Get Smart About How You Manage Your Content

    January 16, 2006

Bringing more science to content management is in no way dumbing down. Rather, it is about getting smart.

Many content professionals shoot themselves in the foot by presenting what they do more as a craft than a profession. The same view pervades much of the web profession. There is a huge resistance to bringing rigor, discipline and strict measurement to bear.

It was long accepted in tennis that players roll the racket over the ball when they hit a forehand. Then sophisticated video analysis showed that the best players almost never move their wrist at the point of impact. (Even though the same players would have repeatedly stated that they did roll their wrists.) For years, students were being trained to roll their wrists. Conventional wisdom.

There is so much conventional wisdom pertaining to content. Either it is treated as some low-grade commodity or else it is talked about in hushed tones. The Web is the greatest laboratory that content could ever hope for.

If you are a content professional, you should embrace this laboratory with enthusiasm. The more rigor and science you can bring to content, the more respect you will get. Content management will be one of the key disciplines of the 21st Century. But it must earn its respect.

Start off from the position that everything you know about how to manage content is wrong. Everything must be questioned. Everything must be tested. At all costs you must avoid a blind faith in tradition.

“I always cut the roast in two before cooking it because it was a tradition in the family,” Aunt Sally told Tommy Sands, which he later recounted in his excellent book, The Songman. One day Aunt Sally asked her mother why the roast was cut in two at Christmas. “Because your granny always did it like that,” came the reply. So, Aunt Sally decided to ask her grandmother. “Child dear, I cut it in half because the dish I had was too small, that’s why.”

Tradition is a powerful thing. We are programmed to repeat something and if that something works, we keep repeating it. Even when we get a bigger dish, the urge is strong to keep cutting the roast in half because that’s the way we’ve always done it.

Managers ask why. They constantly ask if there is a better way. They don’t assume that just because something was the best way last year, it is the best way today.

Scientific Content Management is not about coming up with a rigid set of rules that must always be obeyed. It is about a relentless focus on the reader, and understanding their behavior better than they understand themselves.

There is a big difference between a constant pursuit of the best way, and a blind embrace of a best way. A tradition may bring comfort but in an age of relentless change, traditions need questioning, just like the “best way” always needs questioning.

It is incredibly exciting to be a content professional in an era where content is becoming a critical resource. Today, the world runs more on content than it does on oil.

For your web content management solution, contact Gerry McGovern

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