Book Review: Designing Connected Content


Designing Connected ContentTwo book reviews in a row? Yep. As I said in my last review, I’m reading non-fiction a lot more now and I have a backlog of industry books to read. One of the authors of this book, Carrie Hane, is a good friend. I watched her work on Designing Connect Content for pretty much all of 2017. I was very excited to finally get my copy.

For years, Carrie and her co-author, Mike Atherton, have been talking about Designing Future Friendly Content. In the web world this means using a structured content model so that the management of the content is not tightly coupled with the presentation layer. As design trends change, your content and underlying website structure doesn’t have to. Taken to its ultimate conclusion, you are looking at a headless Content Management System (CMS) supporting one or more presentation layers (web, mobile, Alexa…).

They finally took the time to write a book on the topic. It was time well spent.

Content First

When I started reading this book, I figured I was looking at a big piece that Deane Barker didn’t cover in his book (Web Content Management), the design. Not the user experience (UX) part of design but the structural aspects. Information Architecture (IA) with a Content Strategy focus.

Yes and no.

What I found as I read was some great lessons on why content matters. I always knew this but they make the case for why real content matters early in web design. Forget Lorem Ipsum (or Riker Ipsum). Let designers work with real content. Allow stakeholders to evaluate their evolving website with words that provide much needed context.

I had always been a proponent of architect first and then adding the UX to a website. This book really helped me understand why content needs to be first to drive that architecture.

Content Modeling

I am not going to lie. I flashed back to my college days in the Structuring Content section of the book. Back in college I studied the modeling of business processes, business entities, and how to translate those into both application and database designs.

Carrie and Mike walk you through many of those same concepts. They don’t get too technical like my old textbooks. They focus on sharing only what you need to know at each stage.

That is key. They outline multiple steps so you aren’t trying model the most granular detail at the very beginning. You gradually evolve your model until it is ready for the CMS. Tips on how to get the domain experts involved, ensuring the model is correct, are scattered throughout the process.

The authors provide multiple examples, from their own experiences, to illustrate how it all flows together. The examples they use are well chosen. Most readers, including you, are likely to understand the modeled domains without too much effort.

Practical Advice

At every stage in the book, references are provided to other experts should you want to learn more on a topic. This is not to say that they skimp on any relevant topic. They, like Deane in his book, realize that it is impossible to cover everything in depth. As such they point you on where you can go to learn more. I fully expect that future books in the space will reference Designing Connected Content for an in-depth look at creating structured content.

You are guided through the process from initial research to making the hard design decisions when implementing your model. The authors stress that you should never work in a silo as you need input from content creators and those building the website to do the job correctly.

I don’t know a single developer that doesn’t want the content model stable sooner rather than later. I’ve also never met a designer, architect, or developer that wouldn’t rather build things using real content instead of fake content. You never know what is going to happen when real content hits the application until it actually hits the application.

That is the advice and plan they lay out for the reader and they do it well.

In Short…

What I now have in my library is a great tutorial for content modeling and why you need to model it early for any content effort. And yes, I am talking about the old stodgy Enterprise Content Management (ECM) space as well.

If you are working on a website redesign, this book will serve you well in making sure you don’t head down many bad turns in getting to a robust design. If you are building Content Services Platforms, then you need the techniques in this book to help you build a flexible, holistic, model.

It is an enjoyable read full of little bits of humor to help you get through what could have been a boring, technical, process manual. It is far from that and I highly recommend reading it. I already know some people on my teams I’ll be suggesting strongly that they read Designing Connected Content.

Disclaimer

I wasn’t paid to write this review. Carrie gave me a free copy of the book over a frozen picnic table. The usual author requests were made of me; if I like it, please write a review. I did and now I have.

Book Review: Web Content Management


Web Content Management by Deane BarkerA long time ago, Deane Barker swung through DC on business and I was lucky enough to have breakfast with him. Even luckier, he gave me a copy of the book he had recently published through O’Reilly, Web Content Management. After nearly two years, during which I read very few non-fiction books, I picked it up and gave it a read.

I’m glad that I did.

I am not going to profess having learned a ton about Web Content Management (WCM) from reading Deane’s book. After all, I have been doing this whole content management thing for a while. However, it was great to read a collection of wisdom from Deane’s decades of experience focused in this domain. Deane is an excellent write and his practical (and witty) use of footnotes really conveys what is involved when you tackle a WCM project.

Continue reading

InfoGovCon 2017 Continues to Set the Bar High


Governor Raimondo speaks at InfoGov17This post has been a long time in coming because I’ve been trying to process everything that happened this year. Once again, InfoGovCon was a great event and the Information Coalition should be proud at the quality of speakers that they assembled. After all, how many conferences score a governor and get them to talk about something relevant?

Conferences like InfoGovCon are critical for the industry. We are still building a template for consistent success. As Shannon Harmon, whom I had the pleasure to meet this year, put it,

The best practices are still being developed. The body of knowledge is under construction.  This makes information governance an exciting space within which to work.  It can also be immensely frustrating for those who want a well-defined structure in place.  Working in this space requires a certain comfort level with the unknown.

After decades of working in this space, I agree that there are still some unknowns. We have learned a lot about what NOT to do. It is the way we can get things done consistently that we are still putting together.

Continue reading

An All New Monktoberfest, Putting Society First


Trips to Portland are never complete w/o some Speckled Ax coffee to jumpstart the day & the brainIf you’ve spent any time around me in the fall, you know that my favorite conference, by far, is the annual Monktoberfest. Hosted by Redmonk every year in Portland, Maine (aka Real Portland), Monktoberfest operates at the intersection of technology and social. I like to think of it as taking craft technology, craft beer, and mixing it together to find ways to make the world a better place.

This year Stephen O’Grady took it up a notch. The 12 months since the previous Monktoberfest have been, at best, tumultuous. This is not a phenomenon of any single industry or country. It feels like the coming to head of various forces in society that is making people of all walks of life realize that they have had enough.

Seeing, and feeling, this unfold made Stephen create the most important non-technical, tech conference you need to attend.

Continue reading

Focusing on the Local by Joining the NCC-AIIM Executive Committee


Hanging out at AIIM Nats night w/ (left to right) Mark Mandel, AIIM Vice-Chair Mark Patrick, and dedicated AIIM staffer Theresa ResekI’ve talked a little bit here about the need to improve the local communities for information management. It is an area that ARMA does better than other groups in the industry but their focus and members can be intimidating for those who aren’t records managers. AIIM chapters are a decent alternative but there are a lot of challenges.

For the past couple of years, I’ve been chatting offline with some chapter leaders from both associations, brainstorming ideas, and trying to think of ways to improve the local community. Some of these discussions became more focused when Kevin Parker became the president of the local AIIM chapter, NCC-AIIM. During one of these discussions I agreed to join the chapter’s executive committee.

Continue reading

Book Review: Women In Tech


This is the book you need to buyIt’s been a while since I wrote a book review, mostly because I’ve been reading fiction and history, neither of which really fit this blog. However I just finished a book that definitely deserves a review, Women In Tech.

First, the TLDR: Read the book!

Women in Tech was written by Tarah Wheeler Van Vlack in conjunction with women drawn from across the tech world. It is a blend of a career guidebook and inspirational stories written by women from different backgrounds. Each woman has made their unique mark in the industry.

Before I get much further with this review, it must be noted that as a man, I am not the primary target for this book. That is not to say I didn’t gain value from reading it. Far from it.

I learned a lot and enjoyed reading the book. Women in Tech is well written, humorous at times, and I highly recommend it for anyone in the tech industry. One last note, as women were the primary audience, my perspective on the book should be considered in that light.

Continue reading

Information Governance, Moving on from Content


Has Content build holding us prisoner, making us miss the bigger picture?When I dove into the debate on Content Services and ECM, my conclusion was fairly straightforward.

Look at your information flow. Follow it and find new ways to make it flow faster. If you can do that and know where your information is at anytime, you are done.

There is a lot of detail buried under that relatively straightforward statement. Content Services is part of a broader trend in the content management space and is here to stay. It has been here since CMIS (Content Management Interoperability Services) entered the picture almost a decade ago but now people are seeing it as more than a way to integrate systems.

The problem is that ECM (Enterprise Content Management) is still just part of the picture. Even if we use the latest tools without regard to the latest buzz words that define them. If we just focus on the content we are failing to solve what needs to be solved.

Continue reading