Maybe Documents Need to Get a Life?

By Marc Solomon posted 03-19-2011 14:44


I mean, for crying out loud, it's just a TV show! I mean, look at you, look at the way you're dressed! You've turned an enjoyable little job, that I did as a lark for a few years, into a COLOSSAL WASTE OF TIME!

That's the voice of William Shatner in a 1986 Saturday Night Live sketch imploring his dweebish disciples to move out of their parents' basements and spend some quality offline face time. The power of this column's suggestion is not aimed at Trekkies, or even IT administrators but at the miniature librarians that dwell in us all. These thin, reedy voices answer to powerful yet tedious questions like:

"Where should I put this?"
Or if we're tractoring through the seepage beds of our server farms:
"Where is this thing filed?"
The truth is that titles, authors and presentation dates are not captured nor given the respect they deserve by SharePoint. We all know that the <created by> is rarely the creator. We sense that naming a deliverable a stream of hyphenates means that no single terms will be picked up by the most discriminating search tool. Some of us intimate that the upload date we've made with the server has no relationship to the time it was presented or the presenters' business-closing calendar objectives.
Meaning About Meaning
But documents are more than the sum of their metadata parts. In fact if social media has taught marketers anything over the past five years it's that the individual pieces don't matter. Whether we're talking about voices, pages, PowerPoints, or Pay-Per-Clicks, it is the content about the content that matters.
In this emerging metacontent world, hit counts matter more than the hits. It's the multi-dimensional cross-references where meanings are made and actions can drive outcomes. Where these parts are stored is immaterial. They can be scattered over valleys of tweets, mountains of blogs, and cul-de-sacs of facial pages. We can test the trend lines and their consequences through the aggregations of tags.
OK -- big concept for marketers. Great. Not my focus.
Got it. What intranet managers, KM leads, and information architects want to know is this: How do we apply metacontent to SharePoint? Specifically around layering on the details that propagate knowledge on an enterprise scale?
Getting off the Ground in the Won't Fly Zone
If there's one idea that I wish could escape through the fog of urgency before the next silicon disruption, supply chain impasse, pipeline leak, or all-hands-on-deck-check-ins, it's this:
How to wrap my deliverable in a way that invites future conditions to feast on its forethoughts, timeless exigencies, and foregone inescapables -- the kinds of conclusions that meet under a bridge before dawn and decide where to dump the stale, contaminated thinking. What's that like? Imagine a project team running from fire-drill to fire-drill without separating what's urgent now (the bomb scare) from what's important down the road (the bomb going off).
Now it's one thing to park an output on a SharePoint server because a deliverable contains ideas that can advance the state of a craft, or business model, or the pinnacle of pure document love -- seal the deal. It's quite another to scatter the situational breadcrumbs or a light sprinkling of the specifics our communities need to pick-up on their knowledge-sniffing scents. That's not about delivery dates or even authors. It boils down to use:
  1. Who's used it? <- Total downloads
  2. How have they used it? <- Membership affiliation of the downloaders
  3. When did it work and on whose behalf <- Objectives, approaches, outcomes, and sponsors 
  4. Where is the appeal and how to petition these offerings for the next opportunity? <- Differentiate internal assets from rival value propositions
Uers Value Usage
While it's true not all metacontent is purely transactional it's also true that the business goals of winning, repeated success, and competitive advantage are as fixed as the means to achieve them are fluid. That speaks to the larger story of building these metrics into our SharePoint taxonomies as a down payment on these unique and sustainable pay-offs. 
As I learned in my research for the SharePoint Reality Series most enterprises have no metadata strategy. Their taxonomies extend no further than their org charts and parts catalogs. Hell, they're not even on speaking terms with their documents. Our perspective-gathering has become so compromised that a day without mobile email is like an offsite retreat. 
That said I've got to believe that the will to take stock and think through the larger patterns and looming battles is more powerful than the momentary urge of being told what to do and where to be at any given moment. That process runs on metacontent. An inexhaustible supply is there for the tagging.

#metadata #metacontent #WilliamShatner #Taxonomy #usagemetrics #webmarketing #SharePoint #findability #ScanningandCapture #tagging