The posts below were originally posted to a blog called Gadgetopia. I have since retired that blog and moved the posts here.
Since retiring this blog, most of my article writing has been on Episerver’s site.
Everyone wants to blame software. No one wants to blame themselves.
This industry would benefit greatly if only we could agree on how content is modeled.
We’ve gradually moved from content to campaigns. The current wave of CDPs might indicate we’re taking another step.
Editors sometimes want to change content models on the fly. This is rarely a good idea.
What do you do when you have too much content to review?
Generally speaking, a CMS is a system to manage content that doesn’t exist yet and that it can’t know anything about at the time the CMS is designed and built.
What do we believe about the origins of the content we consume?
Some stats and background information on the first year of my CMS newsletter.
At what point does a content repository evolve into a “CMS” in the traditional sense?
Why do customers pick one headless CMS over another? How do they differentiate themselves?
Templating often isn’t single-step. Progressive refinement has a necessary place in content delivery.
A look at the Big Three service frameworks, and all the complications and shades of gray which orbit around them.
A look at the current players – intentional or otherwise – in the headless CMS market.
Some decisions factors, their interplay, and outside perspective on software selection.
There are a lot of different ways to lose money on a project, and that calculation is not simple.
Some consultants spend a lot of energy trying to never, ever flinch. I’ve stopped doing this.
CMS users consistently over-estimate (1) how much they need form builders, and (2) how much the tools can do.
We often try to force-fit content into physical metaphors, where it doesn’t always fit.
Two examples of updating SQL databases from a CMS.
Content management is a bundle of skills which come together to form a larger, meta-skill.
There are some interesting reasons to use a headless CMS that go beyond the “single website” model.
Reflections on what it means to really understand a CMS, down to its bones.
The book itself matters. Beyond the practicalities it offers over ebooks, the printed book carries with it intangible characteristics that we take for granted and wouldn’t miss until long after their absence.
Pushing more content than can be absorbed actually causes feelings of loss and pain.
CMS personalization tools have failed. Here’s why, and how the next wave might be different.
What you want from a contractor is investment. Ironically, the biggest impediment to that is often the parameters of the relationship itself. Some relationships are simply designed to fail.
The first step on any implementation is to figure out what you need done. The range of services is vast.
The concept of how a “page” relates to content is a critical aspect of how a CMS works. The web has influenced this relationship.
A necessary part of any content migration is redirect the URLs from old content to new. There are a number of strong patterns to this task.
People lie in proposals all the time. This is a story about how we didn’t.
A simple request for a standard term to describe the humans that consume your content.
We spend a lot of time planning and building sites with CMSs. We spend less time actually using them. I think there’s a place for a service offering that does exactly this.
I’m writing a book about web content management.
We spend a lot of time making content that doesn’t exist in our CMS look like it does. This is an attempt to put a definition around that discipline.
Does all code need to be code? Or can some of it be managed as content? Is there a place for a separate level of code managed by editors?
If you’re a web developer, then you owe your job to HTTP. You should probably know more about it than you do.
Often you need to import AND update content, rather that just simply importing it. This makes tasks of content integration so much easier.
We make the lives of webs crawlers much more difficult and much less effective, unnecessarily.
In 1945, an American scientist theorized about an information management system that, in retrospect, sounds suspiciously like the web.
When you add a hyperlink to text, you might accidentally change the emphasis and implication of it.
There’s a lazy myth of UX that needs to be busted.
When people say they want workflow, they probably don’t.
There is NO benefit to you in being talked into using a custom CMS which is hosted and controlled by a web development shop.
In 2014, I wrote down some notes about how to give a good conference presentation. I’ve been expanded them ever since.
Lots of vendors claim to do “archiving,” but they can’t agree on what this means. It turns out that not many users do either.
The title is accurate.
Information architecture has existed since we had information, despite the occasionally belief that it’s a digital invention.
Sometimes, waiting for an answer is the correct and productive way to communicate with someone, despite claims that “facetime” is the most important interpersonal method.
I wrote a white paper for Movable Type about how to use a decoupled CMS to manage content in a non-content-based website.
If you don’t state your budget upfront, then the recipient needs to make some assumptions, and they might not assume what you expect. Your responses might be limited as a result.
A developer ostensibly visited me for a job interview once, which didn’t go the way either of us expected. I wrote him a letter afterwards to explain the problem to him.
Reasons why content geography – meaning the spatial relationship of content to other content – is a proportionately more powerful way to model content then a simple, discrete content property.
Sometimes we don’t document for valid reasons, not just because we’re lazy.
Content is a subset of information, and – consequently – content management professionals comprise a subset of information professionals. Here’s why I count myself among them.
The content management strategist slots in neatly between content strategy and a CMS implementation.
Good content management developers constantly work to increase their empathy and perspective. Here are five ways to do that.
CMS gets re-written from scratch more than any other genre of software. Here are three reasons why.
Separating content from presentation is harder and more murky than you think. Here are some thoughts from a white paper about the topic.
A small, silly rant about about what we call things.
The development of a CMS tends to get bogged down in the wrong issues. We need to extend CMS along marketing lines, not technical lines. The lack of this painfully evident in the open-source CMS space.
Reusing content across multiple channels is the Holy Grail of content management. But it’s not that simple. For certain types of content, it’s very hard to do without alienating your audience.
Comparing different systems in the CMS space is far more complicated than it seems at first glance. Here’s some reasons why.
You’re not just buying a CMS, you’re buying into the community around it. Buyers (and vendors) need to pay attention to the state of their community a lot more than they usually do.
Does organizing content in some larger geography have value? Do users want it organized this way? Does it have any inherent value over “standard” metadata?
For years, I’ve used a small feature of Gmail as the key tool in my productivity stack.
Decoupled CMS might be making a comeback.
Django and Rails are notably absent from the boxed CMS space. There are specific reasons why, and – in a larger sense – why platforms with strong frameworks tend to limit this growth.
We tend to associate librarians with books, but this is slowly changing. We should really associate librarians with information.
“I was a early adopter of the Kindle. I bought one of the original first generation devices back in early 2008 (when they were fully $400). I was convinced that ebooks were the answer to the prayers…”
Making your content strategy work with your CMS is tricky. Often it comes down to issues of content assembly. Capabilities in this space vary greatly.
“Date – the ‘silver bullet’ of enterprise search: I enjoyed this post from Martin White about the single thing that would enterprise/intranet search better. He says it’s the ability to specify a date…”
“I’m wondering at what point does ‘time-shifted’ web content constitute an entirely different distribution channel? By ‘time-shifted,’ I mean services like Instapaper, Readabilty, and Pocket (formerly…”
Having a comprehensive index of content is a base requirement of a CMS. This limits what can really be considered a “CMS” and what can’t.
“If you have an app of some kind in which people store data, then everyone probably wants an API. Developers somewhere are clamoring for you to open a web service (SOAP, REST, protocol du jour,…”
The label of “page-based” is normally used as a pejorative in the world of CMS. Here’s why it matters less than you might think it does.
“I love the news. I’m a news junkie. I’m constantly attached to CNN in some form or another, and have been since I started college. Lately, I’ve become very interested in news from a content strategy…”
When you send out an RFP, you are asking something of the people who respond. It’s good manners to fulfill your end of the bargain.
Hourly rates for integrators are largely a pointless metric on which to evaluate them.
The support required of a CMS varies greatly, and there’s a blurry line between “support” and “consulting.”
“In any web project, the glamour audience that gets all the attention is the new audience – the previously unknown visitors that know little about you, and need to learn from scratch. We spend so much…”
Here’s why firms that strike up partnerships with every vendor are probably not the firms you want to work on your project.
Bidding CMS projects is hard. Doing it honestly is even harder.
Some CMS try to remove or limit the use of files in their development. This is corrupting one of the basic tenets of web development, and it will make developers hate you.
“I really enjoyed this article from RSG and can so relate to it. It’s about ‘UX overreach’ in site overhauls – when IAs and UX people get too active and try to do too much, adding layers and layers of…”
“Pay attention to what Nick Denton is doing with comments: Gawker is experimenting with new comment systems, as should everyone really. It only takes one look at the comments on your average Big News…”
“A month or so ago, I posted about the NISO document for building digital collections. Buried in that document was a great quote about the different kinds of metadata. Essentially, NISO claims, it…”
“You shouldn’t always sell stuff on the Internet. This might seem odd coming from a guy who gets paid to help you sell stuff on the Net, but it’s true. If you are in the physical retail business,…”
“The Employee and the Professional: Seth Gottlieb has put together a brilliant post that really calls into question the basic foundation of knowledge management: The thing is that advanced skill and…”
When someone says “migration” in the context of a CMS project, stop everything and make them define exactly what they’re talking about.
“A Framework of Guidance for Building Good Digital Collections: I really enjoyed this white paper, published by the National Information Standards Organization (NISO). It’s a tour de force around the…”
Organizational communication is about dynamic rivers of content, not static trees.
The idea of SaaS CMS is largely obsolete. Whether a CMS is SaaS or not is largely a question of business model.
“After our discussion yesterday on products vs. platforms, Tony Byrne sent me a report from Real Story Group that really lays bare the entire argument. Some quotes (all with Tony’s gracious…”
CMS falls into a spectrum of what is a “product” and what is a “platform.” This debate has been going on for a decade now, and will likely never be resolved.
URLs are not absolute. There are a million shades of gray, and canonicals were invented to resolve this. Use them.
“‘Self-published’ is not in any way analogous to ‘published’: There’s a very interesting discussion going on over at Reddit that’s very similar to something a line of thought I’ve had for quite a…”
“I’ve always maintained the commenting on major websites – especially news sites – is just a complete disaster these days. Comment threads on sites like CNN and USAToday (especially USAToday, for some…”
“Recently, I sent someone a link to a long Gadgetopia post, and I wanted them to read one particular paragraph. So, I had to tell them, scroll down about halfway to the paragraph that starts… It was…”
“I really like Jeff Atwood’s post about the Rubber Duck method of problem solving. Apparently, the name comes from a manager who would have people ask their questions out loud to a rubber duck….”
“I really enjoy the Times Topics pages, and I think the New York Times does this exactly right. We’ve talked several times in the past about posts vs. pages and how they’re fundamentally different….”
Linking pages in a CMS to each other can be more complicated than you think. You have to ensure you’re link to content, not URLs, and you have to maintain a record of these links, for a variety of reasons.
Having a separate index of CMS content, structured for optimal querying, can help you solve a lot of sticky problems.
“Fun with Static Publishing: Seth writes about how he’s come full circle back to static publishing of websites. They’re content-managed (-ish) in the background, but written to files then uploaded to…”
“Working in web content management, we tend to place an inordinate amount of emphasis on a single channel: the web, and naturally the website that pushes information into it. But, more and more, I’ve…”
“Content Choreography – The Art of Dynamic Web Content: I like this new name – ‘content choreography’ – for a summation of all the skills and governance required to make content work, along with the…”
“I’m making a very concerted attempt lately to cut down on the RSS feeds I consume. Earlier this year, it had reached neurotic levels – Google Reader was like a heroin addiction. Because of this,…”
The classic “feature matrix” of RFPs is a terrible way to measure a capabilities of a CMS. The support of a particular feature in a CMS is rarely a yes/no question.
“I just watched Page One, which is a great documentary on the New York Times and its place in the post-print world. One recurring theme – hinted at a lot, and outright stated a couple times – is that…”
“I spoke today at the Social Intranet Summit in Vancouver, which was put on by the good folks at Thought Farmer. Great conference, all-around, but I was especially struck by how well it worked for…”
“There’s no such thing as big data: This is an article about how companies fail to put ‘big data’ – the reams and reams of information he accumulate – to good use. It starts off with a really good…”
Content structure is achieved at a variety of levels – structure within a property, structure withing a content object, structure between different content objects, etc.
Vendors support of content management is hard because each boxed CMS is coupled with a custom integration, and it’s difficult to assign blame when something goes wrong.
“Forrester report: Customer experience management defines WCM today: I feel like I’ve been saying this for a while now. The future of content management is not in management, but in delivery….”
The common patterns of writing RFPs is especially poor when it comes to content management. There are several specific things you can do to get better responses.
“I’m going to propose a radical thing to anyone shopping for Web development services: just tell us how much money you have to spend. Gosh, that sounds crass, doesn’t it? I don’t mean it to, but I’m…”
One of the highest manifestations of content structure is the overhead “geography” that content gets organized into.
“I’m wondering if there’s a really strong purpose to contextual URLs on intranets? I’ve been a strong proponent of good URLs in the past, but I’ve just converted an intranet from a URL pattern like…”
Once considered a competitive advantage, content management has largely become the normal. The idea of not using a CMS is almost archaic, so discussion of “the benefits of content management” are increasingly irrelevant.
“I’ve often wondered, what does the post-library era look like? Let’s face it, though there will be a long tail, the era of the bound wood pulp is coming to an end (Amazon certainly thinks so)….”
“So, Twitter is buying TweetDeck today, and it’s got me thinking about how the tweet just might be getting marginalized, and what that means. TweetDeck is a good piece of software, but, despite the…”
Once considered a norm, the concept of a separate “content staging environment” has slipped into disuse. It still has some advantages, but the alternative – a live, “virtual” staging environment – probably has more.
“What is a (news) CMS?: Interesting comments about how news organizations need a CMS specifically wired for news. This involves, among other things, abstracting your repository from the presentation…”
Content “management” and content “delivery” have diverged into two separate concepts. The disciplines used are different, and I argue that it won’t be long before vendors start splitting off their delivery suites from their management suites.
Every CMS tries, in some extent, to duplicate the classic model of the relational database. Some come closer than others to this “ideal.”
Originally, content management repositories were separated from the publishing layer. This line has blurred over the years, and there are numerous models that combine aspects of both decoupled and “active” delivery tiers.
Drag-and-drop page composition has become a key selling feature of content management in recent years. It’s impressive, certainly, but useful is it, in reality?
One of the biggest problems in implement content management inside an organization is getting employees to accept that this is the “one true solution” in which they should put their faith.
“I love Google Docs, and we use it constantly at Blend – there’s never a day when a half-dozen new Docs aren’t created, edited, shared, etc. The ability for more than one person to be in a document…”
Knowledge management requires you to ask some very basic question about how you plan to turn knowledge into content in which to be managed.
Content management systems thrive on consistency, which gives you a very roundabout benefit – you can use it as a “bad cop” to force people in your organization to be more consistent about their content.
“Simplicity Is Highly Overrated: This has been making the rounds for a while, but I just got around to reading it. Don Norman – principle of The Nielsen-Norman Group and author of Emotional Design and…”
Over the last decade, content management has become increasingly focused on the web. However, in this world of true multi-channel publishing, the web is just one of many channels, and its time CMS vendors made their repositories less web-specific.
“Web Experiement/Engagement Management” is the latest trend in content management, but I have a fear that vendors will focus on it to the detriment of another, equally important parts of their systems.
With all the channel options available for content publishers, the “web developer” may be giving way to a more general “content developer.”
Content is not isolated in its presentation – it’s often presented with other information that is somehow related to it. Modeling and managing these relationships can be harder than you think.
“Short rant here – authors, can we please start writing shorter books? We’ve talked about this before, but now I have a specific example. I’m trying to learn more about encodings – you know, character…”
We tend to develop templates with a “hole” for where “the content will go.” However, we ignore what happens in that hole – what specific tools editors will be given to manage what happens in their “hole.”
Web content delivery is becoming so complex and important that it’s deserving of a system all its own that aggregates, harmonizes, and enhances content for delivery.
“Episerver Commerce Arrives!: I’ve been waiting for this for a while. I am proud to announce the official launch of Episerver Commerce. Episerver Commerce is a powerful commerce platform targeted at…”
Incorporating applications and other non-content functionality in your website in easier when you use a proxy content object to represent it.
A graphical look at all the different ways the Episerver admin interface can be customized. A good example of customization options you might want or need for your installation
When you have a “pure” crumbtrail – one that is based on a page’s position in the larger content geography and nothing – problems can result. It’s easier if you abstract this, and other navigation, away from the content structure.
There are a few things that CMS vendors do that make some systems very hard to develop with, including the confusion of content files with code files.
“I am not a fan of stored procedures. I really dislike them, in fact. I know they have a place, but, in general, they’re insanely over-used. Specifically, I do not believe in using stored procs to wrap…”
The term “metadata” is abused when it comes to web content management. In most cases, metadata does not actually exist apart from “first order” data, and thus the term has lost all relevancy.
Concepts of “the best CMS” are only valid in the face of actual requirements.
“I’m warning you in advance that this might sound ridiculous, but I think I’ve figured out the psychology of a bullet point. Face it, bullet points are attractive. People usually like to see them in…”
“I really loved this post from Rajesh Setty about why smart people don’t share their knowledge. He examined why some of the smartest people are so less likely to share their knowledge than other…”
When learning a new CMS, there are a set of core questions I ask of it. Vendors should concentrate on those questions and being able to provide quick wins for new adopters.
“Introducing The Dynamic Data Store : Episerver is shipping a handy new feature in CMS 6 which provides for data storage of…whatever. […] storing data in a database using Entity Framework or NHibernate…”
“Why do WYSIWYG editors suck at invisible, surrounding elements? I’m evaluating a design right now to quote a content management implementation. One of the elements involved arbitrarily shading an…”
“Intranet in the cloud : A nice rant about how more companies should host their intranets externally, rather than inside their own infrastructure. I was recently pressed on the subject of a ‘hosted…”
“Let us now praise metators : Tony Byrne succumbs to use of the word ‘metator.’ Metators are not just found among corporate web teams. Records managers have been dealing with metadata for decades. Now,…”
“Content Management Systems just don’t work. : This is an excellent post about something we’ve discussed before – is a ‘boxed’ CMS really worth it? For instance, in this excerpt, the author is…”
“I love my Kindle, but there’s one thing that’s…icky, about it. One thing that confirms all the background fear and dread I had about transitioning from actual paper to ebooks. The Kindle strips out…”
With structured content, concepts of “metadata” can be confusing and irrelevant.
“I’m just back from Web Content 2009, which I really enjoyed. It got me thinking a bit about conferences, and the value of going to them, especially in light of Scott Abel’s discussion of the trouble…”
“If you work with a development platform enough, you develop some weird, imagined relationship with the platform’s development team, even if you never meet them. In working with the fruits of their…”
“Just a quick rant here to say that companies need to be cognizant of source control and integration services when they design their software. When they ship their software – especially server-based…”
“The other day, I got to talking with an old colleague. We worked together in the IT department of a bank about eight years ago. Since then, we’ve both stayed in IT, and our conversation eventually…”
“How the E-Book Will Change the Way We Read and Write: this entire article is an interesting look into how e-books and Google’s digitization efforts will change how we read. But this section stuck out…”
As content moves “beyond the web page,” we need to start handling it in such a way that it lends itself better to multi-channel publishing.
In the platform vs. product debate, different people see different things. In order to successfully sell CMS, you have to understand how the prospect is looking at it.
Content management vendors like having partnerships with integrators. Here’s why it works (or doesn’t work) for either side.
“Last week, we discussed coding for tomorrow – the concept of writing code not for the current moment, but instead for the moment six months down the road when you have to crack that code back open and…”
Discussion of an example of content aggregation, or the ability to raw in content from disparate sources and present it as part of a unified system.
Getting content out of a system is just as imporant as putting it in – a truth that gets sadly neglected by a lot of CMS vendors.
“The more I program, the more I believe this statement: you’re not just programming for today, you’re programming for today and for six months from now when you crack the code open again to make a…”
A discussion of how an obsession with a certain form of CMS architecture can make us blind to alternative forms.
“I’m working with Drupal for the first time on a hobby project I’m doing with Seth Gottlieb (about which you’ll hear much more later…). Adam Kalsey – Drupal ninja that he is – is advising us on the…”
“There’s a common saying in business that ‘it takes three times more effort to get business from a new customer than from an existing customer.’ I believe that to be true, regardless of your industry….”
“I maintain that there are several different levels of ‘knowledge’ when it comes to being a developer and working with technology. Consider. Knowing that something can be done, and knowing exactly how…”
“We’re researching search options for a client this week, and I stumbled across this blog post which spoke volumes to me: Search is Easy, But Good Search is Hard So true. Search, in it’s most basic…”
Content management systems should include an API for filtering a bucket of content, obtained through any means
“I was having an email exchange with my friend Kevin Shoesmith. He knew I had been with the guys at silverorange, and he pointed out a blog post from Dan James earlier this summer, about how to grow a…”
“In Sioux Falls this summer, we had something of a scooter revolution. Scooters were everywhere. And I noticed something – some of the scooters were so big they rivaled the size of motorcycles. So, I…”
“So, I’ve been on Twitter for two weeks now, and I really enjoy it. I treat it as a smaller blogging platform really – I post things to Twitter that wouldn’t really be entitled to a full-blown blog…”
“LinkedIn: Answers: What’s the most important feature that you look for in a CMS?: A simple question posed on the LinkedIn. Some good answers, and worth reading for a CMS junkie. Excerpts: Community…”
“Content Management as a Practice: Seth has posted a follow-up to my blog post which expanded on a conversation he and I had in Chicago. Our conversation was about teaching content management as an…”
Content management should be treated as a practice, transcendent of any particular language or platform.
Some content management situations don’t require a full-blown CMS. Rather, they required “content-oriented” management of data, which integrates into a larger system.
“One of the things I struggled with in the redesign – and still haven’t completely figured out – is when it’s okay for some content to no longer be browsable. By ‘browsable,’ I mean ‘non-orphaned’ – a…”
“Is comprehensive-ness a point for, or a point against, a technical book? I used it think it was an advantage – the bigger, the better – but as I get busier and my company accelerates, it’s…”
“When you look at the usability of an entire Web site, I want to propose that there are five levels of it. From widest to narrowest, here is what I dub ‘The Five Rings of Usability’ (man, I love making…”
“I built an intranet for a client. One of the functional items is a viewer into an Exchange calendar. We use a handy third-party component to display the contents of an Exchange public folder on a…”
In any CMS implementation, you invariably end up with a generic “text page” other, more structured, pages. What is the dividing line between these pages, and how could it be more effectively handled?
“We have a client building a large, static site. The files in the site right now – in the middle of development – are named for their page ID on the content manifest: etc. We’re going through now and…”
Menuing and navigation in content management can be handled explicitly, where navigation is its own subsystem, or implicitly, where navigation is built based on the content structure. There are advantages and disadvantages to both.
“Here’s a fact: intranets don’t have to be crazy-complicated. Intranets are fundamentally about sharing simple information, which is not as hard as some people make it out to be. As simple as this is,…”
Handling structured, one-off pages in a CMS can be complicated. This is a discussion of two of the common patterns – composite pages and embeddable content – and the pros and cons of each.
“A few months ago, Google released Google Custom Search Business Edition, which is a way to use Google as the search engine on your own site, while having more control over the search results page….”
The decision of when to structure content or not can be subjective. This is an example of one such situation, and the pros and cons of the various methods.
All of the disciplines put under the “content management” moniker can actually be split into four distinct groups.
“At what point does a usability flaw become unethical? If a usability flaw continues to cause people to do something undesirable to them but very desirable to you – and you know this and don’t change…”
“J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, dropped a bombshell on fans this morning when she announced that Albus Dumbledore had been gay all along. This was also a bombshell to Wikipedia, for…”
“My loathing for ASP.Net has been well-known in these pages, but part of me has made peace with it. There are some things about ASP.Net that I very much like, and I promise I’ll post about them one…”
“Here’s something content management vendors need to understand about ‘scheduling’ and ‘expiring’ Web content. This is a common feature request, but users don’t always want to use it in the manner…”
A good CMS is built from the API out, not the interface in.
“I own the ‘big six’ Gadgetopia domains – com, net, org, info, biz, and us. Beyond that, I never bothered to get all the country domains, because how could you, really? There are so many of them. So, I…”
“One of the things we constantly struggle with at Blend is capacity. I’m very blessed to be able to say we have more work that we know what to do with. Every day, new deals just seem to fall from the…”
“Intranets: what staff really want: This is a really good survey from Gerry McGovern’s company that answers a pretty important question that I see a lot of confusion about: what should we put on our…”
“I believe in presentation logic, I really do. Call me a hack, but formatting logic mixed into your presentation code isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I started Web development in traditional ASP. And I…”
“Pay To Play: Fair Price for Good Community: Josh Clark nails another good post today as he discusses a new ‘communal bike rental’ program in Paris. For 29 euros a year, you can ‘check out’ a bike for…”
Comprehensive post discussing the most common features found in content management systems today.
Often, a binary file needs to be bound to a specific content item, and needs to “live” in the context of that item.
“I’ve been doing some reading lately on Design Patterns. I find myself trying to relate the examples to Web applications. One of the interesting ones is the State Pattern. This says that an application…”
The ability to organize content into trees consistent of parent-child relationshps is a core feature of content modeling, and resolves so many modeling patterns
“Here’s something that WYSIWYG editors don’t do well: paragraphs within list items. Like this (ironically, Markdown does it just fine): This is a paragraph. This is another one. This is another list…”
“The other day, I was reading the Wikipedia page on McMansions (via Kottke). It was extremely interesting, and it made a good point: The movement of the ‘atrium concept’ home layout from popularity to…”
“Why does ‘reading’ get confused with ‘surfing the Net’ so much? I’m struggling lately with the concept of a hobby, and why I don’t have one. It seems that everything I do is in some way connected with…”
“There’s an accepted theory in SEO: put keywords in your URLs. This is so accepted, that no one questions it and content management systems routinely have modules, extensions, and allowances for users…”
“Aaron Mentele is asking about posting practices for people who blog a lot. But while the first part of my prediction seems to be true, I can’t say the same about posting getting any easier. Deane…”
“I’m wondering if there’s any training to help users navigate text. The more I watch people work on a computer, the more I see that navigating text from the keyboard is a big time waster. I read a big…”
Some content management features are “out of the box,” while some are developed during integration. Which pattern is better than the other, and why?
“I’ve Never Met a Boxed CMS I Like: SitePoint has a brutally accurate post about CMSs and making them run actual Web sites. The first issue is that the very nature of a CMS is not easily boxable,…”
“Are there RSS feeds you can’t keep up with? I have a few that I just can’t stay on top of due to posting volume. A friend of mine called it ‘drinking from a fire hose.’ They are: DZone (yes, I know I…”
“Here’s something I believe to be true: intranet adoption is more a function of personal and corporate psychology than of technology. Put another way, the greatest technology in the world won’t help if…”
“I used a term with a colleague the other day – ‘masturbatory Web design’ – and he thought it was the funniest thing he’d ever heard. I use the term a lot, so I don’t think about it, but he thought it…”
Content management can do a lot, but there’s a lot that it won’t do, and you need to understand this before you implement. This is a reality check on the problems content management is not going to solve for you.
“I was having a conversation with a client the other day, and I articulated something I’ve felt for a long time, but have never really written down. There are three types of intranets. They’re very…”
“I built a shopping cart system the other day. It seemed at the time to be a ridiculous waste of resources – I mean, how many shopping carts are out there already? There are probably 500 open-source…”
“I want a masters in content management. Sadly, none exists. I have a bachelors in Government and International Affairs. I was going to be a lawyer, but I got into I.T. during my senior year in…”
“Here’s something not that shocking: the same amount of time spent on different Web development activities can yield vastly different productive results. Put another way: you can spend two hours on…”
“My church is building a huge new addition, and part of it is going to be a computer lab. This means that I’ll finally have a nice spot to teach some free computer classes, which is something I’ve…”
“When was your a-ha! moment about the Internet? Think back to the early days: can you remember a moment when you thought: Whoa, this thing may really take off? I was pondering this the other day, and I…”
“I was in Barnes and Noble tonight, and I noticed a few things. There were four books on the shelves having to do with Mambo and/or Joomla (I refuse to add the exclamation point). This is the first…”
Different content management systems publish content in different ways. This is a discussion of the three major patterns.
Not every CMS editor needs access to all CMS functionality, and often this access can be confusing. In many cases, to pays to “channel” the interface down to just the functionality a particular role needs to see.
By concentrating on the different “views” a content object may have, you can simplify your content templating considerably.
“Last year, I built a nice little Web site for my church pre-school. Go take a look – it’s really well-done, and has served the school well. (Look hard enough, and you might find my wife in there…”
“I love plugin architectures. Having a well-done method for people to extend your system is a huge, huge benefit that we’ve discussed and lauded in relation to Firefox and Movable Type. But, there’s a…”
Content modeling “inside” a single content object is generally quite simple. What’s trickier is content modeling between multiple content objects.
“Content management is a process. It starts when someone gets an idea in their head that they want to publish (or change) some content somewhere. It ends when that content is actually published. This…”
The interface you interact with when using your CMS is only part of the picture. You need to be concerned with the API that lies under that interface as well.
Theoretical functionality is all the things a CMS can do. Actual functionality is the stuff you’re actually going to use. There’s a big difference.
“Here’s something I’ve learned: when faced with a programming project, the worst thing you can do is start coding right away. Programming is not like building a house. When you build a house, a wall…”
“In any content management (or information management) system of sufficient complexity, you will have to interlink records. You will always get to the point where, in the process of editing a record,…”
“Lately, I’ve struck upon a new benchmark for usability: the extent to which the interface disappears. Let me explain – My wife drives a Honda Odyssey minivan. This is the Swiss Army Knife of minivans….”
Most content creators have a lack of basic formatting skills, making it difficult to have them create well-rendered content.
“Here’s another argument for CSS-based, table-less design that I haven’t heard before: by not using tables for layout, then you know that a table is, in fact, a table intended for the display of…”
“This weekend, I was struggling with a .Net / XML / XSLT problem. I’m not a big .Net guy, but I’ve been working with it for the last few months on a big project for Blend. Brian, from MyHomepoint has…”
“There’s a class of product that fits into a crappy pricing slot. It’s a slot where a purchaser isn’t going to make a purchase right away, because they’re going to have a lot of questions. But at the…”
“I read a great white paper on open-source content management last night called ‘Content Management Problems and Open Source Solutions.’ In it, the author examines several different scenarios and…”
Image handling in content management can be complicated, but the first step is abstracting the image that appears in your finished content from the file that it’s based on.
Content management system often deride static HTML. However, static files are necessary in some cases, and we discuss some patterns for integrating them into an otherwise content-managed site.
“I often give thought to the really unfortunate sales process involved with Web development. There’s so many variables involved with building a Web site, and so much of it is buried in the creative…”
“Can we finally admit that the FrontPage experiment has failed? You know – the promise that FrontPage will allow novice Web authors to create and maintain (especially maintain) good, solid Web sites?…”
“I really hate email forms, from a developer perspective. Meaning, I hate forms that just email something somewhere and then forget about it. The fact is that email is a horrifically dodgy medium to do…”
“I was browsing through Google Video last night (that’s where the Duron post came from), and I got to thinking that there’s so much good stuff in there, but there’s a bunch of crap too. And none of it…”
When you migrate content into your new CMS, you go through an awkward period much like building a house with no furniture in it. It pays to minimize this period by testing some furniture out as soon as possible.
“One of our clients has started working with some software that uses the MSDE – the Microsoft SQL Desktop Engine. This is a stripped down, black-box version of SQL Server for people that need a…”
Many smaller projects need a single table of managed data in an otherwise static website. What’s the best way to handle these situations?
“I’ve participated in a lot of online forums. The value of the information you get from them varies. Some of it is good, but you get a lot of cruft, especially from hit-and-runners – people who are…”
We tend to think of content management as being used to manage content that will be consumed by people outside our organization. However, it can be used for purely internal content as well.
This is an explanation of why just adding “custom fields” to a blogging platform doesn’t necessarily turn it into a CMS.
“Making A Better Open Source CMS, by Jeffrey Veen: This is a great article – a rant, really – about how much the author thinks the open-source CMS offerings just plain suck. He laments about a lot of…”
“I’m going to kill the individual entry comment RSS feeds. They’re not getting used much, and they mean double the files when we rebuild. With 4,600 entries, this becomes a problem. (Additionally,…”
“Someone (I don’t know who), said ‘Half of intelligence is knowing the answer. The other half is knowing where to find the answer.’ In today’s world, we all know how to find the answer. But has that…”
A CMS should be able to solve content-related problems without me having to write code to support it.
There needs to be a way to reconcile content management and static HTML.
“The big limitation of Web apps is that you’re at the mercy of the user’s browser. It may behave like you want it to, or it may not, but there’s no doubt that it limits how complicated and functional a…”
“I don’t want to talk about personal productivity too much, because there are other sites who do it better (warning: shameless inter-FM network plug). However, I’ve found a simple thing that helps…”
“I have a friend who programs in .Net (I referred to him in a prior post). We’ll call him ‘Trevor.’ Trevor and I have epic arguments about the superiority of our chosen platforms. I use open-source,…”
“I’ve been monitoring the 404s on this site. I changed our URL pattern a while back, so I have a page that catches all the 404 and resolves the old pattern against the new one, then redirects. Anything…”
“Do you put more value on information you pay for? Do you pay more attention to something you paid, say $5 for, than something you read for free on the Net? A friend and I were having this conversation…”
Disparate content ideas need to be drawn together into a cohesive whole through topic pages.
“A friend and I were talking tonight about the perils of setting up a Web community to compliment a real-world community. For instance, a community Web site for your church, or for your neighborhood –…”
“I’ve spent some time today playing with Squarespace, since their ads kept appearing my AdSense. While I try not to get too excited about new things (lest my head explode), I’m going to venture a…”
“Blogging systems have always confused ‘posts’ and ‘pages.’ We’ve talked about this before: what is the difference between a time-sensitive ‘post’ and an ‘eternal’ page? At what point does a ‘post’ get…”
“One thing that continues to amaze me is how poorly people use Microsoft Word, considering its dominance in business word processing. The ‘barrier to entry’ for a Word user is extremely low – just open…”
“The legendary Fabian Pascal showed up yesterday to tell us all that we were stupid over in the relational data model post. Specifically, his comment was: None of you know the relational model, which…”
“Is the relational model of data storage the best, most efficient way to store data? I’m talking about the traditional database model of tables, fields, row, foreign keys, etc. What are the other ways?…”
“This is going to seem obvious, but I hit on something today about Ajax. I knew this in the back of my head, but it jumped to the front today – Ajax can do a lot, but the most simple and powerful thing…”
“At one point or another, all content management systems (CMS) come down to some kind of datatype. You have to be able to set a field to a string, or an integer, or whatever, and then enforce and…”
A case study example on the seperation of content and presentation channels.
“A while back, I mentioned the concept of a ‘content tree’ in regards to content management. I cited this as a ‘functional pattern’ and promised to talk about it more, but I never did. So, here goes –…”
CMS don’t need to have an intimate knowledge of the content they’re managing. Rather, they just need to know that they’re managing content in general, and leave the specifics to the implementation.
“I’ve been working with Rails for a few weeks now and it’s making ‘install’ vs. ‘build’ decisions much harder – (We interrupt this post to get two things out of the way: Yes, Rails is as good as…”
Tagging is simply categorization under a different name with a simpler interface.
“I played with the Movable Type Tags plugin tonight. It was…almost a great thing. I can see where it would work well for a lot of things, but ultimately, I uninstalled it. The tag concept is actually…”
“What do you do with category archives when you get too many posts? That’s what I can’t quite figure out what to do with this site. We have over 4,000 posts. This means that I have categories with 500…”
“I changed the URL scheme of this Web site over the weekend. I had been meaning to do it for a while, but some problems with Movable Type 3.2 kind of forced the issue. (I have got to stop rushing into…”
“Applications have patterns – ways of doing things that have stood the test of time. These aren’t object modeling patterns, about which books and books have been written, these are…best practices for…”
An intelligent URL scheme has usability and technical benefits.
Tagging invariably leads to problems with standardization and hierarchical classification. A tagging structure can slowly morph into a taxonomy, with the same inherent problems.
“Is it just me, or does RSS suck all the mystery and joy out of the Web? Does it make the whole concept of ‘surfing the Web’ just a little more disappointing than it used to be? Once or twice during…”
“I’m reading David Allen’s book ‘Getting Things Done.’ I’m not a total convert yet, but I am planning to read it a second time. It’s got a lot of good information. One of the things the book has forced…”
“When you’re building a big Web app, oftentimes you get to a point when you need to run some asynchronous batch process. You need to do something at, say, 2 a.m. that doesn’t involve a request from a…”
“Here’s something I’ve learned over the years: when modeling data to build a database, be very careful what fields you decide to include. Don’t throw in extraneous fields just because ‘someone might…”
“The idea of ‘tagging’ content is suddenly everywhere. With Flickr and del.icio.us and Technorati embracing the concept of tags, suddenly it’s getting some broad acceptance. But what are ‘tags’? At the…”
“I was reading today about how Wikipedia is going to release a CD or DVD of all its content. Very cool idea. This got me reminiscing about ‘The Golden Age of CD-ROMs.’ Remember when CD-ROMs were the…”
“I’m curious what effect Ajax will have on usability. With this technique, the unspoken nature of Web apps is changing, and apps using Ajax will likely do things that users don’t expect. When I first…”
“I’ve been spending some time working with Smarty lately. This is ostensibly a ‘templating language’ for PHP. But I think it goes beyond that. I assert that Smarty has become a sub-language all by…”
I get irrationally stressed out about querystring arguments. Here’s why.
“Here are two things that cut so many good ideas off at the knees. These two factors are the two biggest things that stop good ideas from getting implemented and make programmers pause when they should…”
“Here’s something that plagues organizations and their Web sites: knowing what information should be published to their readers and having the willingness to publish that information. I don’t think a…”
“I’m interested in finding a nice, lightweight, WYSIWYG HTML editor for use by non-developers. In this scenario, as I’m sure you know, is not having too little functionality, but having too much. I…”
“Joe and I have been working with eZ publish for the last few months. It is, without a doubt, the best content management system I’ve ever used. I got more done in one week with eZ publish than I did…”
Structured gaming and development probably have a high correlation. Do they involve the same thought processes?
“A trend I’ve been seeing lately is distribution of print publications in ‘reader’ software thats presents them just as they were printed. This goes beyond just PDF – entire magazines and newspapers…”
“I have a new rule of thumb for Web development: the 90-50 rule. This rule comes into effect when you get 90% done with a project…and only have 50% left to do. The details are what kill you, and they…”
“My company just bought Small Business Server 2003, and a copy of FrontPage 2003 was included, so I’ve been playing around with it for the last week. Overall, a huge improvement over previous versions…”
“Today in the sky: Here’s another interesting example of a USA Today blog. It’s about air travel, of all things. Ben Mutzabaugh posts at least a dozen things a day about airlines. He seems awfully well…”
“Here’s a handy feature for a database… Tables can have primary keys, but what about a database-wide primary key? When a row is inserted, the ‘id’ field would be populated with a numeric key that’s…”
“It struck me last night that there are two models of RSS aggregation: ‘real-time’ and ‘stored’ (yes, I just made those two terms up…). Real-time are aggregators like Mozilla’s Sage extension. This…”
“Say you put together a nice, static site for a client. There’s a lot of CSS, a fair amount of scripting (in whatever language – we’ll assume PHP here), a handful of images, and a lot of HTML. The…”
“Hurricane Ivan – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: Wikipedia coverage of Hurricane Ivan is just phenomenal. They have hotlinked satellite images, all the latest announcement and statistics, links to…”
“You ever get sentimental over an old computer? One that you just can’t throw away? Back in 1998, I worked part-time at Best Buy so Annie and I could pay cash for our wedding the next summer. That…”
“Is there a point to ‘catchall’ email addresses anymore? You know, those addresses where mis-addressed email to your domain gets routed? Let me explain – I was having some email trouble this morning….”
When content can be assigned to more than one taxonomy node presents a logical crumbtrail issue.
In a non-versioning system (CMS or otherwise), user interface bugs can lead to data loss more easily than you think.
You don’t have to display content in the same architecture in which you manage it.
“As I become a more experienced developer, I’m learning when you should and shouldn’t break the rules. While following every rule of programming and data modeling is wonderful, sometimes you need to…”
“I worked on improving the search on this site today. Search has been through a number of iterations. First, I used the basic Movable Type search. But it was slow and I wanted to do some interesting…”
“Web apps are great, but they have interface problems. A Web-based interface is just never going to be as rich as a traditional client-server app. Spolsky alluded to this in a post I made yesterday….”
“Yesterday, I wanted to buy a stock image from Corbis to use in a Web site I’m developing. It was a standard hi-res image of a man standing in front of a building reading a newspaper. This should have…”
“Some time ago, my company was maintaining information in an Access database that we also wanted to use as Web content. We were on a Windows host at the time, so we just FTPed the database up to the…”
“I hate it when people call me on the phone. I’d much rather they use email. I got to wondering why this was so the other day, and here goes: Email is quicker. I’m at my computer anyway, so I don’t…”
A CMS that interferes too much with the display and rendering of content can drive you nuts.
When something breaks, does it leave a door open or closed?
“Thoughts on Content Management: This guy and I think alike. In the beginning of the article he touches on the same things I talked about when I compared open and closed content management systems….”
“Perls of wisdom in a sea of site mismanagement: As I work with content management more and more, I believe more and more in what this guy has written: …the vendors’ ideal of a generic site-management…”
“Content Management vs. Unstructured, Flat HTML Pages: This article tries to make the point that content management is for everyone. It’s a comparison of using a CMS against using simple HTML. So how…”
“I find myself in a constant struggle between accepting Movable Type for what it is, and working to extend it. There are a few cases where I want to do interesting things with entries, but I don’t want…”
“Rob left a comment on a previous entry about the site Pocket PC Thoughts. This site is doing something I’ve been thinking about for a while: running a blog-type site off of discussion board software….”
Content can be temporal or permanent. Which type it is has impact on how it’s handled.
We have enough platforms and enough technology. Let’s use what we have to build things.
“As you get more and more entries in a blog, how to you ensure people can find what they’re looking for? Blogs are very front page-centric – unless you’re watching the front page everyday, browsing the…”
“An order from BarnesAndNoble.com wasn’t delivered after 10 days, so yesterday I went to their site to find out why. I found a customer service form, and submitted it with my name, email, order number,…”
“A couple of years ago, I was trolling for Web design clients and I found a site that looked a little dated and that could use some help. So I sent the owner an email which was unintentionally a little…”
When it comes to RSS, many people think that content usability just doesn’t matter anymore.
“That post I made about attribution got me thinking about the format and content of blog postings. The way I see it, there are basically three types of postings. Original Content, No Target: This is…”
“Here’s a thought: there’s big money in collaboration apps. Not building new ones, but instead training and motivating people to use the ones they have. Is this a problem in your office? You get…”
“Here’s a request for all software developers building software that does batch processing: PDFMoto, Movable Type – any program that ‘re-publishes’ as a single event. Include functionality to allow me…”
“I’ve started reading e-books, and I think I’m addicted. I read a book last year called ‘The Social Life of Information’ which put forth all sorts of reasons why e-books weren’t going to work. I agreed…”
An absurd analogy: content management is like a marriage in so many ways.
“I was doing something for my church last night when I came face-to-face with ADO’s great support for extracting data from Excel files. So I got to thinking…how about Excel as a content storage system?…”
“On Managing Content and Content Management Systems (CMS): This guy makes a great point here: I have yet to see one [CMS] that is anywhere worth the amount of money and time needed to get it into place…”
Gadgetopia struggled for years with IA and content organization. This post is a good representation of how I was trying to think through the problem.
“How about Microsoft Access as a client-side content management tool? After playing around with Radio UserLand and CityDesk, I’m finding more and more utility in a client-side apps. They’re responsive,…”
Different CMS allow you to define your content in different ways.
Managing content is hard. Templating it is not. Which side of the equation is delivering the value?
“I got to thinking today that the four major news Web sites offer four graduated levels of content access: CNN, Anonymous access: Just about everything at CNN.com is free (with the exception of some…”
“This whole Aestiva thing has got me thinking about development platforms. Every week, there’s a new one that claims to be simpler and faster than the last one. ASP is simpler than JSP, PHP is more…”
“One of the continuing quandaries I’ve had with XML is the management of multiple XML documents. If I have one, big XML document, then it’s easy to work with – to parse with an API, to transform with…”
“Web design and development isn’t a perfect science – there are no absolutes. You can take a stand on how something should be done, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily going to work that way. I…”
“My buddy Rob and I were talking the other day about top-down vs. bottom-up enterprise architectures. My last company attempted to implement a top-down architecture, where every system was planned out…”
“HTML provides formatting tags for headings, so why don’t we use them? H1, H2, H3…you wouldn’t believe how often designers re-invent the wheel by enclosing headings in DIV tags with stylesheets classes…”
“I’ve always been a big believer in legible URLs. There’s nothing more annoying than a URL that stretches into hundreds of characters – ever tried to email one of those to a mail client that wraps at…”
“One of the upcoming goals I have for DeaneBarker.net is an RSS channel. RSS stands for ‘Really Simple Syndication’ (or ‘Rich Site Summary,’ depending on who you ask) and is a way for other programs…”
“Web developers want one thing: control. HTML is such an imprecise language that building Web pages has continually been a struggle between what we want to do and what the language is capable of. As a…”
“The Gutenberg Project: Gutenberg has been around since the Internet was very, very young – the Web wasn’t even born yet. It’s an effort to catalog as many free books and texts as possible. Gutenberg…”