Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Web Content Mavens: Open Source Web CMS

I nearly forgot to mention that I am on a panel about Open Souce CMS in Washington, DC next week: Web Content Mavens: Open Source Web CMS. It is on Wednesday, February 27, 2008 at 7:00 PM at R.F.D. Washington, 810 7th St. NW, Washington , DC 20001

You can sign up at the meetup site.

The discussion will be moderated by Scott Mendenhall and will feature the following panelists:

  • Keith Casey from Casey Software on Drupal
  • Antonio Chagoury from Inspector IT on DotNetNuke
  • Scott Davis from Alfresco on Alfresco WCM
  • Boris Kraft from Magnolia on Magnolia
  • Joe LeBlanc on Joomla!
  • Martin Ringlein from nclud on WordPress and TextPattern
I am looking forward to that evening. The last time I have been in Washington, DC was for the Innovation and Transformation conference, nearyl two years ago (see my blog post: Open Source forces enterprise transformation: think value or die).

See you there!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Content Here publishes "Open Source Web Content Management in Java" report

Seth has finished the first version of his "Open Source Web Content Management in Java" report, which covers the seven leading Open Source Java Content Management systems: Magnolia, and ... six others whose names I can't remember.

OK, OK, the report covers Alfresco, Apache Lenya, Daisy CMS, Hippo CMS, Jahia, Magnolia, and OpenCms, and as such is pretty comprehensive.

It includes:
  • strategies for evaluating different types of open source projects
  • how to consider open source in conjunction with commercial options
  • insights into the project communities, their histories and their outlooks
  • a rating system for comparing/contrasting the open source WCM options
The report gives a pretty solid introduction into Magnolia as a product, project and the community aspects and is definitely worth the 800$ price tag if you think about aquiring a new CMS, no matter if open source or not. Get it here: http://www.contenthere.net/reports/jwcm.html

Thursday, February 07, 2008

The idea of a content assembly line is so American

In "Content Managers: Extract the Full Benefits of Structured Authoring", Eric Kuhnen describes how he imagines DITA can be used to create technical manuals in a manufacturing fashion, much like building anything today by finding the smallest possible part, then getting the best deal for its production, and finally reassembling the parts to a whole.

When facing objections of content authors, Eric counters with "Business, though, is about fielding the best team, and there is no arguing that the level of control, accountability, and efficiency found in a structure-authoring assembly line would improve dramatically even as the unit costs to produce technical documentation would drop and the scalability would increase."

This whole issue is so American to me. I have spent a lot of time in the US lately, and one of the things that struck me most is the fact that anything gets broken down to the smallest bits, and optimized out of context. If I call Citibank because I have a question, I need to answer a number of security questions to establish my authentity. I then get redirected to another department, where I have to answer the same set of questions. Recently, that has happened 5 times in a row, sending me once around the globe, from Indian call centers to US bank counters to wherever.

This is such a bad experience for me, the "user", "client" or "reader". Yes, maybe each part is efficient and cheap, but what remains is worthless.

I have found this pattern everywhere in the US. I walk under a bridge in Manhattan and I am amazed about the monstreous ugliness of the sewer system installed under the bridge. Surely, the developers of that bridge did not care how the bridge looks from below. All they wanted is the cheapest guy to provide the sewer system. But as a pedestrian, I do care how my surroundings look.

Things in the US simply do not fit together. Anywhere you look, the smallest parts maybe efficient but in their completeness, they are inefficient, unfriendly, unusable or simply do not work at all.

Now back to Eric's article. I have written a lot of content, and I have read much much more. Maybe you argue a technical manual is not a Purlitzer Prize winner. OK. But splitting things into tasks that are individually assigned to the person best suited (he talks about hiring people that are good at writing captions!) does not make the result a team effort that works. If someone writes only captions without knowing what the picture's intention is (something that only the author of the actual content knows) will at best result in description of what I see on the picture (a.k.a. "the Microsoft Help Page Syndrom"). I doubt the result is efficient. It will simply be unusable. Not to mention the fact that I cannot imagine anybody being proud of her job, but that is a fundamental issue again found in the US - as a friend recently noted "The difference between European and American craftsmanship is that Europeans are proud of what they produce".

And, I might add, if you are proud of what you do, you like to do it. If you like to do it, you are better, more efficient and healthier. But of course these are no factors you would look at if you just want to outsource writing 1000 captions.

PS: Maybe Eric finds the time one day to research how Volvo builds cars. Hint: not the way anybody else does.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Better than free

If copying something is free, and the internet is a giant copy machine, what is valuable if not the thing (like software, music, images or information) being copied? Kevin Kelly in Better than free lays out eight ideas by asking "Well, what can't be copied?":
  • Immediacy
  • Personalization
  • Interpretation
  • Authenticity
  • Accessibility
  • Embodiment
  • Patronage
  • Findability
Of course this is extremely interesting for Magnolia, a business on the forefront of the "free" economy.

From my experience, I would add:
  • Responsibility
This is not the same as Authenticity. Maybe it fits in the Embodyment category. We embody the free software called Magnolia. But probably it really is something else, and can be sold. Magnolia is responsible for the free software, which is why we can charge for the Enterprise Edition even though the mere fact of making it available (the copy) is essentially free. Following the above ideas, we know why we can in fact give away the Community Edition (CE) for free. Think:
  • Immediacy: we could make Magnolia CE non-immediate by not providing a download (compile yourself). In a sense we make it non-immediate by not providing support, meaning if you need support, you need to get the Enterprise Edition first.
  • Personalization: we don't personalize the free CE for you. We do with the EE. And this goes a long way, for instance, we certify your platform, i.e. we garantee that Magnolia works and will work in the foreseeable future on your platform. No way we do this for the free CE.
  • Interpretation: we could restrict access to documentation to EE users. We do restrict access to us (as interpreters called "support") to EE users.
  • Authenticity: we provide access to authentic bug fixes and the authentic compiled and certified Magnolia Enterprise Edition. You just know it is not some malware you download.
  • Accessibility: we provide access to the EE, any version. You do not need to keep copies around. We could go further and back up your customizations for you, or even your data.
  • Embodiment: we come to your place to talk and to work with you if you pay for EE. We essentially don't talk to you if you are not a EE client.
  • Patronage: you can pay for the CE if you wish (only one person ever did, that was a 5 dollar donation 4 years ago).
  • Findability: being able to charge for the EE allows us to make Magnolia findable in the first place - through branding, public relations, marketing and even advertisement.