Russ Lipton Documents Radio
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What Is Content Management?

This is the very (very) short course. Content management fills up entire college course curricula. It is an entire industry niche within the broader domain of the computer industry. Okay?

Organizing Tools

Content management takes the first generation of web development tools further by providing us with ways to store, index, search, retrieve and .... organize .... an ever growing collection of disparate items. These items may be texts, links, graphics, audio clips, scripts or anything else that can be categorized rationally and stored on a computer for display on the Web. Think instant messages or even instant outlines ...

Userland has long been a pioneer in this area. Frontier was one of the first content management systems. The word 'system' here suggests, rightly, that a particular product has been designed from the ground up to support content management. Almost every web development product today uses the words 'content management' as a marketing device. Alas, there is a big difference between pasting on a few content management features and giving us a content management system.

Content management doesn't matter very much if we post irregularly or occasionally to our weblog. This makes sense. It isn't very difficult to manage a few dozen weblog posts, a handful of stories or a few images. We like to say that we can 'keep that in our head' and correctly so. Our brain functions as the sole content management system.

What About Knowledge Management?

Content management becomes increasingly critical as the amount of content grows.

Consider a weblog with hundreds of daily weblog posts, dozens or hundreds of stories and hundreds or thousands of images. Also consider the many links to external Internet sites that may be of interest to you. Finally, think about managing the outside-in flow of posts to which you are subscribed in Radio's News Aggregator.

While 'knowledge management' is too often just another marketing buzz word, the term points to our emerging need for next-generation content management systems. These must not only enable us to manage our own writing but collaboratively manage our learning-knowing with others in our family, civic and corporate communities.

Radio can't lay legitimate claim to such a mantle but Userland hasn't presumed to do so. Radio does inherit nearly all of Frontier's content management functionality. Since Radio costs $39.95 and Frontier $899, this offers what most of us would judge a 'steal'.

Where Radio differs from Frontier is that Radio's user interface has been designed with a strict focus on end-users. End-users (like me) are very smart people but we are not necessarily smart about computing. To the consternation of software developers, we find most of the things that excite them rather boring.

Userland is doing its utmost to package Frontier's content management features in sugar so the medicine goes down easy.

Content Management: Let Me Count The Ways

Are you ready to take your medicine? I mean, candy? Let me take you on a quick tour of Radio's content management work on our behalf ...

... distinguishing posts from stories (or how would you like it if you couldn't separate improvisional writing from more meditative pieces)?

... themes and templates so that the same content can be poured through any number of designs without having to be rewritten or associated directly to a design.

... local compared to external publishing (upstreaming) so we can experiment with texts, designs or anything else within our weblog before we release those changes to the wider world.

... an optional browser-based editor so we can create our work within the same tool that publishes it (not to mention consistent editing areas for posts, stories and shortcuts).

... capability for Userland or other developers to create additional tools that are easily dropped into our Radio user interface without requiring us to learn another product or requiring Userland to reorganize the interface and reship the product.

... shortcuts so we can assign texts (or other content types) to a name. Then, we can use the name in a post or story and Radio will automatically match the name to its longer text ... and display that text in our weblog.

... a single location within our weblog where we can receive, read and manage content received from other weblogs or websites around the Internet (news aggregation).

... categories which can be used both to organize our own content (for our own eyes) as well as for publishing different sections of a single weblog publicly or publishing multiple weblogs to different Internet servers.

That is just a partial list. It is a list which doesn't cover the many content management features available to the hardier among us within Radio's core desktop application.

Go Forth and Manage

Content management systems can never be a magic bullet. The only one who can manage my own content is ... me. To do that, I need to understand what it is that I need to know, wish to know and want to communicate with you.

The features described above can be pushed-and-pulled by you in a surprising variety of ways, perhaps without you realizing it. I am not talking about pushing Radio in directions for which it was not designed. Quite the opposite. Rather ...

... how can you title your weblog posts sensibly?

... decide how many categories you need and where their content should be targeted?

... determine how many shortcuts really do make for lighter work?

... and so it goes.

Content management is not so squishy that it means whatever a marketing director wishes it to mean. But it is dynamically dependent on the interface between Userland and us. As that interface becomes more intelligent, we can begin to hope for something resembling knowledge management systems to supersede content management systems.


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Copyright 2002 © Russ Lipton.
Last update: 4/9/02; 8:11:09 PM.
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