Let's sit back for a moment and imagine that the Mayans are right: that 2012 brings a break in the space-time continuum never before seen by human beings.
If we had one year to execute on our content and information vision, what would be most important? What accomplishments could we as an industry be proud of? What's the work that really needs to get done?
Here's what is top of my list as we close out 2011:
#1. Admit that the Web is Too Important to be Left to Marketers
When “customer engagement” or “customer experience” is the new metaphor for creating and distributing content on the internet, it's time to take a step back. When we look at the roots of the web, we see a decades-old desire to connect researchers, institutions, individuals and communities. Why is it heresy to say that this is more important than the monetization use cases that vendors pitch to marketers. Is there something bigger and better that deserves attention in your industry?
Behavioral tracking cookies and human communication directed onto ad platforms turns us into 21st century soylent green. We're not consumers, but the consumed. Of course, the web has democratized opportunity for new businesses and commercial models...but the recent persistent focus solely on the marketing goals of the web makes the Web CMS business a little more soulless than it needs to be.
The term “community” has also been co-opted by marketers. Real communities are groups of people who have shared purpose, not feel good forums to be mined for leads. More organizations need to look at the long-standing successful and productive communities that we see in the world of open source. They exist to do real work. Not to act as a focus group for a social media maven pitching brand intimacy. What real innovation could be achieved if your customer or partner community had an open door to real participation, contribution and decision making?
2. Stop Saying Web 3.0 and Start Using the Web's 3 Os
Instead of worrying about how to define the next buzzword, why not use the rich resources we have today? Let's focus on the three really important “O”s given to us: open standards, open source and open data. These three gifts from the web help consumers become makers, help organizations take control over their own digital business roadmaps, to see and do things that no one has done before.
Today many of the big ECM vendors are re-fighting the 19th century rail gauge debates with their slow adoption of interoperability standards such as CMIS and EDRM XML. Back in the 1880s, individual railway companies were perfectly content with their own track sizes, convinced that their approach was best. But the rising frustration of businesses aspiring to national distribution demanded something better. Moving goods -- the content of the train cars -- became inefficient when left solely to the mix & match regional rail service providers. Content could not flow unimpeded across long distances. Rail companies resisted the concept of standardized rail gauges, thinking they'd lose competitive advantage.
Railways today see themselves as part of a global supply chain -- embracing standards that sensibly relieve them from the burdens of designing and deploying costly proprietary infrastructure. Success today includes adoption of intermodal standards so that content, like manufactured goods, can move seamlessly from planes to trains to automobiles: a business ecosystem that spans the planet.
It's time for ECM vendors to do the same. They are the carriers of our modern digital goods. How about less thought leadership and more do-leadership?
Open source and open data help feed the digital economy by giving vendors, end-users and application builders the tools upon which to build new, useful digital services for businesses, communities and individuals. Source code, APIs and trusted data are the new bricks and mortar for commercial and non-commercial activities. Use them, extract value from them, contribute back to them.
3. Build Common Ground as a Buffer Against the #Crapronyms
The companies behind the most widely used content management products are all old enough to vote. Perhaps it is, at last, time for the industry to start building a common vocabulary and foundation for the next generation of digital business and content management professionals. Neutral turf can be found in the top information management associations, such as AIIM and its recently launched information certification program. When information and content management professionals begin with a core set of foundational elements, the buyers and users of technology can make better and more educated decisions for their businesses, assuring success regardless of the particular tools or vendors used. This common ground can outline the fundamentals of “what is.” Common ground helps create a buffer against the flash-in-the-pan buzzwords invented by vendors and pundits, terms intended to confuse and distract buyers. (The term and occasional Twitter hashtag #Crapronym is courtesy of Jon Marks).
As information professionals move in their career path from role to role, from vendor to integrator to client (and back again), a common baseline of understanding and core set of knowledge helps build vocabulary that is understood by all participants, across all cycles of project delivery.
Consider the“What If”: From Information Overload to Dark Ages 2.0?
So what if the asteroid does hit in 2012? Or the plates shift, or magnetic poles flip... Imagine our digital content needs to be rebuilt or reconstructed right from square one. Where do you get the tools, the source code, the knowledge to find and deliver our social, cultural and institutional heritage of the last couple of digital-first decades? Where's our Cloud now? For every 500 funded photo-sharing startups today, we see perhaps zero serious investment in digital preservation for everyday individual and commercial needs. Not yet more backup sites, but formatting tools and services that are resilient, non-proprietary, and within reach of organizations with budgets and storage constraints. Where is our Arctic bunker full of source code and format specs, like we have for heritage seeds? Is it OASIS? ISO? Or GitHub?
2012 prediction posts are great fun, but there is also some serious work that needs to get done in the digital business and content management world. I challenge you all to think about the big, important, meaningful work that needs to happen. Hope you'll share your priorities in the comments below.
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