As anyone who has ever worked with public data can attest, metadata is a critical component of any data set. Without metadata, the person attempting to apply the data to an analysis is left fumbling to decode archaic values and codes; guess on data accuracy and infer any possible limitations of the data. I could go on about the importance of metadata but that is not the focus of this post.
Quite simply the purpose of metadata is to provide a detailed understanding of a data set. Coverage includes details on origin, accuracy and the definition of columns and the values used. There are different metadata standards (FGDC, ISO) and formats (XML, HTML) that are in use. All of which serve the public well; however there are certain limitations that we looked to address.
First, the layout of metadata with its system of tagging is more geared toward machine reading and not human consumption. In line with this machine reading focus, metadata lacks visual examples and a more descriptive treatment geared towards a human.
A second shortcoming is the use of file-based metadata that can get out of synchronization with the data. This can happen due to mistakes in the metadata that require correction or updates to the data.
Although not an issue, it is also beneficial to have all of the metadata in a single location that also provides access to the data and service endpoints.
To address these shortcomings and to provide additional usability benefits, we are providing supplemental metadata on GitHub. We first released supplemental metadata on GitHub last year for our planimetric data. Due to the positive reception, we are now extending this for all our geospatial data. To view, click the link below.