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Where content meets technology

Nov 24, 2004

Where is Content Management going?

Over the past few months, my attention has been on Open Source CMS products. My experience so far is that a lot of the energy in the space is focused on collaborative content management: where the line between readers and contributors is blurred. This makes sense because collaborative content is an "itch" that OSS developers like to scratch. In the OS community, everyone wants to communicate and participate. There is less emphasis on centralized editorial control because the OSS community also has a culture capable of self policing and members genuinely want to add to constructively to the dialog (Don't get me wrong, there are some excellent traditional Open Source CMS products out there). You look at the success of projects like Wikipedia and you see evidence of this trend. Also, much of the online documentation for Open Source products allows viewers to correct and annotate content (see Zope and PHP for examples).

Inside companies, I am seeing a transition from tightly controlled internal informational resources like knowledge bases to Wiki based systems where anyone to can contribute. By the way, I think this is a huge challenge to the Enterprise Content Management (ECM) trend promoted by commercial CMS where all content is centralized under a single system and taxonomy. Here is an InfoWorld article describing how Google uses internal blogs.

But will it stop at the firewall? If you read the Cluetrain Manifesto you might think that this open dialog way may be used for external communications too.

So what are the implications? It sounds like chaos. Thousands of mini sites with dissonant ideas and information. Sounds like the Internet!

No control to enforce company policy, messaging, and branding and protect intellectual property. Companies are going to have to come up with new policies for dealing with their empowered populations.

Decentralization would make all these enterprise taxonomy efforts a lot harder. With more authors publishing in less formal ways, it is more difficult to enforce tagging and other attempts at organization. If so, search is going to get a lot more important (hmmm... Google.... blogs.... Interesting!). Editors, responsible for maintaining the quality of communications, may feel overwhelmed with all the channels they need to monitor. By the way, I wonder if anyone at ThoughtWorks edits Martin Fowler's blog when he talks about ThoughtWorks.

Vignette's purchase of IntraSpect and their Collaboration Services offering shows commercial ECM reacting. Licensing schemes for some products might need to change for their customers to be able to open up these systems to a wider user base. I wonder if any vendors are or will soon start to offer a Wiki.