My First Content Management Application

I was having drinks with Cheryl McKinnon when she was in town a couple weeks ago when we started talking about DOCS Open. I used to work for Hummingbird before I ever saw Documentum, so it was a walk down memory lane for us (Cheryl arrived at Open Text through Hummingbird).

It got me thinking about people’s first Content Management application.  Like a first kiss, it always holds a special place in your heart.  So today I am going to reminisce about my first Content Management application…DOCS Open 3.5.x.

DOCS Open as a Platform

image These days, I seem to talk about using ECM as a platform quite a bit. There is a good reason.  Back in 1997, I was the Technical Lead for a project that was using DOCS Open 3.5.x as a document repository for office documents.  It wasn’t just a repository though. It was the backbone for a Correspondence Tracking system at the Secretary of the U.S. Air Force.

Called SCATS, it started as an Access ’95 application integrated with DOCS Open.  Over time, the table were moved to SQL Server and the system was upgraded to Access ’97.  After that, we upgraded from DOCS Open 3.5.x to 3.7.x, giving us a 32-bit application (10 years later and my ECM system is still 32-bit).  The next step was to move the interface to Visual Basic.  The only problem there was the advent of the web.  The system owners wanted SCATS to become a web application.  That was a decision that was at least five years too early as the application was rich in functionality.

Through all of this, DOCS Open performed admirably.  DOCS Open was simple and it did what we asked.  I haven’t enjoyed such functional simplicity since I left DOCS Open.  With the upgrade to Office ’97, we were able to use ODMA (awesome). I then promptly had to write a macro to allow users to opt-out of saving to DOCS Open with a separate menu item.

I learned a lot of tricks back then, including some that I still use today.  It was a great time and I became a believer in how technology would allow us to change the way we worked.

Where I Went From There

IMG00073-20090907-1934 In 1998 I went to work directly for PC DOCS/Fulcrum (the name after the merge with Fulrum) as a consultant.  I got to play with DOCS Open in lots of different environments and use the Fusion platform for Cyber DOCS.  I was there when Hummingbird acquired the company.

While there, I got to go to my first real conference, PowerSummit ’99 in Orlando, FL where I got to perform demos in the main product booth.  I still have the shirt, though it is nearing retirement.  To this day, I still wonder why any marketing person would give out a long-sleeve mock-turtleneck to attendees of a conference in Florida?  It was February, but it was FLORIDA!!!

At the end of 1999, I was tired of being on the road, and as I was getting married in 2000, I decided to get a job closer to home with less travel.  That led me to a local integrator that was partnered with Documentum.  However, I still ran DOCS Open on my home computer, and my work one, for several years.

Say what you want about 2-tiered fat applications, they worked well.

Your Turn

I’m not tagging anyone, but I would like to hear what your first application was.  Either leave a comment or write a post and tag me in it.  Let’s talk about what made you commit to the content space.

16 thoughts on “My First Content Management Application

  1. Alchemy 4.0 was my first. I was hired by IMR as a software tester for Alchemy 4.0/4.1 in June 0f 1997 and given a two-page outline of its various capabilities as a software test plan. I stayed there and used Alchemy professionally and personally through 8.0; I still think every couple of weeks of reinstalling an older, non-home-phoning version (say, 6.2) to dump all my white papers, presentations, etc. into because of the superlative full-text indexing, speed of retrieval, and easy-to-use metadata model.


  2. I really enjoyed that chat and your hospitality in DC.

    While Docs Open 2.5.1 was my first ‘ECM’ application (my first onsite customer install at MDS Nordion – Canadian isotope maker back in 1995) the product that got me hooked on content management principles (and utterly derailed my career plan to head into the academic world) was Inmagic.

    I got a summer job while working on my MA working for a small systems integrator. They needed extra help on a text retrieval project for a Canadian government department, so I stayed beyond my summer contract, learned the system and dove head first into boolean operators, query language, report writing, and learned to love metadata.

    After the integrator shut down, I picked up that contract, incorporated a company…. never did get back into the ivory tower…


  3. Well I guess I would have to split my first into two:
    1) I wrote an e-learning app in graduate school to manage documents and evidence for our college debate team. I got credit for it and some novice debaters used it but it was *TERRIBLE* still, it was my first – like fumbling teens unsure of what to do next. My influences for that were primarily Lexis-Nexis and PINE email.

    2) Fast Forward to 1998 and I embarked on my journey to fully realize team document sharing by customizing MS Exchange (team folders anyone?) and then to 1999 when I reviewed and finally selected Intra.Doc! 3.5 for our intranet and extranet at Habitat for Humanity International. I rolled out Intra.Doc! 3.7 (geez that is difficult to type!), customized it a bit, integrated it a bit and then went to work for Intranet Solutions which became Stellent which became Oracle.

    So I guess from a commercial ECM stand point I’ve remained pretty monogamous.


  4. Todd Partridge says:

    Cheryl mentioned this to me and I, too, thought it was a great topic.

    I actually came to the ECM world via a very WCM focused perspective. My first ECM/WCM project was actually a set of home grown tools written in Perl. Around 1997-98 I was hired by a great start-startup named Interactive8 in NYC. Like many we were capitalizing on the dotcom bubble and had developed the online presence for several companies ahead of the curve in creating their online brand; A&E Television (,, etc.), M&M Mars, DeBeers Diamonds, Maybelline… Anyway, we had a creative team, a strategy team, and my technical team that was responsible for the light web development of the time (online quizzes, polls, and a cool e-comm store on a customized implementation of Intershop) and running our own hosting center. When I arrived, a typical day was creative folks mocking up screens, HTML/production folks making it into something browsers could view, and us writing Perl/MySQL apps and getting the stuff hosted and replicated. That obviously didn’t scale so we actually wrote some slick little apps that would do things like allow copywriters to save text files in a certain directory that a cron job would pick up and update relevant html files.

    Well, capitalizing on the bubble…the tail end of the bubble, we merged with 7 other companies and did an IPO and formed Luminant Worldwide. One of the other 7 companies was Align Solutions from Houston where I met Mike Alsup, Quack, and colleagues. They quickly educated me on the in’s and out’s of DCTM and core docman. Soon after that I was on a project for AT&T Wireless where we integrated DCTM 4i and Epicentric portal.

    So, my ‘first’ I still have to give to our custom tools for wcm. My first ‘commercial’ ECM project goes to DCTM.

    Great idea Cheryl and Laurence!


  5. ukdavo says:

    I was an office lackey in 1992, answering queries on UK tax. I was given a dBase3 book and told to to write a simple CRUD app in 2 weeks. We got one of those new fangled Imaging/Workflow things to assist with certain aspects of the business (claims processing, etc). The software was called Plexus Floware (from Texas I think). This was about the same time as Kodak Eastman being on the scene. I ended up running the team that supported/developed it – it being based on a Jukebox-enabled version of Informix Turbo RDBMS. I remember nipping into the office to swap backup tapes late on Friday nights slightly worse for wear. Got a replacement system called Comino years later. Then hooked up with my wife to be who got me a job (felt obliged to marry her) at an IT services company who wanted someone to join their Documentum team (whatever that was). This was about 2000 and EDMS98 appeared to me to be bleeding edge. Did support initially, development later. Had good fun at that company – I remember the horror of developing SharePoint 2001 (VBScript embedded in XML!) and failing to get to grips with hacking pre-WDK iTeam. A couple of jobs later and I’m still working with Documentum even though I told myself years ago (yes I speak to myself) that I would try something else. The folks at my current employer (Synapps) are so nice though that I’m pretty happy to keep plodding on.


  6. Linda Lorber says:

    Well, I came to ECM by way of first Xerox in 84 – 87 where I was the guru at the training center of the Alto, then the Star (8010/6085), fonts, XICS and the 9700/8700 – these were the cornerstone of high-end publishing…the Alto was the first ethernet-based high-end publishing platform. From there got recruited to be the Interleaf guru on the Space Station TMIS Program (we built all the applications supporting the development of the Space Station). Imagine building the application that would deliver (and VIEW!) WYSIWG docs around the world in seconds, full text search, security, versioning, etc. BEFORE Acrobat, BEFORE the W3C. We built the first implementation on DEC’s EDCS with BRS Search (Apollos, Mac, PCs, Suns and any workstation), and then built a fully-functional EDMS on Oracle, 3-tier, X-windows, Fulcrum, and Interleaf’s WorldView………we were truly on the bleeding edge….and it is my understanding that the system is still in use with some modifications. I still miss Interleaf. (by the way, we also built the SSF Req Mgmt System and the Req Tracking System, the first would parse the Interleaf docs and load the Oracle database, the second would automatically generate Directives and Change orders in Interleaf format out of the Oracle database).

    In 1992 I and most of that team (some of the most intelligent, creative and fun people I have ever worked with) went to a very small company called Merex in Rockville who was an Interleaf Integrator where we kept doing EDMS (with Documentum, PCDocs, Interleaf, Adobe, Fulcrum, Verity, BasisPlus, etc.) – we got a lot of the work that was around because we understood the client’s problems (and the only folks that needed EDMS’s at the time were those doing high-end publishing – oh yeah, and they had the money!) . And guess what…we then were bought by Infodata in 1996….I have kept working in the field…It seems so much easier these days (but not as much fun as selecting all the pieces and parts of the technology and then integrating them!)


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