Findable: Metadata clearly and explicitly include the identifier of the data they describe

The tale

Some elves came back without data chests. Instead, they brought pretty little leaves with engraved texts describing the contents of the chests. One of the elves who came back was Faruty, and she was very proud of the golden leaf she had found.

– “Look”, she said to the data wizard named Wiux. “I found this, and it describes the most fascinating chest I have ever heard of. Tell me where to go, and I will fetch it.”

– “Let me see”, said Wiux turning the leaf over and over.

– “Strange …. There are no details about where to find the chest. Are you sure there was no chest next to the leaf?”

– “Yup, sure, sure”, said Faruty. “I found this one right at the outskirts of the enchanted forest, and I promise that there was not a single chest in sight. And I looked in all directions – and dimensions.”

– “Then I have no clue where to look”, Wiux said. “My best suggestion would be to go and ask the frightful Lord of Uguly, if this chest could be hidden somewhere in his toxic swamp.”

– “Ha ha ha, you are so funny” said Faruty, rolling her one eye. But the smile soon vanished as she looked at Wiux, whose face did not show the faintest sign of amusement.

– “Off you go”, said Wiux. “We really need this one”, sending Faruty on a quest more dangerous than fighting a Syzx dragon.

The truth

Metadata and data are two separate things and should be treated as such. They can have a life of their own. An example is metadata that are harvested for big indexes that do not hold or index the contents of the data files. Just like article metadata that are fetched for indexing in commercial and non-commercial search engines, without them looking at the content of the article itself. If the metadata do not include reference to the data they describe, it is doubtful – especially for a machine – that the data described by the metadata will ever be found.