Why I Am a Content Management Professional

Posted on August 29, 2013

Here’s a core question: what is content?

Yeah, I went there.

Seriously, what is content? This thing we manage and that has strategy and that we migrate and that we edit...what is it?

How is it different than...information? Or...data? Why is managing it any different than managing those other things? To what extent is content its own...thing?

This blog post is not a definitive answer. This is a proposal – an offering, if you will. It’s not possible to come up with a single definition that will encompass every eventuality, but for the last few years, I’ve been tossing this one around in my head:

Content is information created for human consumption which is subject to editorial processes.

The key there is “editorial processes.” These are the human activities that define the content lifecycle – things like organization, creation, editing, permissions, workflow, archival, and personalization. If we accept the definition of the word “edit” to mean “alter” or “improve,” then these are the processes that alter information in some way with the intention of improving its effectiveness for a human consumer.

I’m hesitant to test this definition against examples, because we could get lost in the gaps forever, but here are a few –

Why should we even care about this? How is this not pointless navel-gazing?

Because there’s a fine, subtle line between content and information, and that line deeply influences and divides the practitioner community. The content management community is so diverse that it’s hard to draw some common thread out of it, and it consequently scatters.  In general, the content management community does not identify as a group, which is sad.

I’m also a developer, a DBA, a front-end designer...so, why am I so hung up on the “content” part of my job? How am I any different that a corporate developer writing middleware for some insurance company estimation engine? What unites us as an industry? What common thread can we use to form a collective industrial identity?

I use my professional skills primarily to manage human-centric information and the editorial processes around it. All of my skills are ultimately used for the advancement of this goal.

For this reason, I identify as a content management professional and practitioner, above all other categories and overlaps.

I hope some of you share this identity with me.

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