Are You Content With Content?

Nobody got anywhere in the world simply by being content.
– Louis L’Amour

This was the Google quote of the day and as proof that I have been doing this job too long, in my head I put the emphasis on the wrong syllable. I read it con’-tent instead of con-tent’.

This made me wonder if I am getting anywhere with this? Am I con-tent’ with con’-tent. Or better yet can simply having content get you anywhere in the world.

Many have mused that context is the yin to content’s yang. Context provides the backdrop for interpretation and utility of content. In the end neither is interesting without the other but we spend so much time discussing content I can’t help but think our business and technologies are out of balance. Why is this?

Taxonomies were once all the rage and long dominated our efforts to provide contextual support in content management. A handy contextual construct certainly but I knew we had gone too far when I saw content taxonomist on a business card. Taxonomist is a title best reserved for speculative scientists sketching variations of beak shape on remote tropical islands.

In a business setting taxonomist just sounds pretentious and unapproachable. From a technology standpoint though it would seem we near the end of what taxonomy alone can do for content and we are now well into the next phase of our exploration.

Enter semantics and ontologies. Deep and rich concepts but I am troubled by them both. Primarily because I can’t explain either to the average person. Not because I lack the rhetorical prowess or they lack the intelligence but because most people simply don’t care about what “language” really is and how to create one.

Most people don’t understand context – they simply experience it.

This is why we talk content. Despite its electronic form it remains the tangible part of what we do. The body of the work where the context is the soul.

Where am I going with all of this – I have no idea. Except that as technologist focused on managing the tangible assets knowledge workers depend on (content) we need to do a better job explaining and providing tools that manipulate the context to our customer’s advantage.

We can’t simply be content with content and expect to get anywhere.

5 thoughts on “Are You Content With Content?

  1. By coincidence, I was thinking about similar things today. Over the past few years I’ve seen a bunch of presentations where “content is king” is put up on a slide, and then replaced with something else “which is now much more important”. Every time that makes me think, that’s important *too*, but without content, you’d still be nowhere.

    Yet, if you don’t get content to an audience, you can manage it all you want, but it’s still going to just sit there. That’s how many taxonomists become taxidermists. Beware of the repository that becomes a graveyard of the long tail nobody ever accesses.

    You’re right, we shouldn’t just be content with content. But I also think content is still king. It just needs a country to rule for it to make sense… so we need to keep attacking this from different angles, be it access, contact, context, or interaction.

    1. Content Taxidermist- Now THERE’S a great title for a business card.

      I can’t argue against the importance of it. Just that at least my own balance is off.

      Content is the substance of the thing after all. It is important – I am not sure we always do a good job of explaining why.

      Perhaps it is that the relative importance of particular content is determined by the empahisis on the other ideas. How we organize, retrieve, and derive.

  2. Back in the last century, I was once giving a presentation to a group at a Fortune 500 company. My first slide read: Why Content Management Should Be A Priority.

    Before I could even start, the big kahuna executive in the room spoke right up, saying “I don’t think content management should be our priority at all. If you ask me, our problem is our management is too content already. We need to shake things up around here.”

    So, yeah, it’s all in how you pronounce it…

    1. LOL – This story is a classic and will be the opener in every presentation I do from now on 😉

  3. I believe Adriaan and Walter are experiencing the same thing here. The executive’s response to Walter’s presentation shows what we really need here. Also, Adriaan’s experience with repository becoming a graveyard in spite of all encompassing taxonomy is a common experience. As Lee suggests, the content doesn’t not need to be self-conscious at all to become content, it needs to be transparent to the user who uses day in day out. Ultimately, content has to be freed from any repositories. Do we make a big deal about any files in the file storage with taxonomy/taxidermy, ontology, or oncology whatever (well, this may be more or less descriptive since the initially exuberant Documentum practitioners hoped to cure cancer in pharmaceutical industry with its shiny and brand new content management)? On the contrary, the real end game of all of this will be an end-to-end object storage where the content doesn’t live in repository silos at all! Are we going to free the content to be really effective and useful content someday? The following is my comment on object storage on Chuck Hollis’ blog:

    “I think you two are talking about the same thing. I work in the ECM space so I know intimately how the objects and metadata are managed in that environment. The various ECM spaces, including Documentum, will probably be commoditized or clouded before an end –to-end “Object Storage” system can be realized. The development of Microsoft’s SharePoint attests this trend. But the true end game is going to be replacing “File Storage” as we know it into real “Object Storage.” I believe this even though the user community will not be ready for this for a while, the technology that will enable true “Object Storage” is not ready yet and it may not be available quite some time. Unlike the current defacto “File Storage” system spearheaded by Microsoft, the ubiquitous “Object Storage” system that could replace “File Storage” might be a dream at this stage; I believe it will eventually materialize, however. This may be a better topic over beers, but all the more so over spirits, perhaps. Cheers!”

    Even the all-seeing Mr. Alan Pelz-Sharpe alluded to this here as well:

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