The more I spend my time assisting clients with content management, the more I realize the wildlife we call content can’t really be managed. But it can be coaxed, tamed, shaped, pruned, and, increasingly important, shared. It’s kind of got a life of its own, and these days, lots of it exists in environments outside of our content management systems. Environments like RSS feeds, XML or JSON webservices, social media, Google goodness like Maps and the like.
When we used to view the mission of our websites as establishing a self-contained web presence on a global platform, it was like we were placing a flag on the moon. Our sites didn’t interact with anyone in any meaningful way, save a few hyperlinks, and we all checked our “inlinks” in Google to see who was linking to us. As we realized that the sheer size of content we had to manage was growing exponentially, content management systems became all the rage. That way, we could delegate the power of deploying content to the web to a wider audience. We enabled the exponential creation of content, content, content.
To enable this decade of content proliferation, higher education institutions each picked a weapon (and we still pick and nitpick over this) and content commenced to be (with mixed success) managed under the flag of our choosing. My flag on the moon has been WordPress. For some, it’s Drupal. For some, it’s Terminal Four, Plone, Expression Engine, Sharepoint, or any number of systems/platforms/blogging tools — whatever you wanna call it and argue to call it (makes no never mind to me) — each of which tout themselves as the be-all-and-end-all of the content management universe. Whatever.
Meanwhile, as we all put our respective flags on the moon, the new age of webservices dawned and we have yet to grapple in as comprehensive a way with this issue the way we did for content management systems. Some of us grapple with it by turning our CMS’s into content aggregation engines to deploy or consume content via webservice modules and plugins. But, the reality is, as each of us works harder and harder to keep our platforms relevant, the moon is shifting under our feet and our flags are tipping over under their own weight.
I am curious as to how web development teams at U.Va. have discussed and grappled with this issue. I am concerned because, should we not get a handle on it in a strategic way, we could increasingly be bringing in professional consultants to ask and answer the questions that we are avoiding as we shore up our CMS’s and hope for the best.
Your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below.
U.Va. School of Medicine