The Role of the Metator

By Deane Barker

Tony Byrne succumbs to use of the word “metator.”

Let us now praise metators

Metators are not just found among corporate web teams. Records managers have been dealing with metadata for decades. Now, you might think of your enterprise records manager as some corporate ninny who makes you clean up your virtual bedroom. In reality, she is organizing and processing large volumes of information on behalf of the enterprise, its customers, and ultimately for you, too. She is, in short, a metator.

Bob Boiko coined this word long ago – it’s a portmanteau of “editor” and “metadata.” I’ve loved the idea of it since I read about it in the first edition of The Content Management Bible, so many years ago. I resist using the term because it’s really awkward to say (seriously – try saying it out loud in a sentence).

The idea is that there’s an editor who isn’t so much concerned with dotting i’s and crossing t’s in an actual piece of content, but more concerned with figuring out where that single piece of content fits into the larger picture – how it relates to other content, and where it should fit in the overall scheme of the information architecture of an organization.

A metator is a librarian, really. Someone who assumes responsibility for ensuring the all the bits of information in a domain is intelligently organized in relation to each other. An actual librarian doesn’t read every book, but they know where the books of beekeeping are, and why they’re in that particular spot, and why books on yachtmanship aren’t in the same place.

For a large-enough organization, this role is critical. Content editors turn out reams of content, and the last stop in the workflow should be a metator who effectively puts the content in his wheeled cart, and pushes it into the stacks to be shelved in the right place.

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