Did you ever wonder why people get crazy about beer, wine, coffee, or cheese? I study cheese a bit, and I’ve been amazed at the heights to which some amateur cheesemongers have scaled. Some people analyze it like they’re trying to get a PhD in cheese.

    For others, the contemplation of wine is like a monastic commitment, and only death will stop them from their pursuit of knowledge and experience.

    On the opposite side – you never find a “Diet Coke expert.” No one ever bothers to study Diet Coke. They don’t give any awards or titles for this.

    This is because of context. Specifically, some disciplines are “high context” and others are “low context.”

    Context is:

    The set of circumstances or facts surrounding a particular situation.

    The event of tasting wine has a lot of context. There are hundreds of inputs into that moment, from the type of grape to region of the world to the type of soil it was grown in (the “terroir”) to the exact moment the grape was harvested. A glass of wine represents the sum total of hundreds of years of history, perhaps dozens of years of preparation and storage, and even the prior few moments of presentation and service. There is simply so much context that impacts how the taste of wine is perceived.

    Diet Coke is…Diet Coke. All you can do is take a sip and declare, “This tastes like every other Diet Coke I have ever had.”

    In fact, Coca-Cola spends billions of dollars every year to ensure that every single can of Diet Coke tastes exactly like the last one. There is nothing to contemplate when drinking a Diet Coke. There’s no mystery to unravel. It’s a cognitive dead end. It’s incredibly low-context.

    Over the 30-some-odd chapters and 50,000-some-odd words in this guide, I hope that I’ve demonstrated that the practical aspect of content modeling is an incredibly high-context activity. The level of subtlety and nuance involved with making a digital representation of real-life concepts is impacted by dozens of different factors, any of which can magnify a small change and spin the path off in a completely different direction.

    We like to think our ideas are exempt from practical implementation details. We have high-minded theories of our content that we’re convinced will “just work” because they make perfect sense in the theoretical world of boxes and arrows we created in our favorite diagramming software.

    Eventually, you have to manifest your theory inside an information system. That can be a painful reality check.

    The only effective content model is one that has been implemented and has thereby suffered through the natural process of reconciling its theoretical ideal with the realities of the system in which it must operate.

    I’ll conclude by returning to a theme from the introduction – no system is going to do all of this. I don’t think any one system ever could. There are architectural paradigms discussed in this guide that simply could not co-exist. Occasionally, there are simply opposite ways of doing things, and neither is wrong, they’re just different.

    Throughout this guide, there have been several themes:

    The goal of this guide was to present a broad spectrum of features to assist in getting your arms around the solution domain in the broadest possible sense.

    More specifically:

    To whatever extent possible, I hope I succeeded at those goals.

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