Wednesday, September 15, 2010

iTunes and Content Management in Consumer Applications

Many people these days gush about how awesome their experience is in the consumer space while they complain about the dreaded experience in the enterprise. And content management is one of those enterprise applications with bad reputation. What many do not realize, though, is that most of what we do in the consumer space is content management. Yes, indeed. We edit and share pictures and videos, we rip music onto our iPods, we publish blogs and microblogs and we collaborate and network with each other. All these activities deal with content – text, audio, video, and social media. We just never call it content management as that would make it sound like work. But the reality is that this is exactly the same thing that content management is trying to do in the enterprise. The main difference is that the content is jointly created and consumed by multiple users.

The consumer space also gives us appreciation for some of the difficulties related to ECM. One of the key challenges of ECM is to get good metadata attached to content. What, you don’t care about metadata? Oh yes, you do! Take your iTunes library, for example. All those names of songs, albums, and artists are metadata which allows you to organize your library and to make it useable. When you first import your songs into iTunes, you are likely to see a lot of mess. The names of songs or artists are missing and you comprehend the value of metadata very quickly. And so you spend hours cleaning it up to make sure that it is organized the way you want it. Without keeping your metadata clean, your iTunes library can quickly become a mess again which would severally limit its usefulness. And the same is true for your pictures, videos, or documents.
It's all about metadata.

The issues are the same in the enterprise, except that now we have to coordinate many people to agree on the metadata consistently. And that’s a big challenge. You know how you sometimes have to decide to organize your pictures by date, by location or by event? Well, not everyone will make the same call and with hundreds or thousands of users, the inconsistencies can become significant. To avoid the mess in the enterprise, you need a taxonomy. But that sounds like a boring kind of enterprise software that is so much less cool than the software at home. And yet, the management of content in consumer applications is very similar to enterprise content management. Well, perhaps ECM does handle a tad more complex problems…

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