What Is Metadata?
Everyone is familiar with data, but the term meta-data is not so familiar.
Here's a brief primer.
To illustrate, I'll use an example familiar to most readers. Most computer
operating systems nowadays have the concept of files in a filesystem. If you
consider the files as data, then details such as file size, modification
times, username of the owner etc. are metadata, ie. data about the files.
In WebMake, metadata is used to refer to properties of textual content items.
For example, a newspaper article may have a title, an abstract (ie. a
brief summary), etc.
This kind of data is very useful for building indices and catalogues, in the
same way that Windows Explorer or the UNIX ls(1) command uses filesystem
metadata to display file listings. As a result, a good way to think of it is
as "catalog data", as opposed to "narrative data", which is what a normal
content item is. (thanks to Vaibhav Arya, vaibhav /at/ mymcomm.com, for that
To extend this metaphor, you should use metadata for anything that would be
used to describe your pages in a catalog. For example, given the page
title, a quick abstract of the page, and a number to indicate its importance
relative to other pages, one could easily create a list of pages
automatically. In fact, this is how the indexes in the WebMake documentation
are generated, and it's how sitemaps, breadcrumb trails and site trees are
How to Define Metadata
WebMake can load metadata from a number of sources:
Referring to Metadata
Metadata is referred to using the deferred content ref format:
Where content is the name of the content item, and metaname is the
name of the metadatum. So, for example, $[blurb.txt.title]
would return the title metadatum from the content item blurb.txt.
Meta tag names are case-insensitive, for compatibility with HTML meta tags.
Any content chunk can access metadata from other content chunks within the
same <out> tag, using this as the content name, i.e.
$[this.title] . This is handy, for example, in setting the
page title in the main content chunk, and accessing it from the header chunk.
If more than one content item sets the same item of metadata inside the
<out> tag, the first one will take precedence.
The example files "news_site.wmk" and "news_site_with_sections.wmk"
demonstrate how meta tags can be used to generate a SlashDot or Wired
News-style news site. The index pages in those sites are generated
dynamically, using the metadata to decide which pages to link to, their
ordering, and the titles and abstracts to use.
How Do I Use Metadata In WebMake?
WebMake provides extra support for metadata in an efficient way. A
metadatum is like a normal content item, except it is exposed to all other
pages in the WebMake file. This data is accessible, both to other pages in
the site (as $[contentname.metaname]), and to other
content items within the same page (as
In addition, WebMake caches metadata in the site cache file between runs, so
that a subsequent partial site build will not require loading all the content
text, just to read a page title.
Note that content items representing metadata cannot, themselves, have
What Metadata Should I Use?
The items marked (built-in) are supported directly inside WebMake, and used
internally for functionality like building site maps and indices. All the
other suggested metadata names here are just that, suggestions, which support
Also note that the names are case-insensitive, they're just capitalised here
the title of a content item. The default title for
content items is inferred from the content text where possible,
or (Untitled) if no title can be found. (built-in)
a number representing the "priority" of a content
item; used to affect how the item should be ranked in a list of
stories. The default value is 50. Items with the same score will
be ranked alphabetically by title. (built-in)
a short summary of a content item.
used to map the site's content; this metadata indicates the
content item that is the parent of the current content item. This metadatum
is used to generate dynamic sitemaps. (built-in)
the section of a site under which a story should be
who wrote the item.
has this item been approved by an editor; used to
support workflow, so that content items need to be approved before
they are displayed on the site.
the start of an item's "visibility window",
ie. when it is listed on an index page. (TODO: define a recommended
format for this, or replace with DC.Coverage.temporal)
the end of an item's "visibility window",
ie. when it is listed on an index page.
a Dublin Core metadatum. The organisation or
individual that publishes the entire site.
The Dublin Core is a whole load of suggested metadata names and formats,
which can be used either to replace or supplement the optional metadata named
above. Regardless of whether you replace or supplement the metadata above
internally, it is definitely recommended to use the DC names for metadata
that's made visible in the output HTML through conventional HTML <meta>
These are some built-in "magic" items of metadata that do not need to be
defined manually. Instead, they are automatically inferred by WebMake itself:
the item's declaration order. This is a number
representing when the content item was first encountered in the
WebMake file; earlier content items have a lower declaration order.
Useful for sorting.
the first <out> URL which contains that content
item (you should order your <out> tags to ensure each stories'
"primary" page is listed first, or set ismainurl=false on the
"alternative" output pages, if you plan to use this). See also the
get_url() method on the HTML::WebMake::Content object.
0 for items loaded from a <content> or
<contents> tag, 1 for items created by Perl code using the
The modification date, in UNIX time_t
seconds-since-the-epoch format, of the file the content item was
loaded from. Handy for sorting.
Why Use Metadata
Support for metadata is an important CMS feature.
It is used by Midgard and Microsoft's SiteServer, and is available as
user-contributed code for Manila. It provides copious benefits
for flexible index and sitemap generation, and, with the addition of an
Approved tag, adds initial support for workflow.
It allows the efficient generation of site maps, back/forward
navigation links, and breadcrumb trails, and
enables index pages to be generated using Perl code easily and in a