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.
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.
How are you involved with Digital Asset Management?
Can you explain the difference between semantics, taxonomy, ontology and metadata?
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. Today I’m speaking with Sarah Berndt. Sarah,
how are you? Sarah Berndt: [0:09] Hi. Good afternoon, Henrik. I’m great, thank you. Henrik: [0:11] Sarah, how are you involved with Digital Asset Management? Sarah: [0:15] Well, I work on the ITAMS contract, specifically for an employer,
DB Consulting. My task is to provide a controlled vocabulary, or a taxonomy,
for the Johnson Space Center, accurately representing over 50 years in manned
space flight. Henrik: [0:31] Can you explain the difference between semantics, taxonomy,
ontology, and metadata? Sarah: [0:39] All of these are relative definitions, but within the semantics system
that I use, and within my own environment, the taxonomy, of course, is a hierarchical
system, a controlled vocabulary with a treelike structure. It’s agreed upon
overarching definitions for classes and concepts. [0:57] Ontology, then, is really
referring to the relationships between those classes and concepts, so we can
see that STS135 is related to a particular vehicle, it’s related to Launch Pad 39A,
it was crewed by these folks, it carried this payload. That type of information is
[1:21] Metadata, the most overused term of the century, is definitely relative, but
in my environment, I use a term “metadata library,” and what these are, specific
fields that have been set up to convey to the end-user, through the interface,
things like a Best Bet URL, a decided upon definition, an official definition, an
official image that might be relative to a specific mission patch or expedition,
[1:53] These components of the semantic system can be taken on whole and
conveyed to the end-user, or divided apart and plugged into different applications,
so that we have multiple uses throughout the organization. Henrik: [2:09] That makes sense, so you can have multiple metadata
fields. Sarah: [2:12] I think that is absolutely essential to decide on what your definitions
are right from the get-go. You need to decide, is your ontology actually
metadata to your taxonomy, or is it the term “metadata” that’s going to be
making the big influence? All of these things definitely need to be defined,
and shouldn’t be assumed or taken for granted. [2:36] When you start from the
ground up, sometimes you wish you’d had known what to do first, but it’s definitely
better or more advisable to plan the structure from the beginning. The
taxonomy, the basic structure, to have that from the beginning and to build the
ontology from the point and the term metadata from that point.
[2:57] The structure then provides a foundation for all that unstructured content
and data that you’re actually, that’s your angle that you’re actually trying to
represent. Henrik: [3:09] And hopefully find again. Sarah: [3:11] Yes, again, the end goal. We want to find it. We want to reuse it.
We want to improve the end-user search experience. Henrik: [3:19] That totally makes sense. What advice would you
like to share with DAM professionals and people aspiring to become DAM
professionals? Sarah: [3:24] It’s a good thing. [laughter] Sarah: [3:28] No, seriously, I would say don’t pigeonhole yourself. My title is JSC
taxonomist. I’m a contractor. JSC taxonomist, it’s great to have a title, but if that
were all I had to do, that would be quite a pigeonhole. [3:45] To really reach out
and take a look at the interoperability between your systems, between your file
formats, between your duties, you can be one day searching for more subject
matter expert participation, and the next day reporting off to management
about the ROI, and the next day, trying to win funding for a cost benefit analysis
[4:08] There are an endless array of hats that can be worn. I would say definitely
be careful about how you pigeonhole yourself and take advantage of the multiple
definitions that can occur in the workplace. Henrik: [4:24] Great point. Thank you so much, Sarah.