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.
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.