The main way I was introduced to GIS was through Esri Virtual Campus Courses. I’m not being critical at all, in fact I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed my Esri Virtual Campus Courses and I kind of miss the Learning Pathways. I really do think Esri Virtual Campus courses are an excellent way to learn Esri software. And, those same courses have valuable GIS concepts in them if you can parse them through ArcGIS’s tools. Even so, I have not been taking Virtual Campus courses lately. I am sure Esri hasn’t slowed down on their training seminars, but I have not seen any of interest. But when I saw the revised Creating and Editing Metadata in ArcGIS, designed specifically for 10.2, I was in. I figured it would be repetitive since I did take their “original” course with exactly the same title. I didn’t care, though, because I needed something to get me back to looking at how much better (or maybe make me miss ArcGIS 9.x again) metadata was in 10.2.
What I did not figure is that it would make me feel as if I am a GeoJournalist. From Middle through Undergraduate school, I was very active in various forms of school journalism. It started with my all-time favorite course entitled “Effective Communications” in eight grade that had us editing the middle school paper. I’ll show my age and state that our typing courses were on AppleIIe’s and we were designing the paper on “happy” mac’s in PageMaker. We even cut the color out of mylar. And, the course was the first real photojournalistic tasks I had. It lead me to the sidelines of many sporting events…ok, enough reminiscent history.
So, I’m sitting down to read through the materials and in the key definitions, the metadata definition feels an awful lot like the 5W’s (and an H)…just about data. I’m immediately taken back to my Effective Communications class, discussing how to write interview questions that extract the 5W’s from the subject. Yes, I know, I was reminiscing again. Sorry. But, the point is that metadata really is answering the 5W’s and ESPECIALLY the H about your geospatial data and I like that explanation.
I made it another section in the course and started to reminisce again. I have always been a firm believer in the A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words concept since I am a photographer, and I often think of metadata as the writing on the back of the “analog” print or the Digital Asset Management information for digital photos. I thought they were going to use the tired old writing on the back of a photograph, but instead they basically used captions and said “Each photo can tell you something, but its photographic value is limited if you do not have other information.” Thus, captions. If I had used their examples in my eight grade effective communication class, I would have failed. But I guess they don’t want you to write those thousand words down.
Unfortunately, the rest of the course was downhill from there. Yes, they showed the all-important method of changing from Item Description to your standard of choice, but they didn’t really talk about the tips at the bottom or anything else. In other words, my general frustrations with how ArcGIS handles metadata are still well founded. And, yes, I suppose that translates to still missing ArcGIS 9.x!
One funny part was that Esri HQ seems to have one of the same problems I have. If you edit your metadata in ArcGIS, it reports stuff that you don’t really want to have reported…like file locations. This is something that, if you’re delivering to a client, you will have to update on the final drive you deliver. There certainly are wonderful things they collect (such as the exact version of your software), but the file location is definitely not one of those wonderful automatically collected items. Anyway, I was amused that they blurred out that portion of the data.
My final review is that I suppose I have to thank Esri for a trip down memory lane with this Virtual Campus course. I have a few new ideas of how to define metadata when I’m teaching it. But overall I still find it tragic to still miss ArcGIS 9.x. But, what that really means is that I should be working on building my own interface. When I do accomplish that, I will share.