Anyone who enjoys a good first person shooter knows that the solution to any problem is always a bigger gun.  Bring’em’on…

The nicest part is that even though you get to kick-some-monster-butt there is also a nice secret surprise lurking in the dark around the corner – waiting to be discovered.

Now back to real life.  Picture the monster being a knowledge management solution in your business that needs some love, attention and a trigger – sorry forgot we’re back to real life.  The gun here is Microsoft’s SharePoint 2010 – a mature and stable system waiting to make life easier for any businesses who… well; actually any business.   Then after the monster is now renamed into “Mr RoadKill” just around the corner lurking in the dark is always wonderful surprise – Well this is the one that I’ve discovered, it’s called the Taxonomy Hidden List (with the help of some other sources).

You’re probably asking what it is; well first, you need to understand what metadata is;  sufficing to say, its data about data (not the latest juicy info on Brent Spiner that is) but more so to describe the content you have using other information (Refer to good ol’faithful WikiPedia here) aka information about information.

Metadata is something as old as SharePoint itself (or even before) remember the foribbiden fruit, well some interesting metadata on that is that the forbidden fruit wasn’t really an apple.  Voila – metadata has always been there, except in this case – the apple doesn’t describe the fruit.  So now, Microsoft not much later, had caught on and invested a lot of time and research on how information can be organized in a better way – so that we can find the monster-baddies to ‘pump’em full of lead’ (remember the original Duke Nukem – awesome game).

As an added improvement Managed Metadata was added to SharePoint, which is the same as metadata only manageable with a very nifty interface therefore Managed Metadata.  Managed metadata is driven by the managed metadata service and is only available on SharePoint Standard Edition and up.

Still waiting for the juicy secret? Then read some more – but first; a simple example of metadata (in the contents of being managed through the Term Store –

Image of Structure and Metadata

The address of “My Business” is regarded as metadata; the same applies to the divisions (Operations or Development) and each of those divisions must have documents that they produce on a daily basis. Therefore, when storing information in the ‘olden-days’ almost like when wearing leafs were still in fashion and caves were used to store things of different types; sounds like folders doesn’t it?

With metadata and the added functionality of managed metadata, the Term Store on SharePoint 2010, information is classified using real-life-information, not some invented grouping – simply to fit it into the picture.  Now then what is meant with “real life information”?

Instead of sitting around wondering how a person could create a new categories when storing information – rather just use the real stuff i.e. a company has a building with offices and boardrooms inside it.  Each boardroom has a door with some tables and chairs – now how difficult was that?  Okay, I’ll translate; an organization exists and inside that organization there are divisions that have different functions and different inputs and outputs – it’s as simple as that.

When looking at the term store and managed metadata provided by Microsoft SharePoint 2010 it becomes real clear that this is how Microsoft wants you to solve the problem – don’t get stuck on trying to wonder how to build a taxonomy using invented categories, but represent real life using a tree as an example –

A tree has a trunk, a trunk has a branch, a branch has another branch and it usually ends with an old adage “and the green grass grows around it”:

When a business has several divisions, the tree structure starts to take-on a new shape – here is an example –

  • A tree has a trunk (My Business)
    • A trunk has a branch (my division )
      • On the branch there are a few other things – that can easily be classified as Operations (Support) or Development  (Creative / Testing)
  • A trunk has another branch (another division)
    • Etc…

Managed Metadata and SharePoint’s Term Store provides a person with the functionality to easily understand what SharePoint wants and gives an interfaces that is not that difficult to learn.

Now let’s start building our metadata structures in order for us to decorate that structure with information from my organization.

Cool Quote: Something I seldom say to a customer, Jim. In this galaxy, there’s a mathematical probability of three million Earth-type planets. And in all of the universe, three million million galaxies like this. And in all of that and perhaps more, only one of each of us. Don’t destroy the one named Kirk. –DR. MCCOY, Star Trek: The Original Series, “Balance of Terror”

If for instance a specific division in that organization is the Technical Writers division, then they will have specifics about classifying documentation – such as the stage of the document and how much more information or time is needed until it’s complete – this my fellow monster-shooting-person is how everything is done using Microsoft’s SharePoint 2010 product – classifying information using information about things that are real and not sitting around inventing ways to store “stuff”; if it doesn’t make sense, write to me – we’ll talk!

The term store is located in the site settings area ‘Site Administration’ – go look, it’ll make life much easier for you.  Now, most companies do grow and change; this is why managed metadata becomes even more important – because it’s flexible.  As a company grows – new information needs to be added or perhaps it gets changed around so current structure information is outdated this is the main success of managed metadata.  Old terms are depreciated and replaced by new terms – or old terms can be replaced throughout.  Think about it.  If metadata is built on real life – then at the end the structure will always remain the same, it’s merely the terminology that changes; here is an example.

When the new manager doesn’t like his mahogany desk and wants it replaced with oak – at the end it still remains a desk it’s only the “Type of Wood” that changes – that is metadata.

Are we on par around metadata?  Great – Managed metadata becomes the weapon of choice a Gazooooooka Bloweeee Level 61 (it actually only goes to 50, but what da’hell).  Therefore using  managed metadata to solve the way a company organizes its information is really the only way to go and will eventually solve much time and effort (money) not to mention the integrity of your company’s information management and storage – if you’ve had SharePoint before, get a project going.  If you’re new to SharePoint 2010 – start with Managed Metadata before anything else.

So now you’re probably wondering what the secret surprise is – Well,  when doing workflows or writing all kinds of interesting formulas and things like that – managed metadata is still a bit new to the rest of the 3rd party software for SharePoint 2010 world. This means that managed metadata is still read as a text field instead of being handled natively as Managed Metadata.  Due to this, Microsoft was kind enough to place the Managed Metadata structure in a list that is flat and can be accessed and processed like any other list or library on SharePoint using contemporary methods.

The list where the managed metadata is stored was aptly named the TaxonomyHiddenList. So, if you’re interested in using Managed Metadata but soon discovered that it’s harder to process on a ‘programming level’ such as through workflows, then this is the list that will help you.

The TaxonomyHiddenList stores each Term and a UID for that term – so that it can be uniquely identified.  Each term have two UID’s i.e. one for the Term itself and then another for the Term Set that it belongs to.  In other words, every branch has a trunk – remember!

When looking at the TaxonomyHiddenList, a term can be a term in itself or it can be the title of a term set.  Therefore should the latter be true – then the other terms that hang from this term will use as their IdForTermSet as the UID of the already existing term, which then links the values into each other, creating a deep list of information using only an ID, Term, IdForTerm and IdForTermSet fields – voila; you have a simple to read, use and process list linked to your fresh-up-to-date Managed Metadata Structure.

So you’re probably wondering – where is it located; it’s hidden – HAHA, but I’m going to tell you now in which little obscure corner of SharePoint 2010 can you find the monster-killing upgrade.  So, on any site collection, just replace the rest of the URL with this “[mysharepoint]/Lists/TaxonomyHiddenList/Show%20All.aspx”.

If you got there and it was empty – don’t run to a paranoid conspiracy, the answer is simple – it just wasn’t there in the first place.  Fix it! Managed Metadata and SharePoint cannot be separated.

In Summary

  • Read the whole thing – don’t cheat and start here.
  • Managing the metadata of a SharePoint solution is the best thing since sliced bread and its called – Managed Metadata.
  • Organising metadata is done using the Term Store available from the site settings (SharePoint Standard and Enterprize only).
  • Processing Managed Metadata is made easy using a surprise that is hidden only in the text above – go read it.

Thank you for the time.

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