Neutral Content


One thing that is still missing from content management systems is the content creation part. I’m not talking about web content management, but actually the whole enterprise experience. The problem is that most content is created with tools outside of the content management system and then imported into the system. This means that instead of it being a content management system, it is more a media management system, good management of media with excellent Meta information around the media files.

To have a truly successful content management system, the content must be created inside the content management system, and the content should  be managed differently. What I would like to see is that content is created inside a more generic interface, and not in a propriety system. The content should then be saved in small XML files, say in paragraph sets, which could then be managed properly as content. The complete document can then be saved as an XML file which imports smaller XML data sets.

A system like this will have many advantages:

  • Security can be handled within the XML file itself, making it possible for different security around different sets of data. This would mean that in one document, content can be dynamically included or excluded pending the security settings. Content sets can then also be easier managed and made part of different documents easier. For example, the introduction paragraph on a new project will be easily imported into all the project documentation, one change on the introduction will filter through to all the documents related to the project.
  • Versioning can be managed within the XML. All the previous versions of the content can be managed in one XML file, and certain versions of this can be included in documents. It will be a space saver as well, as the whole document won’t be saved as different versions of the document, but only the parts that have changed.
  • Internationalisation can be part of the XML file, so even this can have different versions which are managed in the file, and easy management of this will be possible.
  • Index data, tags and categories can be managed on a piece of content, and not on the content document as a whole. This will make the indexing and searching of content easier, and full text indexing will be faster and quicker since different formats of documents don’t need to be included.
  • The display of the content can be managed with XSL files which can be specified in the XML file. So different media outlets can have different views of the same content, this will make it easier to manage content neutrality between devices and usage channels.

Content will be created on the same principle as a built system, just more dynamic and it can change as parts of the content change.

The second part of this will be the creation tool itself. With the power that HTML5 promises to bring, I can see a whole host of different content creation tools being embedded in the HTML5 browser. The XSL files that is then associated with the XML files will determine the type of content creation tools that is available to the user. For example, if the font can not be changed, the font tab won’t be available to the user, but functions like bold and underline will still be available to the user. This will make it easier for an organisation to standardise on the look and feel of content they want to create. It will also free them of propriety systems and will have a smaller desktop footprint.

With the move now towards cloud computing and hosting everything in a cloud, this type of scenario will make sense. Content can already be created in a browser, this type of functionality will just take it to the next level. Keywords and abbreviations in the organisation that is not standardised outside the organisation can be added to an organisation lookup table and be available to everyone in the organisation. Will definitely avoid confusion that always surrounds projects on what exactly is meant with certain keywords and abbreviations.

We are moving towards a future with stronger browsers and hosted applications. Where the footprint on our devices will lessen in a large extend and more and more functionality will be used from clouds. This type of setup will make it easy for content creation and management of the content. If the cloud implementation of such an application is particularly good, it will have an invisible content management system in the background, without the user even being aware of the management of the content.

I don’t know if systems like this already exist, or if the tools already exist. If they do it will be great to hear about them. But I do think that this is a crucial part that is missing from content management systems. It will make the management of content better and more integrated into the system. This would make content management systems real content management systems and not media management systems.

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