2-13 2013 Luggage Tag

Everything Has A Label

We seem to label, tag or categorize everything.  These bits of metadata help us search for information and also give us a signal for how to react or behave when we encounter the tagged item.  Metadata is powerful because it associates descriptive attributes. For example, if a technique was labeled as Agile, we would assume that the technique supports the values and principles identified in the Agile Manifesto.  The we attach to a concept or idea has power to drive how we behave.

What if the label is wrong, leading us to associate incorrect attributes?  What if the technique we labeled as Agile was something less than Agile?  If we wanted to be Agile wouldn’t the bad label lead us to make incorrect assumptions about whether we should use a technique?  Or couldn’t we make an incorrect assumption that the benefits of technique will deliver might be greater than it would actually deliver?  Poorly assigned labels or metadata can lead us to make incorrect decisions about how we will behave which can reduce our ability to deliver value.  The problem is there are incorrect labels and tags all around us.  Just because a technique is labeled as something does not mean it is.

Many of the shorter airline flights I take tend to be on commuter jets (for an example of a commuter jet Google the ERJ-145).  These planes have little space for luggage inside the passenger cabin.  All experienced travelers know the drill.  If they have luggage that would fit on larger plane they check it at the gate.  It is a simple process.  The airline I use the most frequently tags all larger pieces of luggage with a tag that declares the bad to be “carry-on luggage.”   For the inexperienced traveler the label is unclear and sometimes makes them believe they are supposed to take the bag on the plane.  This incorrect behavior causes someone to have the bag carried out of the plane against the flow of passengers slowing the boarding process (and usually whacking someone in the head).  Labels and other metadata matter but they are not sufficient to drive behavior or as my mother used to say “think before you act.”