Data Form

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Six layers of data format

A complete description of the way that a piece of data is held. Any piece of data can be described in a number of levels:

  • Transport: A description of how data is to be moved or held. The lowest level of a data form. Since standard approaches to file structure and communication protocols were adopted in the 1980s and 1990s there has been little need to discuss transport except in relation to physical media
  • Encoding: A code that pairs a sequence of characters from a given character set with something else, such as a sequence of numbers
  • Format: A format defines how entities and attributes are to be described.
  • Data Structure: A data model formally defines the data elements and the relationships between them for a domain of interest A data model describes how data is represented and accessed.
  • Reference Integrity: Ensuring that certain attribute of the data can only have a restricted set of values (for example storing the identifier of another item)
  • Data Convention: The conventions applied to data within a given location

Each level relies on the level below and enables the level above. To be complete a Data Form description has to define each level, failure to be clear at any of these levels will give rise to confusion when data is integrated between groups and systems.

A good information architect will be aware of the implementation constraints that various systems impose. It is important to carefully document the parts of the information architecture that are constrained by the user's needs, and the parts that are flexible. Documenting the range of choices for flexible elements is a difficult task but will enable the implementors to select the best options, rather than artificially constraining elements to the technologies that the architect happens to be familiar with.

Links to this page

The following pages link to here: Accessibility, Comma Seperated Values, Data Convention, Data Form, Data Migration, Data Model, Encoding, Format, jpeg, mp3, Physical Media, Reference Integrity, Transport

Previous Comments

25 May 2011


this is delisious!

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