The Three Ages of Content Management Systems

I have been working with content management systems for longer than I care to admit. I have built my own, rudimentary systems using PHP and I have selected and implemented large scale systems that powered business and consumer sites. I have done evaluations on some of the largest (and most expensive) CMS vendors and also worked with open source CMS providers.

Over the years, I slowly shifted away from the proprietary packages and embraced the open source platforms. But it seems that we have really had three separate ages:

  • The Age of Waving
  • The Age of Shouting
  • The Age of Sharing

The Age of Waving

Way back in the mists of time, content management was a complicated, expensive business. It was the time of the dot com boom – and specialist content management platforms began to emerge. Overnight it seemed that companies like Interwoven and Vignette took centre stage – it was the age of waving and we were all vying for attention.

From a business point of view, we knew already that hand crafted websites would not scale. There were too many pages to manage, too many authors to deal with and it was too hard to search. We needed a better way. Websites were a measure of innovation – and in a time when many businesses struggled to provide their employees with an email address, the launch of a website seriously aligned your brand with “new thinking”. Of course, we still measured website traffic in “hits” so the thinking may have been new, but it wasn’t very deep.

Meanwhile, consumers were reading these sites like brochures. We were looking for information, doing our product research and searching for local stores. eCommerce was in its infancy and we were still not sure whether we could trust the internet with our valuable credit card numbers.

The Age of Waving was about saying – “here I am”. But the next level of development transformed not just the technology, but also our expectations.

The Age of Shouting

Once we realised the power of content management, everyone wanted a piece of the action. I remember developing complicated matrices that compared the feature sets of the main CMS vendors and cross matched it to open source variants. I published white papers in PDF and put them on the web. I felt like my own miniature Gartner-Group-of-One.

Meanwhile, the shift had begun within the business, with marketing taking control of the web as a “channel”. This often involved a bloody fight with the IT teams who had lovingly nurtured the site through its infancy. But it seemed like there was money to be made, messages to be pushed and advertising to be monetised, so a coup was arranged and the messaging volume was amped up. There was flash, music and even some rudimentary video. It all needed to be integrated and managed by the CMS. We also needed brand consistency, templates and contact forms. We needed workflow and approvals. We needed “legal to be involved”.

It was during this time that I had a kind of a love affair with the Scandinavian platform ezPublish – it was “social” before we even knew what “social networks” were – but was built with enterprise scale in mind. There were access control lists, user management functions, publishing functions and scheduling and a shopping/eCommerce system that could be turned on with the press of a button. At the same time, I also loved Lotus Quickplace – precisely because it was quick (and quite pretty), though not as powerful as ezPublish.

Consumers were now reading sites like newspapers. We were expecting content – and lots of it. We wanted research information and ease-of-use. We wanted searching capabilities and bookmarking. We wanted our own profiles on websites – we wanted personalisation. Or we thought we did.

I remember working with the Koz Community Publishing Platform, talking to publishers like the Trading Post and the Chicago Tribune. The ground was shifting but we didn’t know where it was going. It was all gut instinct. User generated content sounded like a good idea, but raised many problems (database scaling, traffic volumes, user management, ad serving, revenue splits etc). We didn’t yet have the business models in place to take advantage of the opportunities (and perhaps we still don’t).

We were measuring unique visitors and crying about the fact that it seemed so small compared with “hits”. Every vendor and his dog were now providing content management systems – and if you looked closely, you could see these strange beasts – blogging systems – starting to appear.

Joomla and Drupal came along and shook the world again. These serious, enterprise grade content management systems came with all the bells and whistles, deep functionality and support from a great community of developers. There were plenty of plugins and extensions that could help you deliver the perfect web solution for your business or your customers. There were shops, templates, banner ad management, forums and all sorts of features. But it wasn’t a new beginning – it was the end of an era.

The Age of Sharing

Then, the web world became social.

The content management system has shifted from being a channel or vehicle for awareness and then broadcast, to being a platform for sharing and engagement. Where once the most important aspect of content management was on the “business” of managing content – it has now shifted to the business of managing conversations and conversation flows. Sure we want people to know about and find our content, and we want them to engage with it – but we also want them to share it, distribute it through their own personal publishing networks. We want them to recommend our products and services.  And we want them to engage with us beyond the web.

On the CMS front, vendors increasingly bolt-on new functionality. There are blogs and forums, there are plugins to manage users through Facebook Connect, and support for user generated content. Similarly, blogging platforms have continued to evolve, but being social at their heart, they have an intrinsic advantage. And now, with WordPress 3.0, it seems that the functionality, flexibility and scale offered by large scale CMS vendors is now available through this open source platform.

And interestingly, consumers are in charge. Even within the workplace. In many instances, we are seeing ourselves in more than one light – we’re no longer the 1990s worker, firewalled and locked-down. We’re empowered and demanding – wanting to push for results and ready to achieve them with enterprise, cloud or web based apps where ever they may be. Yes, this may be the IT groups greatest nightmare, but it indicates that “being social” no longer ends at the sliding glass doors of the workplace – and nor does it begin with the technology that we choose for our businesses. It’s all about attitude – and that is ageless.

Steve Jobs on the Future of …

In this video from the D8 conference, Steve Jobs talks about the iPad and encouraging publishers to push more aggressively on pricing models. Interestingly, he also starts to talk about the “post-PC” era and how devices such as the iPad will make us feel uncomfortable.

Right at the end of the clip, when asked whether he realistically thought that this sort of change was going to take longer than the next year, he paused, and then said “sure”. Though with over 2 million iPads sold in the first two months, I think Steve is not alone in seeing the iPad as not just a “game changer” but as marking the end of an era.

Measuring the Hybrid Car ROI

A car purchase is the second most expensive investment that an individual is likely to make (the first being their home). And in that respect, consumers come close in behaviour to their B2B counterparts — after all, vehicles are expensive, have ongoing cost requirements and (whether we like it or not) reflect on our own sense of self. Accordingly, when it comes to purchase time, we shop around, do our homework, check blog posts, search engines and customer satisfaction ratings. We ask friends for recommendations, take a keener interest in the cars we pass in the street, and think through the implications of this major purchase.

Recently though, the greater awareness (and concern for) the environment, coupled with ever spiralling oil prices has seen a massive spike in the popularity of hybrid cars. (Some US states have gone so far as to mandate the production of eco-friendly cars.) But, even a cursory glance at the prices of hybrid cars shows that they are significantly more expensive, meaning that you will need a longer timeframe before your hybrid car breaks even with its petrol equivalent.

EcoCalc However, there are other factors at play in the calculation of ROI — and Todd Andrlik has developed a great online tool that brings carbon emissions into the calculation. Originally developed to assist his employer, Leopardo Constructions, in calculating the ROI impacts for their fleet of company vehicles, the calculator has now been made widely available. Simply enter a few variables about the vehicles you are comparing, press calculate, and you will receive data about fuel savings, unreleased carbon emissions and ROI timeframes. Check it out here.

It is a wonder that companies like Toyota or Honda, makers of leading hybrid vehicles have not produced something similar.

iPhone Goodness – Viking Smackdown

To celebrate Hello Viking’s first anniversary, the entertaining Tim Brunelle is inviting all iPhone and iPod Touch owners to a "viking smackdown". The smackdown takes advantage of the inbuilt motion sensor — your challenge is to acheive the highest score by August 15, 2008. If you do so, you will, in Tim’s words, "win big":

We’ll fly the winner to Minneapolis, put ‘em up in a fancy hotel, then give ‘em a really large birthday cake and the chance to throw it at our CEO—all broadcast on the Internet.

So if you have one of the aforementioned Apple devices, glide over to and join in the fun. Now, I wonder if that prize covers non-US vikings?

Star Wars – R2D2 Video Projector

While I guess this is really one for the geeks (and the Star Wars geeks in particular), this R2D2 projector by Nikko Home Electronics really does have some utility. Not only does it include a projector for your DVDs, it has ports for your PlayStation, xBox or Wii consoles, inputs for video cameras, flash drives and even a dedicated dock for your iPod. It gives you a lot of flexibility in terms of where you need to place your home video projector — you just use your Millenium Falcon remote control to move R2D2 to the place you want to watch your movie. Though, if you are like me, $3000 may be a little steep.

However, this could also be an uber-cool accessory for your corporate boardroom. Either way, it will make your next presentation/movie night something to remember.

Stop Kids Finding Bad Stuff on the Web

Originally uploaded by servantofchaos

If you are like me, at this time of year we get together with our extended families. This inevitably means kids, toys and a bit of technology thrown in. And each year I think to myself, "I must install those parental controls on my computer", so that I can happily let my inquisitive nephews search the web/play online. And each year, I forget. But this year I WILL do it.

However, this year there is something else. A neat new search engine designed specifically for kids, called Quintura. Once you enter your search terms, Quintura brings back a nice tag cloud of related words that your kids can click on (no need to type additional search terms). This really makes searching a lot more fun and far more intuitive (something that Google and others could learn from).

What I particularly like is that this takes the experience of search to a whole new level. This interface turns "search" into something closer to a game … providing kids with information that rewards (and encourages) their curiosity while also letting parents breathe a sigh of relief. Now THAT is a user experience that extends way beyond the screen — when someone who actually DOESN’T use your service supports and trusts it, then you are onto a winner. I am sure many brands would love to be in that position!

Tip of the hat to Ewan McIntosh.

Get Your Share of Google’s $10 Million Android Pool

I may have been slow to pick up on this video on Google’s new Android platform, but it certainly makes for interesting viewing. Not only is the new mobile phone software available as open source, Google are actively encouraging developers to create new applications for the fledgling environment. That’s right, they are setting aside $10 million for those developers who create unique, never before seen applications.

Who says open source doesn’t pay?

Google Moon is Made of Cheese

GooglemoonThose cartoons that I loved as a child were right … the moon is made of cheese.

I had not seen Google Moon, but was interested to go closer and closer to the surface. I was hoping to see a flag or a moon lander … alas, when I got close, all I saw was this picture. Looks like Jarlsburg.

Now I wonder how soon it will be before the Google Moon is "monetised" … and who will be the first advertiser? Moon banner anyone?

BarCamp Sydney

Barcampboard Overall it was fascinating to see how it would evolve. The day started fairly timidly, with very few people volunteering for early sessions. I saw Mick Liubinskas and he said that he was kicking things off in Room 1 and asked whether I was presenting. I said "yes" he said "great, because I had 10 minutes before he was volunteering me anyway."

There seemed to be a large contingent of former UTS students (recent and not so recent) who knew each other and had considered many of the topics emerging during the day (note to self — UTS is fertile ground for new hires). Many of these people had been working now for 10+ years and were involved in entrepreneurial and technology-centric areas which made for plenty of energy and excitement.

What follows are my rushed notes from the presentations. As each session only lasted 15-20 minutes it was rapid fire … and there wasn’t a lot of time available to sit back and not participate.

Ignoring users
We were off to a great start with Mick’s talk on ignoring users. The discussion that kicked off was about what you take on from your user base/community and what you ignore. Mick started by looking at Flickr and their decision to make photos public, even though users requested privacy.

The discussion then shifted towards the concept of innovation … and the need to understand your audience and your position within the market. That is, do you decide to take a leadership position or become a fast/slow follower. Many contributed in the conversations, bringing up a range of technologies and ideas from Flickr and online communities through to Yahoo! Pipes.

Barcampjohn John Rotenstein talked about "timeshifting" and the way that we now consumer media of all kinds. In his own world he admits he is addicted to World of Warcraft. In the last month or so he has lost 3kg … it is called the WoW Diet. A friend of his has lost a massive amount of weight by playing WoW while also using an exercise book.

John also talked about ozTivo and the way that media is now being consumed. Music on his iPod has also been completely erased and replaced with podcasts. Obviously technology is allowing these timeshifts to take place … and it has all the big media companies running scared. What happens when all ads can be filtered, when the audience become the programming directors and the "local content" is drawn from an ever increasing global pool?

Digital/branded storytelling
Then I talked. Sacrum was a big hit — I realise this doesn’t have speaker notes — I just kind of speak off the cuff, but the ideas behind the presentation didn’t change much from here.

Life as an expat
Ray Stephenson then talked about being an expatriate. Almost everyone in the room had lived overseas at some point in their lives, so it made for an interesting conversation. This reflected the way that many technologists are highly mobile, finding themselves in foreign countries. This was fascinating, as the topic veered from technology to people to place and back again. One of the best questions was around the point at which you stop being an expat and start being a native. One of the suggestions was to figure out who do you barrack for in the cricket or some other sport.

We also ended up talking about micropayment systems across different countries … and the way that the culture of a country affects the calibre and style of the workforce. This came down to a conversation about cross-cultural values. Unusual topic for a BarCamp! John suggested we follow up a podcast called the Barefoot College on

Barcampbenhogan Lean and agile software development
Ben Hogan and Jason Yip from ThoughWorks talking about Lean and Agile Software development. Taking Toyota’s production approach and applying the learnings to software development. Toyota was originally a loom manufacturer … and one of the roles that people had to play in the stop-the-line culture. The focus for Toyota was optimising the flow through your manufacturing processes. Another step was learning to find waste — by putting on the customer glasses on — what is considered value from a customer point of view. This drives the overall customer experience. [pic2]

What is clear is that multitasking COSTS YOU.

MUDA — anything that does not add value — should be eradicated. The plan is to look at end-to-end cycle times and whether each of the tasks are creating or adding value.

There are clear lessons here for marketers as well but I need to process it a little more deeply. More to come on this!


John again … this time talking about how you can hack a Tivo for Australian conditions. He gave a step-by-step guide on what you need to do after you "win" a Tivo on eBay. Interesting, though it does sound a little technical for the average person.

The discussion got around to issues of copyright and ownership of digital TV guides. Copyright and ownership keeps coming up again and again.

Hunter Nield gave a great and energetic presentation on identity and OpenID. OpenID is based around an identifier such as a URL. This means that you can access a website and have it authenticate via OpenID providers such as

The OpenID standards/specifications are free to use which means you can easily setup your own OpenID provider based on the system. It effectively works in the same way as Open Source or W3C.

The aim of OpenID is to reduce the headache and provide a single sign-on across multiple websites. It is designed to be flexible and some providers also allow profiles so that you can have multiple types of online identities. This means that I could be servantofchaos on my blog and Gavin on another. The choice is yours.

Trust is a major issue and there are many OpenID providers. How can you determine which providers are legitimate? For example, spammers could setup and run their own OpenID providers.

Are these "mum" friendly? Parents ask the questions "What is http:// and why is it different from my email"? And until these barriers can be overcome easily, then there are significant uptake issues.

Adoption — who is using and spreading this? This AOL announced that AOL Accounts are all OpenID enabled. Microsoft are looking to integrate … Digg is aiming to integrate … but these are "coming soon".

From a development point of view it is fairly easy to implement. There are existing libraries out there — Ruby, PHP and .Net etc.

OpenID providers are setting up PUSH — which means you update your account at your provider and it then pushes to all your subscriptions. OpenID 2.0 is coming — see and

There was a great question — what happens if your OpenID provider shuts down? Hmmm … no satisfactory answer.

Lean Development
Again with Ben, this time looking at agile development methodologies.

With traditional development, the focus is on breaking up the waterfall into an iterative framework. If you can break up your work in a different way then you are able to rapidly deploy releases sooner. This provides a return on investment early in the process.

The focus is on organising your work around features. You start with a vertical slice within your system then you need to consider UI, business logic, classes at a domain and enterprise level and data access — all at the same time. By focusing on what you need NOW you are able to minimise complexity and increases speed to market. The question you ask is "what is the smallest possible feature set that you can get away with?". This approach reduces your cycle time and brings money/value back to you earlier.

I am interested in how these methodologies are able to be applied to other areas — what can you do to accelerate product development, how to create strong and focused collaborative teams and how to focus on generating early returns on investment. The focus is on avoiding red-tape — planning frequently rather than following a plan.

"Continuous integration" is an important automation element that allows you make it cheaper in the long run (by finding problems earlier).

Side-by-side peer reviews also seem to accelerate development. So having two developers sitting together means that you get the best result earlier and basically prevent errors before/as the occur. This is called having "pair programming". It is also highly productive because the pairs can become quite powerful/competitive. BUT you can burn out … so you need to only do 3-4 hours per day. Often this is doing two hours in the morning … and then one and a half or two hours later in the afternoon.

Need to do acceptance tests up front and then discuss that with the developers and business up-front.

Barcampmartytangler So you wanna startup your own company

Now these guys were funny. And very interesting. Mike Cannon-Brooks and Martin Wells made a great tag-team presenting on the lessons learned from starting up their own companies. They talked through funding models (don’t raise capital or you lose control), different types of investors (family, friends — good, angel1 — small, angel2 — larger, VCs — big money) and the challenges of hiring and culture.

One of the more interesting aspects of their presentation was the way that Mike would comment on-the-fly on Martin’s presentation, often contradicting or disagreeing.

By this time my laptop had run out of juice, so I had to content myself to sending myself Twitter messages during the talk. But I did take mental notes so will try to get back to this at some stage soon — they were both very inspiring and had fun with the presentation.

Presentations I missed

Unfortunately you can’t attend all sessions, so there were ones that I missed that I did want to see. These included:

Alien Contact

I don’t know why I have never done this before … but tonight I hooked up with my friend, Mindblob, all the way from outer space. I must admit there was something thrilling about actually speaking to somone for the first time — and now, of course, I just want to do more. And Skype makes it all so easy … and free!

We spoke briefly about his recent article which seems to capture some of the thinking that is circulating BSP-style at the moment about the need to re-imagine the agency structure. (Or perhaps, just re-imagine and re-position the power and authority structures within agencies.) If you have not seen Luc’s post, then make sure you do.

From there, take a look at where Marcus is going with a whole outsourcing argument … there is some excellent thinking around the practical challenges/consequences of business process outsourcing (for marketing) as well as the application of "best practices".

Meanwhile, Richard is hosting a passionate debate around the same topic but from a different perspective. He asks "Is blogging killing planning" … and has provoked some great comments from new and experienced planners as well as others outside the "plannersphere". One of my favourites is by Johnnie Moore whose blog just happens to be unavailable at present! Johnnie says: "I’m dismayed that anyone believes that by sharing their thinking people become more stupid". From memory, I think Johnnie has a post on this topic too, but can’t reference it at present.

Finally, my Sydney coffee morning comrade, Vando, deals out a slap or two with his post "Do Agencies Give a Shit?". Great and provocative reading for us all!

Oh, and speaking of coffee mornings, Coffee Queen, Emily Reed is hosting this Friday’s pre-work soiree at Strawberry X,
Cnr of Mary & Reservoir Streets, Surry Hills at 8am. Come one, come all … or you can just Skype me.