Throughout my time working with the civil service, people have bemoaned the problem of metadata. Metadata simply isn’t captured in documents. Users don’t have the inclination to do so. And a centralised resource to do the same would be both expensive and, likely, ill-placed to tag documents appropriately.
In Twitter, we use metadata despite only having 140 characters within which to do so. Hashtags are themselves pieces of metadata.
So what if hashtags were used in documents. Not as tags at the beginning or end of a document, because that requires a specific effort beyond the creation of the document. Instead, hashtags littering the body of the document itself. CamelCase would again take off like it was the mid-90s, given the need for spaceless tags, but that’s a small price to pay.
Document viewing software could repurpose hashtags as regular text, both for reading and for printing. But critically, the tags would be there to categorise documents and to give glee to librarians the world over.
My view is that if people take the effort in tweets, then they’re equally likely to do so in documents if the effort is minimal (one key-press) and the reward is clear.
Or in this technologically advanced world, is metadata a thing of the past?