All the metadata

When looking at the quality of schools, I don’t want to know who the teachers are. I mean, I do, but I don’t. I’ll read former student’s and parent’s reviews. I want to know who the administrators are. The school board. The superintendent. They drive the long term objectives and they dictate the narrative of the teacher’s content. Who did they donate money to in past elections?

Great, you’re using these books as an information authority to teach our kids. Who are the publishers of the books? How often do they update their content, and why? Where do they stand on open access issues? Are they publishing for profit or because the content needs updating?

When I look for news sources, I don’t want to know who the authors are. I do, but I don’t. Looking at the publisher helps me understand bias. Who’s the editor? Who’s on the board of directors? Why have past employees left the company?

Wikipedia is churning out extremely high quality information on complex topics. They’re teaching me (and many others) a few things about the nature of information.

I remember how valuable my Microsoft Encarta DVD was to me. It meant access. It meant solving problems and understanding my complex world. But it, like books in school, suck.

They suck compared to Wikipedia. Books in school are on par with news media. What is the source of this information? Why is it here? Not “here in this article”, but here in between ‘this’ argument and ‘that’ argument. Who put it here? What else has this author written? What else has the editor edited, and manager, managed? Wikipedia solves a lot of this. Citation is a critical aspect to high quality information consumption and production.

It’s no longer acceptable to accept information as fact. Complex information, about people and organizations of people, doesn’t work that way.

The future of news media needs to learn from Wikipedia. Great, I see who “authored” the piece. But who’s funding it? Who’s editing it? What restrictions are placed on the authors and editors by the administrators?

Metadata matters. The NSA knows this. Metadata provides required facts in order to understand specific aspects of the story.

No, mass surveillance is still unethical and illegal (in the United States). But I completely understand why they want it. They want it all for the same reasons I want it. It makes me an informed individual in the ways I want to be informed. Ideally, holistically.

I’m not calling for the surveillance of news media organizations. I’m asking for their transparency because of how critical their public good is for society to act intelligently to complex events. The more that people are exposed to higher quality ‘anything’, the more they want it. The public needs high quality information.