West10 in Europe

SAM, or Socialising Around Media, is a Europe-wide research project funded through the EU’s Europa Seventh Framework Programme initiative. It is aimed at leading research into 2nd Screen usage, opinion mining and content syndication. The aim of the project is to create an advanced federated social media delivery platform and to deliver open and standardised formats for the description of media.

West10 was selected as lead data partner in user-oriented studies. West10 is collaborating with the Universities of Athens, Reading and Alicante, Belgian SmartTV manufacturer TPVision, broadcaster Deutsche Welle from Germany, software developers Ascora from Germany, Talkamatic from Sweden, Tie Kintetix from the Netherlands. Currently approaching its second year West10 has so far been required to contribute to the Concept and Project Vision Consensus and lead on the IPR, Exploitation and Sustainability and the Market Opportunities and Challenges arms of the project.

Social media, content syndication and digital marketing are cutting-edge, “billion-dollar” markets, which are expected to grow significantly in the next years. The SAM project proposes to integrate them into a common, holistic, open framework, combining with 2nd Screen technology. This exciting project with West 10 as a key player is ongoing and can be followed at http://samproject.net/

SAM and Marvellous Metadata

For many people the word “metadata” signifies the dull business of data banks, codes and backroom boffins mapping symbols onto the real world. It is all about lists, an arcane telephone directory to be read by researchers and machines. Perhaps, once upon a time, this vision held some truth but today metadata has come of age and the SAM project highlights metadata’s role in the brave new world of ‘Socialising Around Media’.

Today’s metadata is colourful, lively, accessible via a multitude of portals and it is the key to asset discovery in a dynamic world of multi-platform media. Metadata links almost everything: books, films, music videos, merchandising, online biographies, wikis, actors, artists, bands, influences, genres, video games, fan-bases, museum artefacts, live performances and public opinion. It also appends its own form of entertainment: film trailers, scans, book covers, audio clips and screen grabs add engaging content to the fields and symbols at its heart.

But with this new-found power comes responsibility and as lead partner responsible for the delivery of quality metadata it is West10’s job to ensure that those responsibilities are met.

Accuracy, Richness and Relevance

Curation is about accuracy. Imagine that within this complex world of deeply linked metadata there is an error – one instruction sending the surfer or researcher in the wrong direction. The result is like the domino effect; the error starts a chain reaction that can lead to unwanted, irrelevant or more dangerously, incorrect conclusions. Or imagine that certain rules within the metadata are misapplied, say the name of an artist is entered in a different order meaning that keyword searches based on surname will miss certain entries and return an incomplete list of assets.

Curation is also about maintaining and adding value to a trusted body of metadata for use by any community. It is an on-going process involving indexing and links, clean-up and correction, annotation and discussion, all of which is preserved and made available for discovery. A further key element is ‘authority and relevance’ – the act of ensuring what is selected is correct, appropriate and pertinent.

However, the more complicated and diverse metadata becomes the greater the need for consistency in the application of the rules governing it and the demand for accuracy in creating it. Metadata is all about sticking to the rules.

Rules, Rules and More Rules

The diverse frames of reference that SAM addresses often lie outside of mainstream book publications where rules governing classification have a long-established history. For example, not long ago the only unique identifier for home entertainment products was a barcode but not every product would have one, let alone a catalogue number. This patchily applied identification system meant databases were difficult to build around film or music products. West10 ’work’ IDs were therefore created as an internal unique identifier for titles allowing the mapping of users’ internal IDs and various industry IDs onto a consistent core identifier.

Things have come a long way and, nowadays, retailers will link product details into their internal systems and websites using a barcode alongside other standards such as EIDR, and ISRC, NACO and ISNI but, since none of these are unique outside their remit, the overriding unique identifier is core to the effectiveness of metadata created around these cultural products. It ensures a consistent point of reference within the database which in turn leads to accurate and reliable asset retrieval.

For SAM many of today’s adopted standards are relevant including the European Article Number (EAN) now renamed International Article Number, Entertainment Identifier Registry (EIDR), ONIX for Books Product Information Message, the International Standard Book Number (ISBN), Machine-Readable Cataloguing (MARC), International Standard Name Identifier (ISNI), Name Authority Cooperative Program (NACO), International Standard Recording Code (ISRC), British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), Games Rating Authority (GRA), European Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA), Pan-European Game Information (PEGI), and Resource Description and Access (RDA). All these standards are incorporated into West10 metadata.

The Editor’s Role

As the importance of accurate and consistent data is paramount to metadata supply, established editorial rules need to be adopted. This ensures consistency. From the film or product’s title through to the in-house synopsis, every field of information, of which there are over 150, has to be looked at and standardised. The record has to then be put through a rigorous proofing process regarding both trade and consumer information whether it is for a blockbuster film or a fitness programme, a cookery book or a recording of Wagner’s Ring Cycle.

Hand in hand with the strict adherence to editorial rules is maintaining contact with studios, labels and other producers of cultural products in order to acquire timely information which comes to us via many and varied means. The editorial team assimilate and manually add this information using West10’s internal codes and rules, thus maintaining consistency and ensuring accuracy. For example, Robert de Niro has his own code so will always be spelt the same way; ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ has its own unique ID so will always be written the same way; genres have their own codes; availabilities have their own codes, as do formats and packaging. No matter how simple incoming information seems, if it is coming from different sources in different formats, human intervention is essential.

Signpost in a Virtual World

The creation of quality metadata is a demanding, detailed and dynamic process. It is how we find what we want on the shelf, draw it down from the Cloud, get to where we want to go, find out about opinions on particular products or events, point our children in the right direction, turn up at the right time, read the relevant book and, just as importantly, avoid the pitfalls of misinformation and unreliable sources. Metadata is one of the key elements of SAM, providing the signposts by which users navigate the new and exciting world of ‘Socialising Around Media’.

Surfing an Ocean of Extended Content

Extended content. Now, what could that be? A layman’s guesswork might be something that lasts too long or the behind the scenes clips you get as fillers on DVDs. But to the metadata professional extended content is specific yet open ended and it is an explorer’s El Dorado. It is also essential to the success of SAM.

In a recent article that West10 posted on the SAM website, Marvellous Metadata, we outlined the structure of metadata, how we define items so that users of that metadata can locate objects, either in the real world such as in shops or library shelves, or in cyberspace. It is about getting what you want. But what about that bit extra, what about getting what you might want or what you didn’t know that you wanted but you are now grateful that you do have that ”something extra”? This is where extended content comes in.

Simply put, extended content may be called the flesh on the bone or the cream on the cake. It’s all that extra information and “content” – images, film clips, descriptions, screen grabs, scans, artist biogs – that doesn’t enable you to discover the item but does tell you much more about it and enable you to make informed decisions according to your taste.

West10 packs its core metadata with extended content which is why it is ideally suited to work on the SAM project which is about Socialising Around Media. We all know that socialising requires informed conversation and judgements around it. With more and more socialising taking place online and via social media, extended content appended to metadata is not only very useful, it is also essential. It enhances exchanges online and drives commerce because the more people discover what they like and what they dislike, the more they will purchase to satisfy their tastes.

However, with the development of extended content, comes a further bonus. This requires an understanding of linked data.

Linked Data: The Key
As new models of metadata creation have developed so has the realisation that extended content can be regarded as a resource in itself to link people to more content. The old-fashioned hierarchical view of metadata having core component and extended components is becoming obsolete. Rather than a hierarchy we now have a web – in fact Web 2.0 or further.

Welcome to the world of Wikis, Getty Images, the vast array of Google’s ever-expanding portfolio of personalised, geo-located options, Cortana, iCloud, the BBC… West10 metadata is the springboard into an ocean of information where you can use the many currents to take you on a voyage around the globe, and you can travel any route you choose. The fundamental in this massively interconnected highway is not ownership of metadata but access to it via a reliable and well located port of embarkation. That is why SAM uses West10 metadata, which is renowned for its accuracy, adherence to standards and quality.

These developments have profound implications not only for surfers engaging with online content as with SAM but also with the development of artificial intelligence and it is the core study of many of the best minds in the field and discussed at conferences around the world.

In essence every element has its relation with every other element on the Worldwide Web. Imagine the possibilities. Anyone who knows the game of chess realises that there are more possible moves on a chess board than there are atoms in the universe. But there are more than sixty four squares on the planetary-scale internet. If we can develop the correct way of linking them, getting each packet of information to link to all other packets of information the possibilities are literally incalculable. Extended content becomes almost infinite.

This is the potential of West10 metadata and SAM. As each user of the SAM platform is unique, so the results that user will be offered as they surf, view and respond will be unique, theirs and theirs only but theirs to share across the World Wide Web. Moreover, the results that each individual arrives at and the decisions they make because of those results will further enrich the information super-highway. For the first time the truism “your opinion matters” really does mean something as the responses and results of individual decisions and opinions will build to an overview, analysable at the micro level, of what you think, what your social group thinks, what communities think, and on and up to a global level. This is Socialising Around media, SAM in action made possible by West10 metadata.