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Where content meets technology

Dec 04, 2009

Presentations from the Boston Gilbane Conference

I am catching up from a whirlwind of activity at the Gilbane Conference in Boston this week. I gave three presentations (below), organized a breakfast for open source CMS software executives, and had a great time talking with so many industry friends. It was particularly nice to meet people like Scott Liewehr (@sliewehr), Scott Paley (@spaley), Jeffrey MacIntyre (@jeffmacintyre), and Lars Trieloff (@trieloff) who I had known only virtually before. I wished I could have stayed for the third day of the conference but I had to get back to work. Everyone seemed to feel very positive about business and where content management is going so I left brimming with enthusiasm for 2010.

What follows is a brief run through of the presentations I gave.

Open Source WCM and Standards

On Tuesday morning, I did a presentation called Open Source WCM and Standards for the CMS Professionals Summit. To summarize, open source really has nothing to do with open standards but there are some areas where they converge. "Open source" describes a license. Any software can be open source if it is assigned an OSI-compliant license. Open standards is about software design — technology choices about what standards to support. That said, there are three areas where open source and open standards converge:

  • when an open source project is started to create a reference implementation for an emerging standard (note, on slide 5 I didn't say that Alfresco was created as a reference implementation for CMIS, you had to be there.);

  • when there is a chicken and egg problem of value and adoption (like RSS and now RDF) some open source projects have the install base to easily create widespread support and a lower hurdle create an implementation;

  • projects driven by developers tend to put a higher priority on aspects like integration and attention to technical detail than marketing driven products which are more feature oriented.

How to Select a WCMS

My "How to select a WCMS" workshop is turning into a signature presentation for me. There was not too much difference from prior presentations of this workshop except this time I went into more detail on using doubt to make a decision. At that time, my friend Tim McLaughlin, from Siteworx, had popped into the room. He told me afterwards that he agrees with the approach and even read a scientific paper that found that the best decision makers use this method of elimination for choosing. Tim, if you are reading this, you owe me that link!

One particularly interesting part of that worshop was that one of the audience doubted the necessity of content management systems in general. So I was put into the position of having to defend the industry. He was coming from an organization that was managing 100 very small, unique, independently managed, and unimportant websites. In this case, I had to agree and I used the metaphor of a factory. You don't build a factory to produce less than 10 units. A CMS would not help him until he started to try to manage all those websites in a more uniform way. For the time being, I suggested that he look into Adobe Contribute which handles basic things like deployment and library services without trying to manage reusable content.

Open Source: what's it to you?

I presented with Kathleen Reidy from The 451 Group on "The rise of Open Source WCM." Kathleen had some great slides talking about commercial open source vendors in the market. My presentation was from a buyer and implementer perspective. The general message was that buyers have the benefit of more choices and more information but they also have the responsibility to take a more active approach to selection. They can't expect an analyst firm or salesman to tell them what is the best product. They need to understand their requirements and implement a solution that solves their business problems. Open source software suppliers depend on customers doing more pre-sales work themselves and they pass that savings back in the form of no (or low) licensing fees.

The biggest disappointment was when Deane Barker misunderstood slide 5 and tweeted that I think that open source is like a free puppy. Of course, this was re-tweeted several times. As I have said, all CMSs are like puppies: some are free, some cost lots of money, but all require care and feeding. If you have the intention of owning a puppy and understand the costs involved, you appreciate that a free puppy is less expensive than a puppy that you have to buy. If you spontaneously come home with a a puppy just because it was free, you might be in for an unpleasant surprise. Similarly, if you adopt a CMS just because it is free and you have not budgeted for properly implementing a website, you will get into yourself into trouble. Later, Deane and I had a great dinner together with David Hobbs before I headed back home.