In Defense of Opinion

I’ll begin this piece by first thanking Marko for the eleven or so years we worked on this side project called Big Men On Content. He moved on to a great opportunity that does not afford him the autonomy that this kind of endeavor requires. That is not a bad thing. It is a recognition of his expertise and I look forward to seeing amazing work from him in the future. Some of that work I may not agree with but isn’t that the charm?

This change has me thinking a lot about whether opinion blogging is even worth the trouble. A great many people have not really understood what we have been doing. I have never made money from this site. All of the opinions I’ve penned are completely, for good or ill, my own. The thoughts are sometimes informed by, but always independent of whom ever I have been working for at the time.

There have been long gaps in both of our writing. For me, mostly it has been from lack of time. Some of those gaps though were during periods when if I said what I really wanted to say I would not have been employed by the end of the day. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you is a real thing and some organizations are exceptionally thin skinned. At others I had the freedom to openly and respectfully say things that were contrary to the party line and I have tremendous respect for leaders that are not afraid of thoughtful disagreement. I continue to believe that honest discourse makes everyone’s life better, especially the lives of the users.

As I move into the next phase of writing in this space I am carefully considering whether it is worth the trouble. I really do care about sincerity, integrity and honesty in opinion. I have no interest in being a part of the echo chamber of product messaging. An exchange recently brought this into focus for me.

Joe Shepley published a piece on CMSWire several months ago about a certain acquisition’s impact on a certain product’s direction and things he has observed in the market. In response, another “opinion” piece was published elsewhere that challenged his observations and conclusions. The details are irrelevant here. I don’t care about that content. It was a totally predictable vendor response and I have no reason to doubt the accuracy of either piece.

So what’s my point?

The response opens with passive aggressive jabs at the vendor’s critics. The implication being that Joe was only doing it for the attention that criticizing “venerable market leaders” would get him. You should accept that of course he was writing to get attention. That is why most of us do this at some level but to attribute the value of the post solely to the profile of the vendor rather than the implications of the content is misguided. Joe does not need me to defend his honor but I’ll defend his right to say what he wanted without the slights.

I should remind you, I am from the South. We invented passive aggression.

A few things LEAP out at me in the response. The author describes their motivation for the response. It begs the question, who is “we” exactly and what does being “compelled” to respond to something in CMSWire even look like?  I imagine people standing in a break room waiting on the Keurig reading the post on their iPhones and being overcome with righteous indignation.  “Did you see what he said? OMG such a blatant attempt at defaming the character of that great organization!” Then they charge off to a Starbucks to enlighten the internet with digital insight because the caffeine is better when billable.

To be clear, I do think there was an indignant reaction to the CMSWire post but it wasn’t in a writer’s break room.  Imagined melodrama aside, almost everything else is fine in the post. Standard product marketing messaging repackaged to refute observations and assertions by a third party.

My issue with this is that trying to discredit opinion by questioning the motivation of the author is problematic. Especially if you pay somebody else to do it and present it as altruistic thought leadership. (notice, I said IF because I do not know if this was paid or not) Posts like this are an attempt to silence not discuss. To isolate rather than engage. It makes me wonder why one would respond this way?

Secondly, if being called a “legacy” is an insult then you have other problems to worry about. Interpreting the term as an insult is a denial of past success. Having a legacy should be a good thing. I can see where it might be offensive though if you are worried someone might examine that past and find it lacking.  In any event, I have taken to using the word incumbent when referring to elderly products that have been around since the first Bush administration. Not because I dislike the term legacy but because incumbent just sounds cooler when I say it.

If you want to put yourself out there with opinion, you need to have your own thick skin and realize there will always be people that take shots at you. The same is true for products. Snark and sarcasm are part of the fun but attacking the motivation of a writer does not invalidate the opinion. Far from it. It makes me take notice and wonder why they “doth protest too much.”

After watching this faux drama I’ve decided that I’ll keep putting my opinion out there occasionally, if for no other reason than to entertain myself. I might change the name or platform but I want to keep to the first principle of always writing what I really think about things that interest me with conclusions I have arrived at on my own. Occasionally, as in the past, I’ll write about things I see in the day job but will always call out the shameless promotion. I expect people to disagree with me and that is fine. I only hope my sarcasm doesn’t get away from me and I unfairly characterize individuals but if I do call me out. I’m a big man. I can take it.

4 thoughts on “In Defense of Opinion

  1. Lee – what is the point here? There is a lot of energy here, but it sounds like it’s in defense of a friend and not very “meta”.

    Taking the 10 year shift meme – 2009 ECM is not the same as 2019 ECM. To be honest, 2019 ECM is not recognizable in any language attributable to 2009.

    ECM was always about adding structure to the unstructured and more importantly in democratizing it wherever it made sense.

    This mandate has not changed. For me this has meant moving towards Big Data and “AI”. Simple Library functions which were the special magic of ECM have long sense gone commodity – S3, SOLR, OAuth2, etc. None of this resonates back to 2009 values.


  2. I see your point with regard to defending an individual but it really isn’t my objective. This is about whether an opinion has value of its own and challenging the tactic of discrediting the motivation of the author. Why even go there. I think opinions in this space still may have some value so I’ll keep writing on occasion but I want to draw a distinction between what I try to do and vendor marketing as opinion,

    I like the 10 year contrast you propose. I agree that what ECM should be in 2019 is not the same as 2009, but I posit that there is less progress than one would expect. The core components you list, storage, search, authentication, and the 22 other core features of an ECM conceptually are the same – just different implementations , living in different (cloud) architectures. I might suggest that DLP in addition to AI is the other major shift that wasn’t a daily concern a decade ago. (a much longer discussion)

    The application layer of library features is indeed table stakes but there are thousands of businesses faced with renewal decisions on past investments and pressures to move workload out of their own data centers. That is a dynamic I find most interesting. It is a once in a generation migration.

    thanks for the comment! we need to catch up when I am in your neighborhood soon

  3. Responsible commentary wasn’t invented in the South…But I find your opinions useful nonetheless! Frankly, I just don’t see the ECM/EIM space accelerating at any rate to solving problems that clients won’t acknowledge. This once in a generation migration is real BUT it seems to be nothing more than a “get out of the data center” play. More than once, I have heard an ECM system referred to as an expensive file share. That seems to be a perception that is not going away soon. I believe that clients DO NOT know what they have…Regardless of the time and attention paid to establishment of metadata and navigational standards. They know how to find something in a repository…and that makes a transaction easier. However, there is no accepted currency for the value of the assets. That is where we are missing the boat with all the people who believe in 25 year old technology or 10 year old cloud technology.

  4. Really, I consider blogging conversation. Much of conversation is opinion. Even if you know what you know, if you’re honest it’s fact, extrapolated opinion, maybe experiential, and flat out bald faced opinion. You may have an idea of what you don’t know. IMO a blog is set forth a question, maybe set out as a statement, a hook, to draw people in to critically think about some topic. Ah, but that may be too optimistic in these times. Hopefully the facts-opinions we held 10 years ago have changed. I say keep it up. Otherwise I will have to call you ALL the time.

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