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15 July 2014

Metadata redefinition 1: what and why?

By Andrew Clifford

Metadata redefinition is the most powerful feature of Metrici. But what is it, and why is it useful?

Like a lot of systems, Metrici uses metadata, or "data about data". Metrici's use of metadata is very extensive. Entire solutions are developed simply by defining them in data, which means that you can create new solutions very quickly. But what really sets Metrici apart is that the metadata is itself defined by other metadata, and so the way of defining metadata can itself be redefined to exactly match the needs of the solution.

This may sound like gobbledegook, so let's explore it from a number of angles.

Whatever type of solution you are building, you need to work with appropriate paradigms and tools. If you are building a content management solution, you need to work with pages, images, taxonomies and content workflows. If you are building an assessment solution, you need to work with questions, questionnaires, assignments, responses and reports. By changing how you define solutions, Metrici lets you develop any solution using the most appropriate paradigms and tools. Metrici isn't a "one size fits all" approach, it supports multiple specialised approaches for different types of solution. It even lets you merge paradigms to create solutions that would be near impossible using traditional methods.

Another way of thinking about Metrici is as an evolution of how we build computer solutions.

A traditional computer solution has fixed functionality. To meet more requirements, more functionality is added, but this leads to bloat because most users only require a small proportion of the functionality. Even a bloated system does not meet all requirements, so solutions add user-definable data and functions and possibly an API. But these are still constrained within the original design of the solution, and require considerable skill to integrate. However you approach it, traditional computer solutions have constraints and tend to bloat, and you can only get out of this with complex programming effort.

Metrici solutions are not constrained. Because solutions are defined in metadata, and the metadata fits the concepts and requirements of the solution, it's much easier to extend the solution to meet additional requirements and to exclude functionality you don't need. Solutions developed in Metrici can achieve a high fit to requirements, without bloat, and without resorting to complex programming effort.

Metrici is similar to component or object-based development. It allows you to create encapsulated components that can be combined to build solutions. But Metrici has advantages over traditional component-based development. It supports many paradigms, and the solution does not have to be written in an object-oriented way or conform to a pre-defined object model. Because it is metadata-driven, you can create reusable components without complex programming. Because all components are just nodes, components from different sources can be combined seamlessly. And because the data and metadata are all maintained within the same tool, you do not need a separate set of tools and skills to achieve the benefits of component-based design.

The ability to define solutions in data, and redefine how those definitions are created and maintained, is the basis of Metrici's versatility, productivity and simplicity. Next week I will go through an example of how to do this.

Next: Metadata redefinition 2: how?

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