Honesty of Labelling – limits of metadata

I know that I have the tendency to take the food metaphor very far when talking and writing about information processing and management, but that’s because it stands up.

In the supermarket yesterday evening, I was looking at two different tips of goop (to protect the innocent the products and supermarket shall remain nameless): one with a rather neat but flashy label from a well known brand name; the second in more sober dress from the supermarket’s own brand label. The latter of course was cheaper.

The contents of the two are identical: the supermarket has “their” goods labelled under franchise from the original producer at a bulk order discount price.

But the label is telling us a different story, that there is some significant difference, when in fact substantially there is none.

So what happens to our interpretation and understanding of content when the labelling becomes more important than the contents? If metadata – the labelling information – is used to promote or, worse, deceive, then we need to have some safeguards: either legally enforceable data standards (as happens in Europe with food labelling directives) or better “awareness” of the potential dangers of metadata used unscrupulously.

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