Sharepoint 2013 : The Managed Metadata Service (part 1) - Taxonomy and Folksonomy, Initial Setup

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In this section, I shall discuss the Managed Metadata Service, which many associate with tagging and taxonomy, but it is essentially the central hub for managing metadata across site collections and applications in a SharePoint 2010/2013 farm (and potentially across farms, using the service and service proxy components).

The Managed Metadata Service exists as a managed service application in a SharePoint farm and acts as a central hub for the management of metadata. Content types and site columns (general metadata) are great but very much tied to a particular site collection (unless you use shared content types—more on this topic later). The Managed Metadata Service allows content owners to create sets of terms, forming a taxonomy, in a central location for use across any SharePoint web application connected to the service.

Taxonomy and Folksonomy

“Taxonomy” and “folksonomy” are now very prevalent terms in business. Thanks to the invasion of social networking, people have become more aware of the benefits of tagging and categorization of information, which require taxonomies and folksonomies. What exactly is taxonomy and folksonomy, and what are the differences?

Taxonomy describes a hierarchy of classification nodes, called terms. Each term in a taxonomy provides a category or classification of other data. The purpose of the hierarchy is to provide a greater level of specificity as you navigate down the hierarchy. For example, you could define a hierarchy of cities, grouped by country and then by continent. You might then tag a person’s contact record with a city term, country term, or continent term—or all three—from the hierarchy. Taxonomies are typically defined as an organized hierarchy of terms, managed by content owners.

Folksonomy describes a user self-tagging vocabulary, which evolves over the life of the data tagged. As an example, users may submit articles to a newsfeed and categorize their posts with their own made-up tags. The tags do not belong to an overarching taxonomy, nor do content owners manage them. The idea is that users will gravitate to using the same tag names for related content, and the tagging infrastructure will evolve as more related content grows in the system.

Folksonomy provide a greater level of categorization growth as users tag their content; hence, folksonomy works best in scenarios where users self-publish content. Taxonomies are better suited to situations of more organized and restricted publication of content, where content owners restrict the vocabulary of tags available.

Now that you have a basic understanding of taxonomy and folksonomy, I will show you how SharePoint implements them via the Managed Metadata Service.

Initial Setup

Typically, the Managed Metadata Service already exists in a working SharePoint 2010/2013 farm.  The following steps demonstrate how to create a new Managed Metadata Service from Central Administration:

  1. Open Central Administration.
  2. Click the Manage Service Application link under the Application Management heading.
  3. In the list of service applications, if you see the Managed Service Application (or something like it), leave it alone—for the purpose of this demonstration you will just create another.
  4. Click the New icon from the ribbon and select Managed Metadata Service from the drop-down list. SharePoint opens a dialog for the service provisioning properties, as shown in Figure 1.


    Figure 1. New Managed Metadata Service dialog

  5. Give the application a name.
  6. Provide database details for storing the metadata service configuration and data.
  7. The Managed Metadata Service is an application, hosted in SharePoint via IIS, and therefore requires an application pool account, so provide the credentials.
  8. The content type hub is an existing site collection that acts as the central store for all shared content types, so provide the site collection URL for a new hub for this Managed Metadata Service application; you will use this later.
  9. Check Report Syndication Report Errors if you want the service to report synchronization errors.
  10. Check Add This Service Application to the Farm’s Default List if you want all sites to use this service by default (recommended).
  11. Click the OK button to provision the new Managed Metadata Service.
  12. From the Managed Service Applications list, click the name of the new Managed Metadata Service application, or select it and then click the Manage icon on the ribbon.
  13. SharePoint displays the Term Store Management Tool, shown in Figure 2.


Figure 2. The Term Store Management Tool

What is a term store? Each Managed Metadata Service contains at least one term store, which consists of a hierarchy of term sets, or groups of term sets. I cover this terminology in more depth shortly, so for now you only need to know that a new provisioned Managed Metadata Service contains a default term store, which is the beginning of your tagging taxonomy.

The Term Store Management Tool enables administrators (and users with access rights to the service) to manipulate settings for the Managed Metadata Service. Table 1 identifies the various settings in Figure 2.

Table 1. Settings on the Landing Page of Term Store Management Tool

Setting Description
Available Service Applications Drop-down list of provisioned Managed Metadata Service Applications in the farm.
Sample Import Click the sample link to see a sample CSV file so that you may create your own to import tags into the term store.
Term Store Administrators Users who have full control over the term store.
Default Language The Managed Metadata Service supports multilingual terms; this setting stipulates the default language.
Working Languages Specifies the languages available for terms in the term store.
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