metadata and my very non-technical job


As I may have mentioned before, I am currently working part-time at an optical retailer.  We sell both contacts and glasses, but I deal mostly on the glasses end.  And after one no-doctor Saturday (i.e. no appointments, just walk-ins with prescriptions, so more free time for us employees) I keep the walls where the glasses live organized.  The “designer” wall is just grouped with like designers by like designers, as is the kids’ wall; the men’s wall is designers within price points (our schtick is heavily reliant on price points and bargains, so it’s important to keep things where you can say “yes, you’re looking for the blue tags, they’re in these sections”) and the women’s wall, which my desk faces, is… rainbow-ordered frames within alphabetically-organized designers within price points.

I get at least three customers every day I’m there asking me “how do I know where everything goes” or joking that I must have OCD to keep it so organized.  “I designed the system of organization, and I do in fact have OCD,” I reply with a smile.  (It’s true, and not in the dumb way that people sometimes mean on joke t-shirts.  I’ve been clinically diagnosed.  It’s not problematic for me, it’s just part of who I am and I roll with it.  My psychiatrist actually told me that librarianship was a perfect field for someone with what he described as “autism-flavored OCD,” which is how he unofficially diagnosed me.)

But what it comes down to is, I want our glasses to be as easily physically found as they would be on a website, where they are in fact allegedly organized with some basic forms of metadata (search by price, search by color, search by designer).  I like being able to say “the purple Sofia Vergaras [she designs eyeglasses, who knew?] are going to be in this area” and I like knowing where, say, the frames that I know of as being cat-eye are.  I know where all my frames are because I put them there.  I organized it.

And wouldn’t it be nice if people were as accepting of metadata usage in real life as they are on computers!  Everyone expects that say, on my company’s website you can go looking for frames that are $79.95 by clicking the $79.95 designator, or if you enter “pink frames” in the search box it will turn up a list of all of the frames designated as being pink.  Yet the fact that I want to organize things that efficiently in real life is somehow humorous?  Despite the fact that I do it so I can find what people are looking for and they don’t get mad because they accidentally picked up something in the wrong price point.

Or at a library, you expect that the books are going to be shelved according to type or genre – mysteries, plays, nonfiction, graphic novels, etc. – and then shelved in alphabetical order by author, then within that author in alphabetical order.  Love in the Time of Cholera will be shelved before One Hundred Years of Solitude, and they’ll be on a different shelf than Fun Home.  If the librarian sees that The Princess Diaries is for some reason mistakenly shelved by Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Philosophy, they will return it to its proper location and nobody will laugh about it.  I suppose what I’m saying is I long for the world where metadata is accepted and even encouraged, and not the world where the regional supervisor says “well, you know your job is sales” when you say that your greatest strength is organizing things so they can be more easily found by customers.

One thought on “metadata and my very non-technical job

  1. Great commentary! I would add that one way to convince your supervisor that organizing *across* different eyeglass stores (like organizing across libraries) should be coordinated so that when customers walk into a store anywhere in the chain, they get the same browse/search experience. Obviously, to a large extent, this has already happened, for if you do walk into a “new” optical store, you know what to do because in large part, this organizing consistency across stores has already happened. BUT .. how can all of this be optimized in a network world? How might you think about organizing virtually in a way that includes internet accessibility via smart phones and even including in store virtual reality opportunities? The key is to research new ways of enhancing how optical stores are optimally organized and then have your supervisor spread your ideas out across all 1000 stores 🙂

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