represent the taxonomy and how do we manage our content in global setting. Personally, this is super exciting, looking at making our taxonomy multi‑lingual, which will help us better serve our readers both in the United States and around the world.
[8:47] This is maybe a little self‑biased, but I’d say that acceptance of the taxonomy has itself been really quite successful. It allowed us to build consistent experiences that had alluded us previously. Things like consistent ad targeting. We’re using it for analytics as well now, dynamic map experiences, and we have some interesting work upcoming using the taxonomy for personalization and using the ontology models for… let us say light linked data to provide experiences.
Henrik: [9:30] What advice would you like to share with DAM professionals and people aspiring to become DAM professionals?
Monica: [9:35] My main piece of advice that I would share, both for taxonomists and aspiring taxonomists, and DAM professionals is to maintain the balance between standards‑based approaches, what is the best practice, how have other people solved this problem, can I lean on external schemas and standards and pragmatism.
[10:00] Particularly, working with ontologies and linked data, there’s this temptation to build this beautiful, complex, perfect model that is ultimately more for you to maintain and, in some cases, can be more than you will really use.
[10:18] This is both a piece of advice and something I’ve struggle with myself, how to best strike that balance of what is actually going to be used, what can we really get people to accurately and consistently apply in terms of metadata, what is the core data that we really need, which really at heart, involves answering the question, “What do we really need to do with this content, with these assets and with this data?”
[10:44] My other piece of advice, and something that is constantly helpful and fruitful for me, especially when I feel like I’m stuck is reach out to other people in the field. Conversely, any of you feel free to reach out to me. I’m always happy to talk to other professionals in the field.
[11:02] I think it’s reassuring that the problems that we’re often wrestling with, which can feel enormous, and maybe are enormous, but very frequently your colleagues in another organization are wrestling with remarkably similar challenges and sometimes coming up with answers that you haven’t thought of. I always find that enormously refreshing.
Henrik: [11:24] Great advice. Thanks, Monica.
Monica: [11:26] Absolutely. Thank you, Henrik. It was great talking on this topic.
Henrik: [11:29] For more on this and other Digital Asset Management topics, go to anotherdamblog.com.