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.
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.
What advice would you give to DAM Professionals or people aspiring to be a DAM Professional?
Henrik de Gyor: This is Another DAM Podcast about Digital Asset
Management. I’m Henrik de Gyor. Today I’m speaking with Heather Hedden.
Heather, how are you? Heather Hedden: [0:09] Fine, thanks. Thanks for inviting me. Henrik: [0:12] Heather, how are you involved with Digital Asset Management? Heather: [0:15] Actually I’m a taxonomist. That’s closely related. I create taxonomies
which are usually structured sets of terms used for metadata to tag or
classify content item. The content can be digital assets or text documents. I’m
involved in more than just Digital Asset Management as I see it. [0:36] I originally
got into the field from a background of indexing with a company that has now
become Cengage Learning, indexes, reference materials for libraries, magazine
and newspaper articles, pamphlets, maps, charts, and images too. I’ve worked
as a taxonomist in both full-time positions and as a consultant or contractor. I’m
in between jobs at the moment.
[1:03] My most recent job was as the taxonomy manager in a wind energy company
based in Boston. There I developed a better nested folder for the hierarchical
classification of content to better support browsing. I also developed
taxonomies with numerous synonyms for auto classification of content to better
[1:24] A third taxonomy project included metadata for manually tagging content
was also in the plans. Although many documents there were text files, they also
had CAD drawings, topographical maps, PowerPoint presentations, and image
files such as many photos of wind farm locations and wind turbines.
[1:46] The taxonomy covered lots of terms dealing with all these different documents,
technical, legal, financial, covering all areas of the business. I’ve also
been involved in developing policies or guidelines for tagging or classifying
content with a taxonomy which is an important component of taxonomy work. Henrik: [2:07] Heather, you recently wrote a book called “The Accidental Taxonomist.” What inspired you to write this book? Heather: [2:12] I’m glad you asked. I also teach a continuing education workshop.
It’s a five week workshop through Simmons College Graduate School
of Library and Information Science. It’s an introduction to taxonomy. I’ve been
doing that for a couple of years. [2:27] I got an inquiry if I would teach a second,
more advanced class. I just got to thinking about how much work that would be
because it’s ongoing every other month or something. Since I had accumulated
some other written materials and giving presentations, I thought maybe it would
better to put this all into a book that would serve both those at an introductory
level and at a more advanced level if you had a lot of material together.
[2:54] As a backup I had also been doing kind of freelance side work back to the
book indexing, writing indexes to nonfiction books. I’ve been reading a lot of
different nonfiction books, some of them professional books. I thought, “Well,
maybe I could write a book too.”
[3:11] I consider my background pretty comprehensive in both that I created
taxonomies used by human manual indexers, taggers, and those for auto classifications.
I’ve also created taxonomies for more commercial, published content
and those that are for internal enterprise content.
[3:34] With that kind of broad background I felt pretty qualified to write a book
on this. Some people have written book that are more narrow just for enterprise
taxonomy. When I looked around, there really wasn’t that much out there just on
[3:52] There’s another book that’s more on knowledge management or some
that are focused on controlled vocabularies more for wide learning focus areas.
It was a need that needed filling. Henrik: [4:05] Heather, is there a website where you can get more information
about this? Heather: [4:09] Oh yes. It’s www.accidentaltaxonomist.com which has a lot of
information about the book, the table of contents, the index, the introduction,
forward. It also has all the websites mentioned throughout the book, the URLs,
and they are hyperlinked. You can actually get a lot of information that I have in
my book without reading it, although I hope you do. Readers can go do that. Henrik: [4:41] What advice would you give to DAM professionals or people aspiring
to be a DAM professional? Heather: [4:47] Considering I’m a little bit on the sidelines of the DAM profession
myself being a taxonomist, I do see similarities there and I recommend this
for people going into taxonomy as well or other fields such as content management.
[5:01] It involves having more of a broader skill set and experience,
so combining a DAM background with, perhaps, taxonomy management or
content management experience or also indexing background that I have had
or experience with maybe search technologies or more of a technology background
and perhaps a subject area expertise, so something to some specialty
area to distinguish one’s self.
[5:38] Also, I think people should be open to any industry. You might think of
maybe traditional media based industries, but all kinds of companies, all kinds
of industries now have a growing core list of different types of assets. I never
thought I’d end up in the wind energy industry. Keep your eyes open to anything
and network a lot. Henrik: [6:04] Great idea. Thanks, Heather. Heather: [6:07] OK , you’re welcome. It was nice to talk to you. Henrik: [6:10] No problem. For more on Digital Asset Management, log onto AnotherDAMblog.com. Thanks again.