When you mention Facebook, most people immediately think “social network” (or perhaps “application overload”). Not many people will think “content management system.” Adrian Sutton, CTO at Ephox
, spoke at Web Content 2008 today about the marriage of content management and Facebook. While the initial Facebook frenzy has somewhat cooled off these days (Adrian went so far as to call the unending list of invites to join groups and add 1,000 applications “a new form of spam”), there are some things that Facebook has done right, and which content management systems can learn from.
At the heart of it all, social networks need to have a point. “Deliver value, not vampires,” as Adrian cleverly put it. Social networks need to be built around a task, whether that task be getting the latest information or reviewing restaurants. The social network
then becomes a feature of the task or product, rather than the product itself.
Livemocha, for example, is a service that helps people to learn new languages. It connects people who are fluent in A but want to learn B with people who are fluent in B but want to learn A. So as you can see, the task is learning a new language, and the social network is a feature that comes along with it.
What has all this got to do with content management
? Well, there are a few problems with CMS that Facebook has done a better job of:
* User adoption
: Many CMS's are too complicated and people quickly give up using them. On the other hand, Facebook’s user interface is so simple and fun that people want to keep using it
* Knowledge sharing
: In many CMS's, the right people are not necessarily the ones authoring content.
* Geographically distributed teams
: When teams are physically separated, they often don’t talk to each other as much as they should. Facebook
is very good at getting people to talk to each other through the wall, private messages and now chat.
Adrian concluded by describing what a Facebook-CMS marriage might look like:
* Teams, not friends
: The focus should be on people you work with, not on people you know. While there should be the usual self-identification of teammates, a recommendation system would also be great to introduce two people who work in similar areas.
* Open collaboration in the presence of compliance
: A wiki environment is good for facilitating open collaboration even when there are certain workflows that employees must eventually go through.
* Bubble up important content
: Much like Facebook’s News Feed, changes made to areas of interest should be highlighted. Of course, a fine balance must be struck between content that people want to see and content overload.
* User-generated content
: Capture employees’ feedback and interest much in the same way Facebook encourages user-generated content.
He showed us some screenshots of a potential CMS dashboard that would capture all these elements, but to the best of his knowledge, no such product currently exists on the market.
The final point that Adrian made was the need to inject a human aspect into CMS. “The one biggest thing that Web 2.0 and Facebook absolutely get right, and that CMS systems totally get wrong, is treating people as humans.”
Instead of merely having usernames as identification, Adrian recommends using photos, providing personal space, and above all, keeping it simple.