I found myself pondering the idea of metadata and data for days when I first encountered them.
Simply put, metadata is “the description of data” or data sources, while data is “the description”, the information stored in the sources. They are defined implicitly, very loosely hinged on the chosen perspective of what one considers data. And as I understood the idea behind the terminologies, my eyes were opened to the philosophy behind learning styles. Or to be precise, I had employed the philosophical example of learning styles into my explanation of the terms.
Oh yes, one can indeed apply an example from philosophy to illustrate technical ideas so as to understand the idea. Then one can also use the now understood idea from programming to better explain the philosophical example.
To be honest, I have no idea how it works, but it worked.
Marvelous how the human’s thought process can be!
There are two kinds of learners. The first kind learns every nook and cranny, every specific detail of things in order to come up with his own solutions; they are specialists. And the second kind learns which specialist holds which in-depth knowledge in order to ask the right person the right questions; they are generalists.
I know the generalists. All generalists classify the metadata and externalize their vast database to other people by reference. They can be unsuccessful in closed exams and pop quizzes. In exchange, they are well-prepared for real world projects, large and complex problems that requires a massive sum of knowledge a single person cannot obtain in his lifespan.
They are the losers you laughed at, the guys who meticulously acquire knowledge useless to their study, the bottom-runners in every exam and the slowest to respond when asked.
They are the winners you will look up to, the guys who have mastered the art of researching, the leaders in every team project and the quickest to solve home assignments.
In truth, a smart generalist actively labels his list of questions. In asking questions, he has priorities: which problems are common and which are not. Since he knows data sources are also resources, he will exhaust his long list of common questions on the common and often sustainable data sources, saving his ace-card sources only when all else have failed.
The worst kind of generalists does the opposite and quickly exhaust the first thing he sees, relying on his ace-card all the time until he is left with nothing for the final battle. Many of us have had experienced both kinds of generalists in our lifetime but few knows the difference between them. Fundamentally, the understanding of metadata as a resource separates one from another.
Let’s put it in another context, the last time your teacher uttered “Why didn’t you ask?” or “How can you not know what you don’t understand from the lesson?”, you did not know how to respond; you lacked the metadata of the fact that your teacher was one of the sources, or meta-metadata of the fact that such a problem existed to be asked, or the mete-meta-metadata of the sources that would tell you which parts of the lesson you missed (and the meta-metadata of the sources where you can find answers to the parts you missed).
Now you have a meta-metadata of the idea,
Now you know how to respond to the misconception the next time you see it.