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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Employ Metadata to Enhance Search Filters

In this article the author shows how to use metadata for pooling
information already resident in an application to create a flexible
search interface that reduces complexity and increases users'
productivity. Easily customizable and configurable software is becoming
increasingly important, and a flexible interface for searching is one
way in which software is becoming more configurable. The key to
achieving flexibility is through using metadata. Consider an application
that stores customer, item, and order information in a database. The
interface for searching through orders could apply any number of filters,
but presenting all possible combinations together can very quickly
become overwhelming for users. It is often beneficial to allow some
customization or configuration for choosing the appropriate filters
based on several factors including the business process, the role of
the individual, or those that are specific to the user's needs. With
traditional query templates, the complexity grows quickly with every
new search filter that is added. However, by using metadata to model a
query and its filters, you can reduce the complexity of the software,
while creating a more flexible solution... Metadata can be loosely
defined as data about data, or in this case search-filter data about
order data. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the group responsible
for XML standards, recommends using Resource Description Framework
(RDF) for representing metadata (in XML or other formats). You can
store RDF in a variety of formats, but the example discussed here will
use an RDF/XML file because it has the widest support. XML tags are
used to structure the file format of RDF/XML. The outer tags represent
the resources, their nested tags represent properties, and inside the
property tags is a property value, which may be text or another resource

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