cms, Enterprise CMS, Enterprise Content Management, Web CMS, Web Content Management

Top 10 CMS Stories in 2009

10No year-end predictions, no resolutions. Not even debating the acronyms. Just simple numbers: the top 10 most trafficked posts in 2009 on this blog:

The post was inspired by several years of being an SDL Tridion customer, when the company was Tridion and the product was R5.x.

The Motley Crew’s collaborative Google Wave post, a riot, really, about all things CMS we collectively umm.. dislike. Ah, the power of putting several great minds into one wave ūüėČ

Step-by-step guide on how to develop (and advertise) bad taste in writing CMS marketing materials, including white papers. ‘Nuf said.

Long before Interwoven’s fate moved from acquisition intent to the ranks of a done deal, there were indications of changes and “cost savings” coming.

Still giggle every time I think of that morning.

The first big acquisition of 2009 set some folks, including me, into the pondering mode about Interwoven‚Äôs future. Since then the dust settled, some people left, products were Autonomy-zed to some degree, but it’s still fun to look at initial reactions and crystal ball gazings.

CQ5 marked the end of a 3-year-long silence from Basel and Day not Communiqué-ting much aside from a couple of point releases. The world was agonizing in anticipation of what the R&D-focused vendor came up with. I got a chance to install the product and poke around.

Just like in marriage, the expense doesn’t stop at a Vera Wang dress. Or, even earlier, at a short-list.

About this time last year, Vignette let some of its people go (was it à la Moses act of freeing?) in preps for prettifying itself for the Open Text acquisition.

This one is only vaguely CMS-related, infectious as all memes, yet curable. The real #1 of this top 10 list was actually the about me page. Go figure.

cms, Enterprise CMS, Enterprise Content Management, Web CMS, Web Content Management

Things We Hate About Content Mgmt

things we hate about cm
By The Motley Crew (== Jon Marks, Adriaan Bloem, Irina Guseva, Ian Truscott, Justin Cormack, Andrew Liles, The Spirit of Philippe Parker)

It was a lovely Friday morning/afternoon, and we were Waving. The experiment initiated by McBoof (yes, that one) brought together 6 CMS folks from around the world. The event gathered together analysts, journalists, vendors, system integrators to Wave on a topic that was decided at that very moment. We had one hour (in between conference calls and other job thingys) to pick a topic and Wave it.

A little collab on what exactly to Wave about later, we decided to do “a mindmap of things we find annoying in CMSs.” To up the ante, we also¬†decided¬†to take the original bullet points (deemed “too easy”) and convert¬†the whole thing¬†to¬†prose. Was the tool given¬†really up to the task?¬†Were¬†our minds flexible enough to wrap around this kind¬†of¬†realtime collaboration?

In the¬†beginning —¬†we¬†blame the tool ūüėČ — we were¬†Drowning,¬†not¬†Waving. We (almost) didn’t fight about¬†edits. We almost didn’t step on each other’s toes. All in all,¬†it turned out to be a fun and productive collaborative exercise. Read¬†on¬†to see for yourself.

Cosmetic Issues

There¬†really¬†should be a CMS UI fashion police. As there should be a¬†Magic Quadrant for¬†shoes and handbags. Why? Well, there’s a couple of issues.

For¬†instance, sloppy,¬†non-designed¬†design. You know the kind of thing¬†that has not been thought about and reworked and made to feel right. The sort of thing coders do if you don’t force them. But at the same time, over-designed interfaces¬†can¬†be just as bad: the designers and developers really need to be on speaking terms.

When¬†building a system that works, you can’t have the development team in the basement on a sustenance of Jolt coding away into the night, and the designers in the penthouse in turtleneck sweaters sipping espressos. Too many CMS designs end up being programmer vs. end-user friendly. And this is not the best way to charm away those marketing and web content folks.

Developers and designers need to talk to each other and essentially, both should talk to users Рnot just eat your own dogfood Рbut listen to what dogs like to eat. A developer or UI designer are not content editors, marketers or knowledge and information workers.

Some vendors¬†say¬†that the agonizingly and depressingly black UI backgrounds are hip and¬†modern. Well, they are not, really. Who told you that? Especially¬†if you add a Star Trek theme to it and sprinkle in some stars and cosmic swirls, because if Apple does it, it must be cool right? Not pointing any fingers, but I would quit if I were a content manager having to¬†spend my 9-5 staring into the “black hole” of some of the CMS UIs that are out there on the market.

Even pop-ups seem less annoying when compared to dark UIs.¬†Which brings us onto…

Interface Issues

Interfaces need a comfortable lived in feel. Content management is something people work with every day, it is their interface to their job. You meet people who hate the interface, and that makes their work a heap of pain. I have seen people who describe the 44 clicks it takes to insert an image. You have a responsibility to these people, to make them love the content and make the tool disappear.

We¬†all hate¬†it when¬†the¬†interface¬†does¬†something¬†on¬†its own¬†that¬†ruins¬†your¬†context.¬†E.g.¬†a¬†page¬†refresh, or in Wave the jumping around of the scrolled window in some cases¬†ūüėȬ†Or¬†the¬†lack of¬†an¬†easy¬†way to bookmark, so you can reference someone to the content.¬†Remember people will be collaborating and need to send links around. Make sure the UI is a proper web application with URLs.¬†And¬†why¬†do¬†tasks¬†that¬†are¬†easy to describe and often repeated in exactly the same way still take more than a few clicks?¬†(Or¬†maybe even dozens of clicks.) With¬†bonus¬†points for¬†forcing¬†users to use dialogs or tabs to enter mandatory information.¬†Remember people do not have all the information in¬†the right order.

Also, we need sane¬†conflict¬†merges.¬†Check in and check out is too extreme for most uses. But people want¬†to edit¬†offline¬†still.¬†Of¬†course¬†Wave¬†doesn’t¬†have¬†an offline:¬†Google¬†thinks¬†this¬†problem¬†is¬†going¬†away, it’s¬†real¬†time¬†so¬†there¬†are¬†never¬†conflicts (that’s¬†defined in the XML protocol;¬†it’s¬†quite¬†interesting¬†if¬†you¬†are¬†that¬†way¬†geeky). Does Google have the right answer here? Well, the Motley Crew is¬†struggling here, and¬†some browsers lost sync during this experiment.

“Power¬†users” (those who use¬†it all day long) of CMSs needed to have a “Desktop” experience. What does Desktop Experience mean?¬†Well,¬†it¬†doesn’t really have¬†to¬†be on the desktop —¬†these¬†days¬†it¬†is¬†perfectly¬†possible¬†to¬†get very close¬†to a¬†hitherto¬†Desktop experience in a¬†browser¬†or similar.¬†these are¬†qualities: very low latency from action to response, no page refreshes, modal and modal-less dialog boxes as appropriate, “push” notification.

Architectural Issues

Architectural issues of the wave overtook any architectural issues of Content Management Systems. The fact that we authored this entire article in a single blip didn’t help, and slowed everything down enormously. McBoof learned the hard way that he really need a new laptop and spent most of the¬†session giving his machine¬†CPR.¬†Next time we’ll do each paragraph in its own blip to stop FireFox going down like a Led Zeppelin.


Monolithic systems. Build it out of pieces that the client can not use all of. Obviously¬†your¬†pieces may work together better,¬†but there should be components.¬†Do not try to reinvent all¬†kinds of¬†wheel.¬†“Best¬†of breed,”¬†though,¬†is¬†just¬†another weasel marketing idea, as if systems are pinnacles not about meeting requirements.


Marketeers are adroit at using the term Best Practice to position Their Way as the only way that a particular matter can be solved. (Many of us live in that netherland of having to pedal that point of view, but it is a falsehood that the careful buyer should try to see through.) I think this devalues genuine best practice, vendors should cite references

Most¬†often¬†a¬†marketeer’s Best Practice view¬†is the¬†only one¬†they subscribe to¬†as¬†their product¬†development¬†has¬†paddled¬†up the wrong stream and cannot¬†or won’t¬†reverse their¬†architectural design¬†(probably¬†because¬†of¬†the cost of doing¬†so).¬†This¬†intransigence¬†most¬†often¬†causes¬†a¬†product¬†to doom itself.¬†(Think of IBM and The Mainframe Is The Only Way¬†To Do¬†Serious Business).

Who really still believes that there is a place in this world for Flash or Java Applet based Rich Text Editors? TinyMCE, FCKeditor and others are filling the gap left by Ektron when they bit the hand that feeds and entered the CMS market. Ephox is trying to spread, but I find it difficult to come up with an excuse to use an Applet over HTML with javascript these days. Stick with the standard.

Business Issues

Where you are buying into something that you may very well need to change or integrate with there is strong benefit in considering Open Source. Open Source used to frighten commercial software companies but we have come along way on that road to understand that commercial organisation can operate in an Open Source world and benefit. This does not necessarily mean that their prized system needs to be fully opened up, but taking the spirit of it to mean that you are completely open to people seeing and learning from your code how it operates.

Exactly what you need to see opened up varies. In a CMS¬†there¬†may be¬†a subsystem¬†that stores the content or one that allows a Rich Text Editor.¬†These arguably don’t need to¬†be opened up, but when a CMS ships with modules for, for example,¬†an¬†RSS feed widget, calendaring tool, prebuilt webforms, users who then want a¬†variation on this module¬†can¬†benefit from¬†seeing¬†how the “pros” did¬†it,¬†they can then use¬†it as a starting point for their own different¬†implementation.

We¬†really don’t need¬†vendors¬†that¬†pay¬†lip service to the buzzwords. When they¬†think the new CMS buzzword “engagement” is just a screenshot of Google Analytics. Or when they add an image picker and call¬†it¬†DAM. And a cross-over between¬†WCM¬†and ECM?¬†Don’t think¬†WCM¬†is¬†like¬†ECM and it’s¬†about¬†organizing content, not about¬†effectively communicating with¬†the¬†audience. And don’t think¬†that if you organize the content, you can¬†automatically communicate effectively.

Completely¬†different,¬†but¬†equally¬†frustrating, is procurement (and the procedures that go with it.)¬†Procurement¬†folk¬†don’t¬†recognise¬†the¬†importance¬†of¬†user adoption¬†to¬†the¬†success of¬†the¬†project — of¬†the black¬†background and all the UI issues pointed out¬†previously.¬†If a CMS is procured¬†according to procedure, the selection is a success to them. But those same rules are often a recipe¬†for ignoring what the users really need.

At the same time,¬†budgets that¬†aren’t transparent¬†are an issue¬†–¬†customer and vendor should be able¬†to¬†have¬†a sensible¬†grown¬†up¬†conversation.¬†As a customer,¬†of¬†course¬†you¬†want¬†good¬†value,¬†but¬†how¬†cheap¬†are¬†you?¬†But to vendors:¬†many¬†licensing¬†models¬†don’t¬†make¬†any sense,¬†and¬†force you to do stupid things.¬†People¬†are¬†scared¬†to have¬†that¬†conversation¬†–¬†the¬†best¬†architectural¬†fit¬†first¬†I¬†say,¬†lets¬†figure out¬†an¬†appropriate¬†license around¬†that.


So much hatred rolled up into a tight little ball of anti-CMS rage. Who would have expected it from such a respected bunch of CMS folk. We hate the designs, the interfaces, the architectures and the business. Time for a beer/wine? Wave good bye!

(Note: This is a cut/paste (as is, no edits) from Google Wave)