Content Management as a Practice Re-visited

By Deane Barker on September 17, 2008

Content Management as a Practice: Seth has posted a follow-up to my blog post which expanded on a conversation he and I had in Chicago. Our conversation was about teaching content management as an abstract practice rather than as a specific platform integration.

In the course of that, we talked about why some people shun new systems and some people — Seth and I, for instance — embrace them.

Seth nails this topic with these comments.

To understand content management at this level you need to experience lots of different products, tease out concepts and patterns, and do a lot of comparative thinking. This is hard to do because it takes a certain kind of curiosity that I find surprisingly rare and certainly expensive to cultivate. Most people stop looking when they see something that works. They find it frustrating and risky to ignore familiar concepts to look at a problem from a fresh perspective. They dread the steep initial incline of a learning curve. They only suffer suffer through in the hope of flatter pitches ahead. Few have an insatiable need to challenge and be challenged. The instant the learning curve starts to level-off, they are looking for another one to run up against. They like the feeling of being dropped into a totally unfamiliar place and finding their way.

Beyond that, Seth expanded on my original two-level dichotomy of the content management profession. I said content management exists on two levels:

  1. Content management itself
  2. Specific platform integration

Seth takes this a step further (a step prior?) and includes the concept of understanding how a specific vertical or industry uses content (emphasis mine):

The key is to focus on the customer’s higher level business objectives, not a set of capabilities that defines a software market segment. Yes, an understanding of workflow as a foundational concept is useful but even more important is to understand the different editorial processes that happen within a news organization.

This is apply general content management knowledge to a specific domain. I’ve been tossing it around since this morning, and my gut tells me that it all still starts with basic content management knowledge — understanding content management in the abstract. From there, however, there are ways to apply it:

  1. Applying that knowledge to a specific platform, regardless of domain.
  2. Applying that knowledge to a specific domain, regardless of platform.

In a perfect world, you get both, I suppose. You know content management, you’re an expert in a great platform, and you stick to a lucrative vertical. But my point is is that the platform and the domain knowledge are still subservient to core content management principles. It still all starts there.

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