Obsessed by Technology

3 minute read
Gerry McGovern avatar
It's time for a more realistic view of technology. Human input is still useful, and in some situations essential. If you go to the bottom of the Google News homepage you will find the following statement: "The selection and placement of stories on this page were determined automatically by a computer program."What exactly is that statement trying to say? There are perhaps two ways you can interpret it. Firstly, it might be trying to wash its hands of any mistakes that are made on the page. It's kind of like the humans in Google saying: "Don't blame us. We just work here. It's that bloody computer program."Secondly, it might be implying that the stories that appear on the Google News page have been chosen in a very objective manner by a computer program. No nasty, biased human editors were let near them. It was all done by a thoroughly rational, absolutely objective computer program.But didn't humans write the computer program in the first place? Couldn't there be bias and subjectivity in the program?There is a belief within the technology industry that technology and programming are pure, rational, logical and good. People, on the other hand, are messy, emotional, illogical and only occasionally good. From this belief flows a logical conclusion: People are the problem, technology is the solution.I have worked in the "web content management" industry since 1994. From the very beginning I approached things with a very foolish concept in mind. You won't believe this, but I actually thought that web content management was about the management of web content.Such a fool was I! I was harshly told to wake up and get real. Web content management was not about the management of web content. It was about TECHNOLOGY. It was all about the technology, the technology, the technology. The web content itself was irrelevant. The management was not even an issue.The technology would do it all. If you were a web content management professional, your sole purpose in life was to choose the right technology. Then, maybe, you trained some people in how to use that technology. Then you got out of the way. Because that's what web content management is all about.And there I was-silly me-thinking that management was important. That if you didn't have methods to choose the right content you were dealing with a "garbage in-garbage out" situation. And that if you didn't maintain quality on an ongoing basis, then the quality of the content would deteriorate.In September 2008, United Airlines lost US$ 1 billion in value due to a six-year-old story being mistakenly picked up by Google News, among others. On October 3, 2008, Apple lost nine percent of its value within minutes when someone put a false report on CNN's citizen's journalism website that Steve Jobs had had a heart attack.Quality content matters. Content management is not a management-free zone. We still need trained professionals to help manage content. Technology is wonderful, but it is not a magic bullet unless you're playing Russian Roulette.

About the Author

Gerry McGovern, a content management author and consultant, has spoken, written and consulted extensively on writing for the web and web content management issues since 1994.