Is using an iPhone a good example for an analogy for SharePoint's Metadata? I was thinking an iPhone is comprised of a camera, music, phone, and maps. But after thinking about it I doubt I can use it. After all, these are "functions" that make up the iPhone not information about information. iPhone example

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    I think you answered your own question right there. This analogy makes no sense whatsoever. Honestly I don't even... Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 18:57

3 Answers 3


When I try to explain metadata in a SharePoint context I turn my head to a simple document. A document have content as in what's written within the document.

But metadata is all around the document

  • The author(s)
  • The date/time the document was created
  • The date/time the document was last edited
  • The version of the document
  • If it's part of a project, the project can be metadata
  • If it belongs to an organisation, the organisation can be put as metadata on the document
  • Which department of the organisation is the target audience? Is it a purchasing manual in a quality system, the procurement department can be metadata.
  • ...

These sort of things usually makes my users go "Ahhh, that's it", and they usually come up with other things in their ontology which is better than my examples of project and department and the discussion move forward from there.

  • I guess I can use a resume as a word document as an example of metadata too. Commented Jan 19, 2017 at 14:02
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    Or compare Resume to Contract and Expense Report. All "documents" but with very different intent. Though all may have metadata in common like Customer/Client, Project, Location, etc. Commented Jan 24, 2017 at 20:12

When I try to explain metadata to my clients, I usually reference Amazon.com example. I show them a typical Amazon site page and show them an ability to search for say, shoes. The I show them different filters available. For example, color, cost, brand name, size, etc. And then I explain that each shoe has been tagged against those labels (tags) which in turn allow for filtering and searching.

I explain more on this in this article

I noticed that this analogy works best as users can easily relate to this and apply the same "tagging" and "filtering" to documents as well.

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    Thank you Greg. I enjoy your SharePoint slide shows and have learned a lot from them. Thanks for the link. Finally, I am trying to come up with a simple way of explaining metadata with SharePoint's documents and lists. I am using columns as an example. Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 12:54

Metadata is data about the item which will help to make it search able /identifiable quickly. it is additional information about the item.

In you example you mentioned Iphone, But using camera or map is not additional information as it is basic information which all iphone model carry. and if you want to search by camera then its hard to get the correct information easily.

With following additional information( metadata fields attach to iphone item) Like this

  • Iphone Model i.e. 6s/6s Plus/7
  • Model #
  • Storage size i.e 16gb / 32gb /64gb etc
  • Color i.e. Black/white/gold
  • Year i.e. 2010/2011,2012,2013
  • Lock Status i.e. Factory Unlocked
  • Carrier i.e. T-Mobile / Att / Sprint

Now you can sort the all the iphone by t-mobile if filter by carrier etc.

Check this slide deck, which will explain it http://www.slideshare.net/gzelfond/document-management-in-sharepoint-without-folders-introduction-to-metadata


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