Mat Newman February 26 2010 02:00:00There's an old saying: "Content is King".
One of the hardest concepts as an educator and consultant that I have to explain is the different between CONTENT and PRESENTATION.
I remember my last WCM course, where hardly a lab passed without me having to remind participants that the "Presentation Layer" controls the appearance, while "content" was just that. Content. Re-enforcing with people that they SOULDN'T embed presentation elements within their content - due to the fact that future modifications to presentation layer could make the content look ugly or worse, break - was a concept that eventually sank in.
I'm going through a lot of pain with a customer at the moment who has learnt that concept the hard way. The customer outsourced their web site for a while to a company that used a "Content Management System". When the bills started getting larger than the customer thought they should be, they brought the content back in-house so they could more easily (and for a lower cost) manage it. The problem was, the "Content Management System" used embedded vendor-specific tags within the content to control presentation. The customer has spent literally hours now removing those "presentation" tags out of the content and re-formatting it.
What's the lesson there?
Make sure you have a great content management system, and make sure your content management system doesn't get confused between managing content and presenting content.
I'm writing about this topic because of a post from Mitch Cohen, who wrote earlier today about the "...future of Domino as a blogging platform.". It got me thinking.
There is no argument that there are many web-based tools out there now capable of running a great blog site. In fact, Mitch's content was actually posted through at least two mediums (that I know of); His Domino based blog and Facebook.
While web-based tools offer many great features, the one thing that leaves me cold about them is how transportable my content is. Not to mention the format of the content itself.
How many sites allow you to click a button and transfer your content to another site, or even export it to a local file of some description? Ok, there are tools that might allow you to extract your data, but then you have to parse it into another format, or translate the XML or whatever, in order to put it somewhere else.
One vendor doesn't even provide you with tools to easily transfer content within their own system. My youngest daughters 1st grade teacher was also her teacher last year. The teacher wanted to move some of the content from last year's "Site" (no - not the entire site, I know you can do that!) into the Site prepared for this year's class. The teacher looked at me blankly when I asked whether the sites were based on the same template, and whether the teacher had "Manage Lists rights" in both sites. I lost the teacher after the part about creating a new web folder and using the explorer to ...
I'm only going to give you 1 guess for which vendor has locked in our local education department.
My own Presentation/Content history:
A few years ago I was building my company's new web-site (as an inquisitive guy, I was playing with InterNotes - remember that?) and translated my Ami-Pro documents into Notes rich text fields to publish my course outlines on the World-Wide-Web. I remember being really excited at the time, because one of the problems I had with my outlines being in Ami-Pro format was that hardly anyone used it. Wordperfect was still around (just!), but Microsoft Word had become pervasive within the office environment. I spent a lot of time opening files, saving them into different formats and emailing/faxing them to potential customers and participants. Yes faxing them. Remember that?
The thing that excited me most about getting my content OUT of Ami-Pro was that I could add fields to the record in the Notes database to help me group, sort and filter my course outlines. I no longer had to make sure my file-names aptly described the document in 8 characters or less, or manage a multitude of folders to group similar documents together. Remember - we're talking Windows for Workgroups here folks, no 255 character file-names in those days!
Comparing the concepts in the above scenario to Document Management!
The definition of document management (according to wikipedia) is: " ... a computer system (or set of computer programs) used to track and store electronic documents and/or images ..."
The simple fact is, all a document management system does is to flag content with meta-data (ie: additional fields or properties) to enable users to group, sort and filter their content and (hopefully) search it.
So all document management really does is allow you to effectively manage content because the software that originated the content doesn't provide you with effective tools to do that in the first place.
No wonder it's called an "Office System". You have to have all the components in place, otherwise the "system" breaks.
Enter Notes and Domino.
Content is content. Effective management of content is the ability to flag content with additional meta-data that enables you to sort, group, filter and search effectively.
Presentation of that content should enable virtually anyone to review it, using whatever format or tool they desire.
And that's what Notes and Domino is all about!
Notes IS a document-based data management system with inherent mail and scheduling functionality, enterprise level security and the ability to present the content stored within the system to both proprietary and standards based clients.
If you "get" the power of that last statement, you "get" Lotus Notes.
The content that I created over 15 years ago that originated in Ami-pro is still available in my web-site database. You could access that information via http, nntp, pop3, imap, xml, rss, corba, odbc, soap, ajax and of course, through Notes WITHOUT modifying or re-saving the content in ANY WAY. Presentation of that content is controlled through the Domino server, or by the consuming client. The fact that I can take that content and change it's presentation simply by modifying a single design element is mind-blowing!
In addition; that Notes lets me sort, group, filter and search my content with such ease is one of Notes/Domino's strongest features.
And when something "new" comes along like an "i-anything" I don't have to modify my content in any way to cater for that device, I just create a new presentation element.
Finally: I can manage my content from anywhere - without being connected to any network - safe in the knowledge that the next time I connect Notes will replicate and synchronise all of my content without me doing anything.
I don't want to have 15 different programs and servers running as a "system" to enable me to do the same thing I can accomplish with a Notes client and a Domino server. I'm lazy. Just give me one tool that does the lot!
It's for all of these reasons that I've been a Lotus advocate for 15 years, and why I trust my content to the ULTIMATE Content Management System ... Notes!