Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Blogger Van Winkle meets CMS

Where the heck did March go?

So, yes, I've been insanely busy. But that's not the full story for why I've been on a month-long hiatus. Work has recently been taking me into areas that probably would be interesting to write about in play-by-play mode, but given my position, it clearly wasn't appropriate to discuss. That sounds much worse than it is.

Consider, for instance, product selection and vendor negotiations. Not much that I could safely say on the topic of products and vendors whom we were researching and negotiating with. It's not just that I had responsibility to stay silent on issues that impacted the negotiating position of the organization—which I did. I also found myself routinely realizing that there were just too many aspects of the project that other stakeholders hadn't had a chance to hear about or weigh in on yet. I felt an obligation on sensitive issues not to let colleagues first hear about things on my blog. While getting dooced is the popularly explored hazard of mixing work with blogging, it’s hardly the only one.

I've been working with a number of colleagues on researching Content Management Systems (CMS) this year. At long last, I can publicly state that we've signed an agreement with Ingeniux as the platform for redesigned website.
So far, they've been a good outfit to work with. I'm interested to see how this process works out from here…I'm especially interested on how things go when you get to the end users of a new technology product. Most computing widgets meet up with adoption barriers when they reach the end users. It seems to me that the linchpin of adoption is ease of use.

This is specifically NOT a critique of our clientele. In fact, adoption of new things is expensive and time consuming. The resistance to change can be viewed as not only human nature, but a necessary step in the feedback loop that helps to force new tools and methods to be more efficient and useful.

Our web maintainers already have a perfectly good, but often confusing set of tools for updating their content. For years, people have been looking for the thing to make this whole business easier. Easier content updates will hopefully spell more content updates, which will hopefully result in more usable content for our important audiences.

I'm usually suspicious that deus ex machina will arrive in the form of a software box. Every once in a while, though, we have seen examples of products that make the daily transactions of networked communication far easier. When we introduced the Blackboard learning management system at the Trico, the number of courses using the web to supplement course activities soared from single digits to triple digits almost overnight. At the time we made that decision, Blackboard was not universally perceived as the most powerful tool available, but it did appear to be the easiest.

I’ve often heard resource developers ask a paraphrased form of the famous quote from the movie Field of Dreams (based on the Kinsella novel, Shoeless Joe): If we build it, will they come? And of course, there’s no guarantee. For starters, how and where you build it matters tremendously. They don’t ask ‘Is this heaven?’ just because you showed up.

If you are with a college or university and you're currently considering content management solutions on your campus, I'm happy to discuss our issues and discoveries with you. (And, of course, I'm interested in your experiences!) In addition to ease of use, I can generally say that full Mac support, standards compliance, and backoffice administration were also factors that played into our final decision.


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