Think Info

Exploring the information space

Category Archives: Content Management Systems

On third-party transclusion

On 25 August 2014, Sorin Pintilie (@sorpeen, published an article on The Pastry Box Project, discussing a mechanism that would allow content to be transcluded into a web page, by applying an href="…" attribute to a <p> tag. This article is a response to that.

Transclusion is the inclusion of a small element of content from one source into other material, by reference. The transcluded content is presented as an integral part of the final material – at the point of reference – while remaining dependent on its primary source. It is included at presentation time. The principle of transclusion was part of the original description of hypertext, as published by Ted Nelson in 1965.

There are two variants to transclusion. The first, as envisaged by Nelson, is the easier: content reuse within a single publishing environment. Sorin’s article, and this one, deal with the second type: including a snippet of someone else’s content into your publishing. Read more of this post


Semantic long-form

Long form: it’s been the basis of communication for millennia. We tell stories; we’ve been successfully sharing concepts with others this way for as long as we’ve been recording history – indeed, long-form communications is perhaps the fundamental enabler of the very concept of history.

Why, then, do we have such trouble migrating this most basic form of communication to the digital realm? What about how we create, manage, maintain and distribute long-form content makes it machine-unreadable?

Personally, I blame Xerox.

Space Diner, by Chris Shipton Read more of this post

What does your CMS actually do?

You’ve shelled out the money – six figures very likely. You have the license. The wonderful CMS they sold you is yours to use. So, what are you going to do?

In other terms

I am no musician. My fingers do not obey my instructions when it comes to evoking the melody. But, I wanted to learn. The piano is supposed to be a fairly basic instrument; maybe not the easiest, but the notes are all laid out in front of one is a fairly obvious way.

I went into a music store and asked a salesman which piano I should buy. I was honest about not having a clue; not knowing how to play. But I have a good ear for sound. I know if I like the tone of something. All smiles, he took me to one special piano he had; I closed my eyes and listened while he played. The piece was hauntingly beautiful – a minute and a half of lively bounce. Chopin, he told me; Étude Op. 10 n. 5. A piece that demonstrated no lack of skill.

Sold. I handed over my money and awaited delivery.

Was I ever in for a shock? A week later, the very piano the salesman had played me that demo piece on arrived and was set up in my living room. I lifted the lid to see what my new toy sounded like in my home – and discovered that half the keys were missing! On the right half of the keyboard, there was only the single white key; an F. Read more of this post

Dependency awareness (content’s identity crisis)

Is your content having an identity crisis? Does it know what it is?

Content's identity crisis

When elements of content become individual entities, separate from the environment in which they are presented (which is the whole point of a CMS, but that’s another story), the need for awareness of these dependencies becomes critical to the “management” part of the CMS.

Most vendors will tell you that their systems are aware of content dependencies: if you create a new page, with an image in it, publishing the page will also publish the image. Hey, the page is aware of what its dependencies are; what more could you want? Read more of this post

The Quantum of Content Management

Content management, if done right, bears parallels with quantum physics. (Please stick with me: I will keep this high-level, and only maintain the analogy for a paragraph.)

The uncertainty principle of contentThe principles of quantum physics are confusing. Basically, though, they relate to the smallest elements that can be described, which have a subtle property: their actual state (where they are and what they are doing) can only be determined – is, in fact, only realised – by the presence, the contextual forces, of the elements around them; those they interact with. A single particle can be in multiple places at once, in different phases, until something needs to react to its presence (e.g. it is observed).

When developing (or customising) content systems, we need to give our information structures the granularity of quantum particles, and the flexibility of uncertainty.

Why quantum content?

One of the base principles of any CMS worthy of the name is that content is separated from its presentation. An element of content is reusable. In order to achieve proper reusability, elements of content need to be the smallest that can be formed whilst maintaining identity. Read more of this post

Bubbling knowledge in business

Businesses have a problem: there is a disconnect between the people with knowledge, and those in customer-facing roles. Whether the communication is pre- or post-sale, those charged with providing customer interaction are, by and large, operating half-blind. The salesman lives in the sales silo; the customer service rep lives in the service silo; the technician with the answers lives in a dark cellar.
Siloed communication

So what? We know our message.

“Marketing departments know the customers, they have product spec-sheets to educate them; they can craft appropriate messages.” “Service centres have customer profiles, case histories, and Q&A filtering methods that allow monkeys to find the right answer; what more does the customer want?” Somehow, this model is still hanging on. Read more of this post