I am having problems trying to decipher the metadata information.
What does all the a: , s: stuff mean?
is there a place where i can reference what all this coding means in wp?
not just for attachment metadata, but users, etc.
What you're referring to is serialized data. To save an array to MySQL the data is serialized upon submission, so the best way to read that data is to pull it out of the database with a function that unserializes it, which WordPress does for you. More details
So somewhere in a theme or plugin you could just use