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Where content meets technology

Aug 01, 2012

An Unconventional Approach to Recruiting

I have been spending enormous amounts of time filling this role for a technical web project manager. Most of the candidates that I have interviewed are not web savvy enough. I couldn't see them adding more value than assigning tasks and updating status reports. To be effective in this role, the candidate needs to understand how web pages work, be able to problem solve, and help educate our customers on the nuances of maintaining effective websites. Most of all, the candidate needs to love the web. I mean, really love it. In addition to all that, there are the standard PM responsibilities of keeping track of issues and workload management.

After sourcing candidates the traditional way, I decided to take an unconventional approach. Rather than make the job application process easy to increase number of applicants that can later be filtered (by me), I created an experiment to filter up front with this simple job application form. The form applies three filters:

  1. You need to have a presence on the web — some URL. It could be your blog or personal site, your Twitter profile, your LinkedIn profile, Google Plus, about.me, flavors.me, Facebook… This shows that you are interested in the web and are participating.

  2. You need to be curious. It is not immediately obvious how to submit the form. I know a lot of people will bail and prefer the conventional route of pumping out résumés and job applications. I want a problem solver who looks for a clever solution.

  3. You need to have web skills. The solution requires that you know your way around your browser's developer tools and can diagnose a web display issue.

Successful form submissions get sent directly to my work email. Anyone who meets those three criteria deserves my careful consideration.

I have floated this idea by a few colleagues. Some people love it. Some are skeptical. I have no idea how it is going to turn out and that makes it a perfect experiment. The only challenge is to publicize this as much as possible so I can have a statistical sample. If you are curious about this approach too, please share this blog post and the application link: http://liox-web-pm.appspot.com/. I promise to share the results even if they stink.

If you are interested in the job, good luck with the application!

May 14, 2012

CM Field Guide: Social Coding for CMS Geeks

Evil genius Deane Barker (@gadgetopia, gadgetopia.com) approached me with this idea at a vulnerable time. My fingers were itching to code. I had recently transitioned out of all programming responsibility for a consulting client. I was managing a few development projects on which I forbade myself from coding. I was also feeling a little disconnected from the content management community. With this backdrop, Deane taps into our strange shared hobby of detecting what content management system is running a website. He shows me some working Django code that he wrote (a little smelly but excellent for a first attempt at Python and Django — I love Deane's fearlessness.); and before I can force myself to say no, I am refactoring.

That's how CM Field Guide got started. And it is shaping up to be a really cool project. While there are other applications that do the job of sniffing out what CMS a site is running on, CM Field Guide is unique in that it is a social coding project. We share the "tells" we know to look for and we invite people to submit theirs either as code or as a description that we can code.

The code that examines a website is called a "signature" and they are really easy to write. It's mostly metadata and a line or two of test logic. The foundation application and libraries do most of the work. We use github's social coding model of forking and pull requests. As of this blog post, we have 26 platform signatures. Steven Brent (@stevenbrent) submitted 2 of them as github pull requests. Adriaan Bloem (@adriaanbloem) and Robb Winkle (@robbwinkle) shared their secrets over email and github issues.

While I am already finding the application useful, the most interesting aspect of the project for me is around knowledge management. The discipline of Knowledge Management likes to say that knowledge is distinguished from information because it is actionable. Turning information into executable code seems to take this to a whole new level. There is also a social aspect, it's fun to share this information with people and build relationships on a common interest.

A closed alpha of the application is running at www.cmfieldguide.com. We haven't done any real user interface work yet (volunteers?) and we haven't optimized the application for any kind of load. At the moment, we are only giving out accounts to friends and colleagues. But you can quickly become a friend with your contribution!

Apr 09, 2012

Hosting a CMS Panel at CMS Expo

On May 8th, I will be hosting a panel at CMS Expo called "CMS Review - Compare CMSs For Web Design Studios & Development Firms." The panel is designed to help web design and development shops build their CMS portfolios. Selecting the right platforms to take to market is extremely important because building competency with these technologies takes time and your projects are risky until you do.

In the panel, we will be focusing on the topics most relevant to studios and integrators:

  • The types of sites that the platform is best suited for.

  • Market awareness in industry verticals.

  • Availability and quality of training and support.

This session would also be useful for an internal services group that does web design and development projects for departments within the organization.

I will be around pretty much the whole conference. Look for me if you want to chat about CMS selection, localization, or marketing operations. If you haven't registered yet, use the code Seth2012 for a 10% off discount.

Jan 26, 2012

Hey Look! I am on the TV!

Last week I had the privilege of joining Scott Liewehr on CMS Connected, a web television show about content management. The topic was "2011 WCM Year in Review" and we covered a lot of ground: mobile, engagement, and the cloud. Tom Wentworth, from Ektron dropped in on Skype for a cameo appearance too.

I had a great time and folks on Twitter seemed to enjoy the conversation as well. You can watch it here. I also got to meet Butch Stearns who I know from listening to WEEI.

Big thanks to Tyler Pyburn and The Pulse Network for hosting and Falcon-Software for their generous sponsorship.

Jan 13, 2012

Legacy reports available

If you read Content Here through RSS or just follow links to individual articles, you may have missed my new publications page. In addition to listing some articles that I have published on other sites, the publications page now includes reports that I used to sell here at Content Here. I have not kept these reports up to date with the technologies that they cover but the background information and selection strategies are still very relevant. They are posted up on Scribd where they are free to read. You may find the following reports particularly interesting.

  • Open Source Web Content Management in Java

    This was Content Here's first report. It reviewed 7 open source Java web content management systems (Alfresco, Apache Lenya, Daisy, Hippo, Jahia, Magnolia, and OpenCms). While the individual product reviews are all out of date, the first 20 pages of the 173 page report contain useful information on the rise of open source content management and how evaluating open source platforms is different from commercial platforms

  • Open Source Web Content Management in Alfresco

    This is the Alfresco review from Open Source Web Content Management in Java but updated to version 3.1 which was released in April of 2009.

  • Drupal for Publishers

    This is my most recent report. It was published in 2009 and covers Drupal 6.10. The interesting thing about this format is that it reviewed Drupal from the perspective of a publisher. The report is broken up into 3 sections: "what the publisher needs to know," "what the editor needs to know," and "what the developer needs to know." I think that much of the general commentary is still very relevant.

Jan 03, 2012

Joining Lionbridge Global Marketing Operations

Happy New Year!

2012 is going to be a big year for me. Starting in January, I will be a full time employee of a new business unit of Lionbridge called Global Marketing Operations (GMO). The best way to describe GMO is that it is a service that helps global companies execute their global content strategy. We take great content that marketers and designers produce and make it available to the intended audiences. This includes:

  • preparing and instrumenting content for publication in the customer’s content delivery systems (web content management, email campaign management, advertising, etc.)

  • Operating those delivery systems.

  • Localizing (translating and adapting) content for local markets.

  • Helping customers understand the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns.

GMO becomes the arms and legs of the marketing organization to close the gap between strategy and results. My new title within Lionbridge will be Global Marketing Operations Solutions Manager. In the near term, I will be optimizing tools and processes to help scale the offering as well as working with GMO clients to help them maximize the value they get from the service.

I have been working in content management for over 15 years. Over that time, I have come to realize that technology is usually not what prevents companies from being successful with content. Yes, better tools increase efficiency. But that doesn’t mean having the right tools will lead to success. In fact, I have been noticing that many compelling CMS features are under-utilized. The capabilities are there; the capable people to use them are not (or they just don’t have the time).

With the emergence of content strategy as a main-stream discipline and the pressure on marketers to show quantitative results, this execution gap will only widen and become more visible. And that’s why this opportunity with Lionbridge GMO is so exciting to me. This is where I can have the most impact in helping companies be more successful with content.

In practical terms, some things are going to change and others will stay the same.

First, the changes....

  • I will no longer be accepting consulting projects through Content Here. Lionbridge offers a Global Digital Benchmark and I will lead the internal component of that offering. I will also consult with GMO clients and prospects to evaluate their tools and processes.

  • I will write and speak more on the operations, process, and analytics of content management.

But these things will stay the same....

  • I will continue to post to this blog and tweet. Some posts will be re-posted on GMO blog.

  • I will continue to track the content management software industry. Lionbridge and its clients need to stay up to date with the latest technology developments that improve efficiency and increase reach.

  • I will continue to be vendor neutral. The success of GMO will depend on being able to help customers regardless of their platform. When it comes to choosing a new platform, Lionbridge is aligned with the customer. We want to choose the most suitable technology because we will be using it.

  • I will continue to attend content management conferences and engage with the content management community. I have great relationships in this community and I think that my work at Lionbridge will provide insights that we all can learn from. I also look forward to connecting my clients to trusted companies and practitioners that provide tools and services that Lionbridge does not offer.

As you can see, I am pretty excited by this new chapter in my career. With that, I will wrap this up by wishing everyone a very happy, productive, and rewarding new year.

Apr 30, 2010

Jeff Potts strikes out on his own with Metaversant

My friend and former Optaros colleague Jeff Potts recently announced that he has left Optaros to form a new company called Metaversant. Jeff was Optaros' superstar Alfresco guy. He put Optaros on the Alfresco map and contributed to the Alfresco community by writing a great book (The Alfresco Developer Guide), maintaining useful information on his blog, and also publicly pushing Alfresco in the right direction. Jeff is a charter member of my informal "Content Here Information Partner (CHIPs)" network and I have regular briefings with him to keep up to date on all things Alfresco.

Since Optaros has shifted its strategy to focus on the intersection of community, commerce, and content, Alfresco's position as a core offering has diminished. Alfresco is more oriented toward file-based collaboration, intranets, and digital asset management than social publishing and commerce. Metaversant will focus on training and advising Alfresco customers. I admire Jeff's expertise in and passion and I know that he will be successful in this new venture. He will certainly get referrals from me.

Dec 07, 2009

The Content Here Map of the Information Market

I generally dislike the "map of the market" approach to describing a software market because the actual use of software is too specific to be generalized into abstract dimensions like "high and low end" or "innovative." However, during a recent Content Here leadership offsite (OK, I went on a bike ride), I was thinking about Content Here's positioning in the marketplace and I found a picture to be quite helpful. This is what I came up with (click on the image for a larger view).

Map of the Content Management Information Market

The primary point of the diagram is to show that consumers enter the information marketplace with different types of questions and information providers offer different types of answers. The intent of the question appears on a continuum that ranges from problem focused to solution focused. Technology buyers are focused on their business problems. As you progress towards the "problem" end of the spectrum, the questions get more specific and require intimate knowledge of the context and domain to answer. On the other end of the spectrum, the consumers (software vendors and investors) are trying to understand trends that will inform a business strategy for managing (or investing in) a solution. The information on the solution side gets very abstract and speculative because the solutions themselves are designed to be re-usable across many different kinds of problems and software companies need to build products that will be sold in the future. In the center of the spectrum is where the interests of the buyers and sellers converge. Here the buyers are thinking a little beyond the specific problems they are trying to solve today to where they need to be in five years. Here vendors are thinking beyond how their solution measures up today to what buyers need going forward.

All of these questions are important and the marketplace for answers has evolved to answer them. On the sellers side of the diagram, you have the major analyst firms who primarily serve the technology vendors. Their information can also useful to the CIO that is trying to understand trends but it will not be useful for a decision faced today. I didn't put too much thought into the positions of the "sell-side" analysts on the right side of the diagram. I would love input here.

I am more interested in the left side of the diagram — in particular, where Content Here is focused. My unofficial tag line for Content Here is "Content Here helps technology buyers be awesome at making decisions" (format borrowed from the Joel on Software article: "Figuring out what your company is all about"). Content Here tries to help client's answer the questions of what technology to buy and what do to with it. To play this role, I need a deep understanding of how the various technology products work — but not as deep as a systems integrator that specializes in that technology or the software vendor's technical support. Consequently, my reports are very technical compared to other analyst reports. I tend not to go as broad as CMS Watch because I stop keeping up with a product once I realize it is not relevant to my potential client base. Only when I hear that something has changed with the product do I check back (and this is why I don't publish a list of technologies that I follow or don't follow). Most importantly, I need to be able to rapidly discover a client's requirements through an efficient consultative process.

This hybrid approach puts Content Here in between a systems integrator and an analyst company in terms of detail. I am not surprised by low number of competitors because this is a hard place to be. I need to dig into the many technologies I cover by building prototypes and talking with implementors. I also need to understand the business aspects of how the technologies are used. I am always on the challenging slope of the learning curve. I can neither sit back and pontificate on the abstract nor enjoy the luxury of knowing every detail. As difficult as it is to be in this position, I can't think of a more stimulating business to be in.

That is as far as I have thought things through. I would love to hear your feedback on the usefulness of the concept and the positioning of the different players. In particular, if you are a consumer of information, is the information marketplace serving you with the appropriate level of detail?

Sep 14, 2009

New Alfresco Review

I am pleased to announce an updated version of my Open Source Web Content Management in Alfresco report. The report evaluates Alfresco Enterprise 3.1's WCM capabilities for both traditional web publishing and as a framework for building dynamic web applications. Like all Content Here reports, Open Source Web Content Management in Alfresco is highly technical and gets into details that a potential buyer should know. In writing the update, I interviewed systems integrators and technology managers from customer companies for their candid opinions of the product and the software vendor. I have also personally evaluated Alfresco, supporting documentation, and third party books. I can safely say that you are not going to get a more thorough and unbiased evaluation of Alfresco anywhere — not even if you pay several times the $200 price.

Long time readers know that Open Source Web Content Management Alfresco was originally published in February 2008 as part of a larger report called Open Source Web Content Management in Java. Because all of the products reviewed in that report have undergone significant upgrades, I have been selling it at a deep discount. The front matter that explains the marketplace and significant portions of the evaluations are still accurate and relevant so I have decided to offer a bundled product consisting of the original report plus the updated Alfresco review for $400 — that is still 50% off of the original list price. As I complete updates to the different reviews, I will add them to the bundle and incrementally raise the price to the original full price.

If you are evaluating Alfresco for web content management, save yourself time and reduce your risk buy purchasing Open Source Web Content Management in Alfresco. If you work for a Java shop and are starting to consider open source alternatives to commercially licensed web content management software, consider the Open Source Web Content Management in Java bundle.

Apr 21, 2009

New Report: Drupal for Publishers

Note: because this report no longer covers the current version of Drupal, it is available for free on Scribd: Drupal for Publishers

Florence, MA (April 21, 2009) -- Content Here is pleased to announce the availability of a new report. Drupal for Publishers, is the first of a new report series called Web Technologies for Publishers. Written for a cross-functional technology selection committee, each report evaluates a technology against the specific requirements of a newspaper, magazine, or broadcast news website. All Content Here reports are written with the customer in mind — distilling a wealth of information from a wide range of sources into a concise, easy to read narrative. Drupal for Publishers has case studies describing Drupal implementations at Fast Company, Lifetime TV, Morris Publishing, Now Public, and The Onion.

The 24 page report is broken down into sections that explain what the different stakeholders (the publisher, the editor, and the developer) need to know about Drupal. The publisher's section contains information about the time to market, availability of talent, cost, and the future of Drupal. the editor's section covers functional aspects such as content entry, workflow, editorial control and general usability. The developer's section discusses extensibility, security, performance, and developer resources.

Drupal for Publishers is priced at $100 for a workgroup license and can be purchased from the Content Here reports store.

About Content Here: Content Here provides professional services and analysis of content technologies, with a deep technology focus. Drawing on real-world implementation experience, Content Here analysts evaluate software from an implementer's point of view to provide technology decision makers with information assets needed to achieve success, save money, and reduce risk.

Seth Gottlieb, Content Here
Tel: 857.488.4386
E-Mail: info@contenthere.net

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