Normally, there are few things that I will check before buying an item. Among others the brand name, expiry date, nutrition content, etc. these are important information for consumer and we are grateful most of the consumer friendly manufacturers oblige with the labelling guideline & regulation.
In most occasions, the labelling standard is strictly regulated and the consumers do not need to second guess the contents because someone else has done the quality control and inspection for us. For example, we do not need to worry the fuel from our petrol stations will be damaging to our car engine, as long as we do not mixed up diesel and petrol fuels.
I can’t imagine what will happened if our fuels were without proper ISO standard or labelling (diesel, RON 95, RON 97, etc), without knowing the gasoline content, without knowing the quality rating, etc. how are you going to know either you are choosing the right fuel type for your car?
Similar in geospatial industry, we need proper labelling for our GIS data. This is one of the important milestone in national geospatial development and MaCGDI (Malaysian Centre for Geospatial Data Infrastructure) is actively promoting the importance of metadata among GIS users.
The U.S. FGDC (Federal Geographic Data Committee) defines geospatial metadata as: “A metadata record is a file of information, usually presented as an XML document, which captures the basic characteristics of a data or information resource. It represents the who, what, when, where, why and how of the resource. Geospatial metadata are used to document geographic digital resources such as Geographic Information System (GIS) files, geospatial databases, and earth imagery. A geospatial metadata record includes core library catalog elements such as Title, Abstract, and Publication Data; geographic elements such as Geographic Extent and Projection Information; and database elements such as Attribute Label Definitions and Attribute Domain Values.“
Unless you are operating in isolation, else in most instances you will need to exchange data with someone else. In order for your data to be discoverable and meaningful to your potential users, your data need to have few simple labels among other like title, content description, keyword, date of creation, data owner, data limitation etc. These will provide your users with sufficient details to understand the source of the data that he or she is going to use with greater certainty.
Simply put, Metadata is label for your data. Without a proper descriptive label, your data (product) will not be meaningful to your users. Even in small operation, as a manager it is always a good practice to instil the discipline of maintaining your metadata for easy retrieval and reference in future.