Editorial: Errors using ArcCatalog?

A user outside USGS asked:
Many people are beginning to create metadata with ArcCatalog and these metadata frequently have "errors" when they are parsed using MP. I noticed this issue about 8 months ago but I thought that others may have experienced it by now. Do you have any recommendations, feelings, or comments on this?

Reply by Peter Schweitzer on 8 Nov 2001:

It depends on what sort of errors they are. ArcCatalog, like Tkme, must allow you to create metadata with errors such as missing elements and empty elements. If I'm using a metadata editor, I don't want it to refuse to work if I merely leave something out--I might want to work in steps, adding some information now and more information later.

What's more important, of course, is that ArcCatalog has no way to know whether what people type into it is actually correct (meaning what you say about the data--is it right?). So we don't want people to rely on mp alone to judge the correctness of metadata. We should instead use mp to help us find out what we've left out or done wrong in the structure of the metadata, and then we have to read the metadata itself to figure out whether it actually describes the data well.

There is one way that valid metadata from ArcCatalog might be judged incorrect by mp, however. If I create metadata in ArcCatalog, then read it with mp but without telling mp that the metadata record uses ESRI extensions, then mp will complain that some of the elements aren't recognized. For example, ESRI includes in the metadata an element called Attribute_Type that tells whether a given attribute is an integer, character, or floating-point variable. This isn't in the FGDC standard, so mp will complain when it sees this element in the metadata. The fix is to tell mp you're using the ESRI extensions. Create a config file like this:

  extensions c:/usgs/tools/ext/ESRIprof80.ext

Name this config file whatever you like; I'll call it esri.cfg here for example. Then run mp using the -c switch:

C:> mp -c esri.cfg cover/metadata.xml

Now mp will first read the config file esri.cfg, which tells it you're using extensions from the file ESRIprof80.ext. Then mp reads that file, and knows the names of the ESRI extensions and where they go in the structure. After that, it reads your metadata, and can interpret properly those elements that are part of the ESRI profile.

So the solution to your immediate concern might be as simple as telling mp you're using the ESRI extensions, but you'll want to look closely at those error messages to find out which ones most need to be fixed, and you'll want to have the metadata reviewed by a human reader too. Note that you can express the metadata as questions and answers by using either mp or ArcCatalog; I think that will be a very effective way to help a person review the contents of the metadata.

Note also that this same config file can be used with Tkme to allow you to edit the ArcCatalog metadata (for coverages and shapefiles, but not for metadata in the geodatabase). Use the same syntax: C:> Tkme -c esri.cfg Then choose your metadata record using the Open choice of the File menu.