Avoid Daft Definitions for Sound Semantics

A few weeks ago, while reading about the winners at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards, I saw that Daft Punk won both Record of the Year and Album of the Year, which made me wonder what the difference is between a record and an album.

Then I read that Record of the Year is awarded to the performer and the production team of a single song. While Daft Punk won Record of the Year for their song “Get Lucky”, the song was not lucky enough to win Song of the Year (that award went to Lorde for her song “Royals”).

My confusion about the semantics of the Grammy Awards prompted a quick trip to Wikipedia, where I learned that Record of the Year is awarded for either a single or individual track from an album. This award goes to the performer and the production team for that one song. In this context, record means a particular recorded song, not its composition or an album of songs.

Although Song of the Year is also awarded for a single or individual track from an album, the recipient of this award is the songwriter who wrote the lyrics to the song. In this context, song means the song as composed, not its recording.

The Least Ambiguous Award goes to Album of the Year, which is indeed awarded for a whole album. This award goes to the performer and the production team for that album. In this context, album means a recorded collection of songs, not the individual songs or their compositions.

These distinctions, and the confusion it caused me, seemed eerily reminiscent of the challenges that happen within organizations when data is ambiguously defined. For example, terms like customer and revenue are frequently used without definition or context. When data definitions are ambiguous, it can easily lead to incorrect uses of data as well as confusing references to data during business discussions.

Not only is it difficult to reach consensus on data definitions, definitions change over time. For example, Record of the Year used to be awarded to only the performer, not the production team. And the definition of who exactly counts as a member of the production team has been changed four times over the years, most recently in 2013.

Avoiding semantic inconsistencies, such as the difference between a baker and a Baker, is an important aspect of metadata management. Be diligent with your data definitions and avoid daft definitions for sound semantics.

Category: Information Development
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