Friday, March 29, 2013

Needed skills for working in digital asset management & a metadata story

Today, Henrik de Gyor spoke via Skype to my class that is studying digitization (Creating, Managing & Preserving Digital Assets).  One of the questions asked was about the skills digital asset management professional need and he responded by pointing us toward this blog post on the topic.  Later a student asked which coding language I thought he might learn and my response was XML.

There are other markup languages, like HTML, which means that learning one (like XML) will help a person learn others.  I think anyone who is working with web sites needs to understand markup languages. (A point that was proven later in the class, when one of the students led us in a short Drupal workshop.)

Henrik mentions the LAMP stack in his blog post, which includes Linux, Apache, MySQL, and a scripting language (e.g., PHP, Perl, or Python).  I know from conversations that organizations need people who understand MySQL as well as a scripting language.  I also learned from my student this afternoon that originally you needed to know LAMP in order to install Drupal, so these are indeed worth are the other coding languages and technologies that Henrik mentions.

How do you learn these technologies?  Yes, you may be able to find a class to take.  For those that want to learn on their own (and can be motivated to do so), there are sites like Codecademy that can help.  No matter how you learn, be willing to learn through trial and error.  Honestly, you will learn more from your errors than from your successes.

Alligator at Florida Gulf Coast UniversityOur conversation with Henrik covered many related topics in an hour, including metadata. Once we had ended the Skype session, I told the class my latest metadata story.

On Monday evening, I was walking to my car when my cell phone rang.  Imagine my surprise when the person on the other end said she was from NBC News!  She had been trying to contact me to ask in person to use a photo of mine on the evening news.  The photo taken at Florida Gulf Coast University, that carries a Creative Commons license, had already been used by the Atlantic Wire, which is how she found out.  But how did the Atlantic Wire find it?  Metadata.  (I'm sure of it!) [If you do not watch NCAA basketball, the you don't know that FGCU has unexpectedly advanced in a tournament and gained national attention.]

I must admit that this was not the first photo that has caught the attention of a company (NMAI, New Orleans, Lucille Ball's grave)  I have a good eye, a decent camera, and a drive to add metadata to my photos in Flickr.  In fact, when I'm looking for a photo to use, I turn to my Flickr account first because I know that I've done a relatively good job organizing and tagging my photos there.

Is metadata important?  Yes...vitally important to our digital libraries and our DAM (digital asset management) systems.  But there is nothing better to demonstrate the power of metadata than being able to say that metadata led to a photo from Flickr being on the evening news!


MLIS student searching for DAM info said...

Hi. I came across this post looking for information on dam & metadata skills. The post contains a lot of interesting information (like the LAMP stack), but I'm wondering if this post is still true purely based on the blog post date. It is nearly a decade later and I'm curious if you have any updates. Thanks!

Jill Hurst-Wahl said...


First, thanks for the comment. Often my older posts just get spam comments, so nice to find one that is thoughtful. It's taken me a few days to set down and write a reply, because I didn't want to rush.

First, in April 2020 Henrik de Gyor wrote:

In January 2020, there were 1,200 unfilled Digital Asset Management professional job openings. Oddly enough, DAM talent may not want to come to their overly expensive metro area, to sit in a cubical farm to simply support a ‘company culture’ of the way it has always been done. The ‘rules’ of the working world have changed to remote which is new norm and not just during the pandemic." WOW! Yes, metadata jobs are in high demand and can be done remotely. That is good news for you and for many others. And you might be interested in this service.

Second - and to answer your question - the skills that people needed 10 years ago are basically the skills still needed today. Yes, there have been technology changes. Yes, some DAM and metadata work can be automated. Yes, AI is coming. But behind all that - even when there is automation - is people.

You might be interested in this recent article, 7 traits to look for when hiring a Digital Assets Manager. And here is a relevant job description.

Finally, you might be interested in this blog post from 2014. I haven't checked the links in it, but even without links that still work, I think it may be of interest. Indeed Eric Snowden made me a believer in the power of metadata, even when the data itself is not known.

Please let me know if this is help or if you have specific questions after reading this.