Information System

Who really defines what is a CMS?

Who really defines what is a CMS?

You do.

I'm more convinced than ever that CMS experts aren't really in the driver's seat when defining the content management system. Experts in the field of content management are more or less observant passengers that are there to help you not get lost and to point out the significant landmarks on the way. This journey takes you to places while you the customer remain in the driver seat with all the privileges and responsibilities of being the driver.

Over the past few years I've realized that my work preference is to keep things as simple as possible. Sometimes when defining information systems keeping things simple works while other times the system is new and remains too complicated to define. Thanks to my reply in a productive rant against CMS by Laurence Hart I'm not only understanding my aversion to being called a CMS expert but also my philosophy and role in defining what is a CMS. This personal philosophy is developing...

Scott Abel convinced me a few years ago on my own blog that the definition of a CMS is never static and always changing. We’re chasing our own tail when we get nit picky in our definitions of a CMS. Somewhere in all the marketing that has been done for terms such as CMS, ECM, and WCM…we have forgotten the difference between information system and information technology.

When WCM is no longer fun

This week, I spent a lot of time in various discussions on the negatives of Web content management systems (WCM). For all the excitement us CMS enthusiasts have for WCM, there is also associated frustration that threatens to dampen our spirit and kill the mission.

Clearing the weeds in taxonomy

A number of content management systems allow for data to be classified using taxonomy (sometimes called categories or tags in a CMS).  Most of us that use CMS and taxonomy aren't experts in how best to structure our vocabulary and usually end up with a mess of terms.  In the end, we have a mess on our hand and wonder how best we should approach cleaning up the terms we're using.

A blog post by Lars Trieloff, The Art of Mining a Folksonomy, gives some great suggestions for cleaning up your taxonomy.  The post was written for the Day's CQ5 CMS, but should be of use to almost any CMS user with taxonomy.

The problem is bigger than SharePoint

Last week, Socialtext's Eugene Lee forwarded a link on Twitter with SharePoint as the focus of the article.  The SharePoint article is titled, SharePoint 2007: Gateway Drug to Enterprise Social Tools and the author discusses the frustration enterprises and site developers have with the Microsoft product.  There is some truth in the article as I've heard from many people discussing their concerns about SharePoint lacking quality Enterprise 2.0 features or causing vendor lock for their organization.  However, the article borders slightly on the side of a rant on SharePoint and I've allowed it remain in a tab on my browser for quite awhile while I pondered what I wanted to take from the article.

I think the frustrations the author describes about SharePoint isn't a SharePoint problem.  And the author describes the issue very well without recognizing it's just not SharePoint that drives organizations crazy.

SharePoint does some things rather well, but it is not a great tool (or even passable tool) for broad social interaction inside enterprise related to the focus of Enterprise 2.0. SharePoint works well for organization prescribed groups that live in hierarchies and are focussed on strict processes and defined sign-offs. Most organization have a need for a tool that does what SharePoint does well.

This older, prescribed category of enterprise tool needs is where we have been in the past, but this is not where organizations are moving to and trying to get to with Enterprise 2.0 mindsets and tools. The new approach is toward embracing the shift toward horizontal organizations, open sharing, self-organizing groups around subjects that matter to individuals as well as the organization. These new approaches are filling gaps that have long existed and need resolution.

The problems identified with SharePoint can easily be said about many enterprise applications out there.  Many of the enterprise suites provided to the market traditionally offered turn-key solutions in an effort to deliver a single integrated solution for the customer.  These integrated suites can and do create "vendor lock" but that isn't the sole goal of enterprise products being delivered by such companies as Microsoft, IBM, and Oracle.  The customers asked for efficient and effective enterprise solutions and the big software companies responded by providing the expected tightly controlled software platforms (historically a good thing) along with terms of licensing, predictable pricing, training, and infrastructure support.

Judging five most promising Content Management Systems

This year, I was given the privilege of sitting on the judging panel for Packt Publishing's 2008 Most Promising Open Source CMS Award.  Judges on the panel were required to select their top three CMS based on a number of factors including performance, usability, accessibility, ease of configuration and customization, scalability and security.  These top three CMS were to originate from the five finalists in the most promising category which included: CMS Made Simple, ImpressCMS, MemHT Portal, MiaCMS, and SilverStripe.

As I promised earlier, I'm posting online my notes and comments on how I ranked all five finalists in the most promising category.  For better or for worse, Packt Publishing also gives their judges a lot of flexibility in how they rank a CMS.  While I wouldn't consider this a complete analysis of the CMS, it should provide enough information on the impression each CMS left me when reviewed.  While the methodology for determining the best CMS may be subjective, I do try to design my ranking of the CMS to be fair and non-biased.

The order in which I ranked the top "most promising" CMS were:

  1. SilverStripe (my highest ranked)
  2. ImpressCMS
  3. CMS Made Simple
  4. MiaCMS
  5. MemHT Portal (my lowest ranked)

In order to come with the above rank, I chose to use factors such as performance, usability, accessibility, ease of configuration, ease of customization, scalability, the the amount of support/documentation offered through the project's site/infrastructure.  I did not use security as a factor in my ranking.  Since the CMS must be less than two years old to qualify in the most promising category, it seemed unfair to rank these CMS by security since by definition they're not fully matured projects.

Social Publishing Systems to topple the CMS?

You and I have a dirty little secret. Many of the Web applications that we call content management systems (Web CMS) are not really content management systems. Huh? A lot of this confusion stems from the difficulty most of us have in answering what should be a simple question, what is a content management system? Scott Abel, The Content Wranger, has noted in previous comments that one of the problems in discussions about content management is that we really lack a common definition of CMS.

Is the term CMS holding you back?

Jeff WhatCott, Acquia, asked some important and thought provoking questions on his blog, "A Dormant Drupal Opportunity". While the post focuses on Drupal, I think the contents of his post can apply to almost any content management system (CMS) out there.

In the article, Jeff asks whether defining Drupal as a CMS does more harm than good in describing the scope of features Drupal has to offer. In his words, the term CMS is a "20th century term that completely undersells what Drupal is capable of" as social software and a means for collaboration. Considering I really didn't understand what a CMS was until the 21st century, I beg to differ that the term CMS is as ancient as he makes it sound. However, he is entirely correct...many of today's Web applications that we call a CMS, really are not just a CMS.

Jeff asks three questions in his post:

  1. Do you think we should put the CMS term to bed?
  2. Would it be possible to grab some of that team collaboration social software market opportunity for the Drupal community?
  3. Why isn’t there already a billion dollar Drupal services ecosystem for team collaboration? What’s missing?

While I appreciate comments here, please be sure to go over to Jeff's post and respond there too. In fact, if you only want to comment at one site...go there so we don't steal any of Jeff's "thunder". I've already made my comments at his site and I've attached my response to the above questions below.

Judging CMSs and a Brief Update

Packt Publishing recently asked me to be a judge for their Open Source Content Management System Award. You can find a brief bio and mug shot of me on their judges page.

For my non-IT friends, content management systems are basically software applications you place on the Internet server that are quickly replacing the old "flat file" format. For example, I use a CMS to blog about CMS as well as this site. Yea, my website needs some work done to it...perhaps when cold weather returns to South Dakota. Despite what you might think from the bio, I'm still with the National Weather Service and currently don't have the time or resources to make my "side business" in information technology anything more than a hobby. If IT positions were ever "downsized" in the NWS, though I know exactly what I would be doing for work.

Discussing CMS requirements, file handling, and document management

Recently, I read some good posts regarding content management systems (CMS) on a few blogs I visit almost daily.  The posts have had me thinking and reflecting in general about CMS.  However, I won't talk too much about them so you get a chance to go on and read the articles yourself.  The first post comes from OpenSourceCommunity.org and the second post from Gadgetopia.