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Demystifying Digital Asset Management Jargon


The world of enterprise technology is full of different acronyms, buzz words and industry jargon, and digital asset management is no exception. DAM is such a critical aspect to creative and marketing workflows, but some of the terminology can become confusing.

If you’re new to DAM you need a strong grasp of important DAM vocabulary. But reading a whitepaper or article about cloud-based digital asset management, full of terms like metadata and taxonomy can leave you scratching your head. To shed light on the subject, we’ve laid out these key terms surrounding the organization of assets  in plain English to demystify some of the language around DAM.

Acknowledgements to DAM Glossary for inspiring us with their comprehensive list of terms.

What is Metadata?

Metadata is commonly used in the digital world and is crucial to successful digital asset management, but what does the term actually mean? Literally speaking, metadata is defined as “data about data.” In the DAM world, metadata refers to all the keywords and other information used to describe a particular asset. Metadata plays a huge role in making files easily searchable. Metadata encompasses everything from file format, size, workflow details, licensing information and details about how a file should be used.

What is Taxonomy?


You may remember this term from biology class. Taxonomy is the practice of classifying items by hierarchy, structuring information and making individual files easier to find. Think of taxonomy as a tree, with parent/child relationships between the different terms. In the context of DAM, it applies to organizing information using different categories, subcategories and nodes (all different forms of metadata) and applying them to the assets. Taxonomy plays a huge role in filtering search results – you can even combine different taxonomy structures to make search even more powerful.

What is Ontology?


While Taxonomy can be thought of as a information organized in a tree-like structure, think of ontology as a web. Ontology reflects all the relationships between different concepts, and there can be an infinite number of relationships between items. Unlike taxonomy, ontology lets you create a wider range of relationships between different terms, rather than just a basic hierarchy. For example, ontology would let you create a relationship between an image of flour (categorized as a material in a taxonomy) and an image of bread (categorized as a product in another taxonomy.)

What is Keywording?

When you’re assigning specific keywords, phrases or terminology to different assets as metadata, you’re keywording. Keywording falls under the umbrella term of cataloguing, where metadata is assigned to assets. The best examples of keywording apply to photographs and other visual media. For example, if you’ve got hundreds of images of flowers, by keywording them by type or color, you will easily be able to narrow your search and find exactly what you’re looking for.

What is Boolean Search?

Boolean Search

Boolean search lets users identify as asset based on a true or false (binary) basis, allowing you to specify exactly what information you want to retrieve using the terms “and,” “or,” and “not.” Consider the example of searching for assets by color – red and blue. If your search expression includes the term AND, your results will include both red and blue assets. When using OR in your search expression, results will yield assets that have red or blue as keywords, as well as those containing both. When you search for “red NOT blue” assets, your search results will only pull up red assets and none of the blue, even if an asset is tagged as red and blue. Boolean search logic comes in especially handy when you’re conducting a search against a very large collection of assets.

What is Faceted Search?

Faceted search, also known as guided navigation, lets users filter through search results. Faceted search speeds up your search time by letting you specify parameters like metadata, keywords, resolution or other factors to drill down to the exact file you need.

What is Controlled Vocabulary?

A controlled vocabulary, sometimes called keyword catalog or keyword list, is a library of predefined keywords that improves consistency and searchability of assets. These predefined terms are usually used to guide how you keyword assets. This dramatically cuts down on search times as users can choose from a controlled list of terms rather than searching for an asset at random. WebDAM lets you import, manage and customize controlled vocabulary settings to make sure your files are keyworded consistently and accurately.

Stay tuned for another post about demystifying digital asset management software terms related to other topics, like cloud computing, marketing asset management, multitenancy and more.

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