1601 E. 5th St. #109

Austin, Texas 78702

United States


Module 002/2, Ground Floor, Tidel Park

Elcosez, Aerodome Post

Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu 641014 India


138G Grays Hill

Opp. BSNL GM Office, Sims Park

Coonoor, Tamil Nadu 643101 India


Block 7, Lot 5,

Camella Homes Bermuda,

Phase 2B, Brgy. Banlic,

City of Cabuyao, Laguna,


San Jose

Escazu Village

Calle 118B, San Rafael

San Jose, SJ 10203

Costa Rica

News & Insights

News & Insights

Are You in the Data Business or the Information Business?

Those of us in the information business are usually too busy working with our customers and refining our business models and production processes to think about the basic question of “What is information?” but let’s stop for a moment to consider it.

Information is not a self-contained “thing” but rather two things: data, and the set of rules for interpreting that data. A sentence, for example, is a chunk of data plus the metadata that gives the data meaning. Consider the statement, “A white cat entered the room.” Most of the metadata in this example is in the language itself (English) but other metadata comes from the context of the data. Let’s say this sentence is from a poem (structure) by Allen Ginsberg (author) written in 1960 (timeframe). Without the sea of metadata surrounding the data you could not accurately divine the meaning of the sentence—the information—which, in this context, we understand is a description of a person stepping into a jazz nightclub.

So, really, the metadata is far larger and more important than the data in conveying the “meaning” of the data. The etymology of English words, the data type, the historical context, and the biography of the author are all massive databases in their own rights that act as essential metadata (similar to what a software developer would call “libraries”) without which the data itself cannot be understood.

What does this mean for those of us in the data and information business? When you keep the importance of metadata in mind, it does tend to affect the way you think about your core information products. Metadata that makes data into useful information becomes critical to modern solution design. For instance, the integration of data products into the customer workflow is an obvious case of hard-wiring data to its context. This is the proverbial catbird seat that data publishers want to occupy. Cultivating a dependence on a proprietary tool that customers need to perform their jobs allows for aggressive price increases at the same time as it erects formidable barriers to entry for competitors. Not only that, it turns data publishers into what once would have been considered software publishers, a sea change in the industry.

Data, then, is just a small part of the information services that are transforming the way we work. And because of these services, critically important to the effective performance of one’s job, anything less than perfection on the data side is unacceptable. To turn an old axiom on its head, “great data in, great decisions out.”

Keep on top of the information industry 
with our ‘Data Content Best Practices’ newsletter:

Keep on top of the information industry with our ‘Data Content Best Practices’ newsletter: