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Monday, June 09, 2003

Blogs and/as Content Management

Panel information.


Tim Appnel: has been an IT consultant for 12 years. Has done a lot of advising on content management. Can attest to some of the ways a corporate weblog can fail that have been talked about today.

Mike Amundsen: EraServer, EraBlog.

Bill French: a self-described conference pot-stirrer. I have a degree in marketing, also involved in technology. We try to look at the information space in a little different light, and chip away at the knowledge management problem using XML standards. Put together a set of Web services and help people understand how information could be put together in a loosely coupled manner. People wanted to use this to blog with.

John Robb: CEO of UserLand. Got into this because I appreciated the potential of blogging as a knowledge management tool. We have about 2,500 organizations using our tools. Dupont, others. Lots of small businesses and onprofits. Government organizations, Los Alamos. I have a pretty good perspective of what has and has not been successful. With bigger organizations today, most people are using Web based solutions. Saves you money, and you have a complete system that can serve a relatively large sized organization.

Bill Stow: blogging is the foundation for new kinds of communication channels within large organizations. In order to do that, we'll see blogging transform itself into multiple forms. The importance of blogging is to provide voice to an organization. Large systems like content management tend to repress voice. People need to be able to offer their competency to the rest of the organization.

Adam Weinroth: Put together Easyournal out of my apartment, now playing catchup to figure out the business andits strategy. Got into blogging when travelling in Europe. Nothing suited his needs as far as communicating with friends and family back home. Put together an extremely rudimentary content management system, discovered people who knew about it liked it and wanted it for their own use.

Matthew Berk, moderator: what exactly is content management?

John Robb: weblog software takes advantage of the functionality provided by a content management system. "Web publishing for the rest of us." Weblogging is pretty well-defined in its feature set. Difficult when a couple of developers try to put something together on the fly, without really understanding all the features involved. Weblogs are a truly horizontal application. In education, student sites, team sites. In corporations, annotating, archiving for a single point of reference for a team. If someone builds something modeled on Word, for example, there's not a straight one-to-one correlation to the actual product.

Bill French: we were trying to help workers make better decisions at a higher capacity. Attempting to create the capacity to act. In thinking about the big picture, we tend to focus on what the real requirements are. We also understood there was this third element: the ability to derive an insight. Re CMS, there's the capture aspect, there's the publishing aspect. Blogs bring the ability to get an increased awareness. When I think of CMS, or the term blog, I get particularly aggravated when people try to pigeonhole this stuff. Puts a straightjacket on your thinking, takes your brain and puts it in a vice. Most of the blogging tools on the market today have the capacity for re-use. At the end of the day, it's information, and what we really should be thinking about are better ways to abstract the information.

Bill Stow: I agree about abstracting the notion of a blog. We started our product as one that was easy to use and non-intrusive. But the fact is many large organizations require and want control and process from the software they're purchasing. If we were to take the current beauty of blogging, put it in front of people, and at the same time turn it into what content management is today, we'd be turning them into something we might not like. A middle ground is possible, but it means you have to see this new thing in many different forms. Mail systems don't provide the persistence you need to capture all this internal knowledge present in large organizations. Not every boss wants to see free-flowing information across the organization, either.

Mike Amundson: the blog conversations now are like what we've seen before—what was this thing called SMTP, HTML? What we're going to see now is the same kind of behavior that surrounded the introduction of HTML, but this time about content markup. We've now got people annotating by category, subject, author. Aggregators, newsreaders short-circuit talking to browsers. Panic around employees generating content, what are we going to do? It may be about content capture: use, re-use, repackaging, searching, sorting, selecting, customizing. Nobody talks about content management for email, and I think that's the way it will go with blogs. Instead of empowering users with HTML, we're empowering authors with XML and RSS.

Adam Weinroth, about users: I've seen a lot of praise for Easyjournal really focusing on the content rather than the display layer. Others would like more of an ability to design a professional looking site. Comes down to a matter of preference.

Matthew Berk: sees a shift away from the obsession with layout and markup. Weinroth says users are interested in little bells and whistles, like a funny cursor or effect. Some of that drive to have things just so gets channelled there.

Tim Appnel: there's a bit of overlap. I use a blogging tool as a low cost content management system. Comes down to what your requirements are. It's like talking about a handsaw versus a jigsaw versus a chainsaw. Biggest difference now is blogging tools tend to be Web native. CMS systems tend to be geared toward enterprise systems, legacy systems no one wants to touch anymore. ... I actually think blogging tools are going to fade into the background, Web services will get pulled into everything. (Later, clarifying.) What this means is you're not going to know where the blogging tool ends and something else begins. Geocities didn't work because it lacked structure and infrastructure. Didn't account for the need to repurpose, move things around. Weblog tools have nailed this.

John Robb: disagrees, due to unique feature sets, communitites. This is an application with staying power. It's hard to develop an application accepted both by the reader and publisher. What I deal with every day are the hazards of continual growth of the feature set. The deep layer features are there if you need them. Standards and integration enable speed and ease of implementation, point and click administration. Extensibility: what you can do is add customizations within the weblog functionality, side by side.

Adam Weinroth: also doesn't see blogs fading into the background, rather they're filling in a glaring gap at the end of the content management spectrum. Blogging is an amazing answer for nonprofits and other small businesses. Blogs by nature are very grass roots oriented, a natural fit for nonprofits, and small and local businesses. Other page building systems are, by comparison, "lame." Design versus publishing tension.

Bill French: group blogs will be important, but the platforms have to support. What's over the hill is a federationi of services, not an application. The federation will be built on XML standards, agility. What you want is something so agile it looks like a chameleon in a bowl of skittles (line possibly swiped from Dennis Miller).

John Robb: it's the interface.

Bill Stow: blogging really raises the awareness of the available information, then you want to be able to reuse it in many different ways.

Adam Weinroth: re the interface, it is huge. The ease of use is incredible. Consider what it takes to train staff on something like Vignette or Interwoven. Now think about using Blogger. Huge reduction in business switching costs. If you're on something that's completely Web based, with all these open based services running on it, the switching costs go down. Matthew Berk mentions Blog Litmus report. There are organizations who will see and adopt a lower end alternative, but that still leaves the fate of the big boys hanging.

Matthew Berk: Fascinating dichotomy here—content is everything, and the interface is everything.

Doc mentions he just hates the word content, gets applause. Information still sounds like something you can ship. It's something you load into a channel to deliver to an end-user...maybe call it stuff. What people do when they blog is not produce content. That's not what we live for. To be con-tent', is a different thing.

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