Ask Google: what is content management

Web definitions for Content Management Sometimes called 'knowledge management'. Content management is often used to refer to the process of handling information presented in either a buy- or sell-side catalogs, including part numbers, descriptions and unit size. It also refers to the process of capturing, storing, sorting, codifying, integrating,updating and protecting any and all information. - Definition in context


The part about the process of capturing, storing, sorting, codifying, integrating,updating and protecting any and all information, is about right. I'm not too sure about the part number stuff. And where I come from Content Management and Knowledge Management are emphatically not the same thing.

Let's look further down the page. The first couple of hits are for people trying to sell you stuff:

Microsoft Content Management Server: Home Vignette - Content Management and Portal Solutions

And then we're into the confusing world of open source content management.

PostNuke : Navigation

No luck there, although I am greeeted with 'Welcome Stranger' and can apparently win an XBox, (whatever that is :-).

Followed by, not too far down by James Robertson's company (James was in the same session as me at Open Publish this year), where we can click a few times to find this:

Content management systems support the creation, management, distribution, publishing, and discovery of corporate information. Also known as 'web content management' (WCM), these systems typically focus on online content targeted at either a corporate website or intranet

Right. But there is more to think about than the corporate world, and the web even if that is what Content Management is coming to mean.

You know what I think Content Management is?

First of all what is content?

I like to take the classic Knowledge Management hierarchy, which has (at least) three strata:


And I split it into the human and the computer view:

Human               Computer
Knowledge     (does_not_compute)
Information       Content
(ugh)             Data

This is an approximation only, but content in this simple model is the computational analogue of something that a human can treat as information. That is, it is structured in some way to make it comprehensible, digestible.

My definition of content: Labeled, linkable data.

Here's a few personal observations about content management and related terms:

  • Knowledge Management is a process, not a piece of software (a lifestyle, man), like a Quality Management System.
  • A Content Management System might be implemented in a computer program, but it does not make you and your organization know stuff. People have to construct knowledge for themselves.
  • A Knowledge Management System is what you do to manipulate people so they construct stuff out of their interactions with each other, and with content, in that order.
  • Content is all your data, organized (labeled, linkable) so computers can make the leap between the mention of your name here and your salary details there so the CEO can decide that you are an important asset and give you an encouragement award. Or not, as the case may be.
  • Content Management is the business and/or computational system than ties all your labeled, linkable data together.
  • One of the biggest impediments to content management is the often impermeable membrane between field-structured (your spreadsheetesque, relational-databaseish stuff) and hierarchically-structured (XML, HTML documents or good quality word processing documents) data. Programming tools that map SQL to XML may promise to close the gap, but I think the techniques to find the right kind of mappings to do really transcendent Content Management, Content Management that really helps people construct new knowledge, are just emerging. My tip here: watch what Jon Udell does. Jon is doing stuff like making segments of video linkable and talking about open document formats which will make labeling and linking work across organizational boundaries.


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