Today is a new interview day!
I interview Seth Gottlieb founder and principal of Content Here.
First of all, many thanks for the time you are spending to answer this interview. Seth, you have recently created Content Here. Could you present it? What's the purpose and objectives? What kind of services do you offer?
Content Her e is a vendor-neutral analyst and consulting firm with a focus on content management technologies. Most of my work is helping clients evaluate and select web content management systems. Many of my clients are from the media and publishing industry but I also work with higher education, technology, and government.
I started Content Here to fill a large gap between analyst firms and systems integrators. I was not satisfied with the level of depth provided by most analyst firms and systems integrators cannot realistically keep up with enough products to give a vendor neutral recommendation of which one to use. In order to know a technology to reliably implement it, you need to keep your focus. Content Here is a compromise between those extremes. My implementation background helps me understand how the different platforms work and my focus on selection helps me from getting too immersed in any one system. I also have a network of systems integrators that I regularly get briefings from so I can hear their war stories and successes.
And you what's your role and what are you doing day after day?
Content Here is a one man show so I do everything. I spend a lot of time keeping up with the 50 or so technologies that I follow. That includes connecting with my network of systems integrators, playing around with the technologies when I am able, and getting demos when I can't get access to the software. I have a well defined process for taking a client through a software selection and I do roughly 12 of those per year. I also have some longer term projects where I advise clients as they progress along a roadmap of implementing and enhancing their solution.
Another exciting part of my job is writing reports. I have one report out called Open Source Web Content Managemen in Java that I wrote last year. This summer I will release and updated version. I am also working on a new report that focuses on web content management for media and publishers.
Let's talk about Content Management. I followed you since I'm working and I learned a lot of things with you and your blog. Could you identify the (hi)story of content management based on your experience ? What was the main trend?
I have been working in content management for the better part of the last 14 years. My first exposure was at a research company that turned out around 800 reports per week. The key challenges then were workflow and managing the repository so that the researchers could leverage what had been written before. My next job was with a Internet consultancy where my first project was to implement Vignette for a very large computer company. Since then, I have implemented many content management platforms. In fact, I rarely had the luxury of implementing a system more than once.
As for the industry as a whole, things have been much more chaotic - especially on the web content management side. On the document management (or ECM) side, the industry has followed more typical path of leadership by big companies (EMC, IBM, Oracle, Microsoft). On the WCM side, no one appears to be dominating and the companies there is not enough attrition. As a result, the industry is fragmented. Maybe the current economic climate will change that but who knows. One of the things that hurt the upper tier WCM players was their interest in competing in the ECM space and their loss of focus on WCM at precisely the wrong time - when the Web 2.0 momentum was starting to build. If they were leaders before Web 2.0, failure to react to this new wave of innovation made them lose their leadership position. The pure play WCM companies were able to respond and capitalize on new functionality and opportunities much better than the ECM aspirants.
And finally we have ECM! Can you tell us more about the difference between ECM and WCM?
When ECM was positioned as the union of all forms of content management, I was pretty vocal in my skepticism. I thought it was unrealistic to expect one system to uniformly handle all four content management disciplines: web content management, document management, records management, and digital asset management. Even if one system could be designed, it would be impossible for a customer to implement and manage a single solution that made every group happy. How would you manage the competing interests of the legal contracts team and the marketing team? If you could abstract your model to the level that it applied to both these business domains, would it make any sense? Also, the document management companies didn't understand that web content management is more than deploying a bunch of documents to the doc root of a web server.
I can live with the more modest vision that ECM has become: the management of the information assets that are used to run an enterprise. In practical terms, what this really means is document management plus process and governance. I say documents because documents have been the de-facto currency of information within companies since the invention of the manilla folder. I am happy to see that tradition change with document-less collaboration tools like wikis and I think that it would be wise for ECM to keep up with the evolution of how we share information.
I think of web content management as tools that manage a website (or a collection of websites). In addition to managing the information itself, a web content management system manages the organization, layout, and branding of the information. Web content management systems also control the visitor facing interaction with that information.
Throughout this history, has content management project evolved? In functional domain is there the same or have you noticed an evolution? Is it possible to illustrate it with your own project experience?
As an insider, I see lots of different and exciting trends like AJAX enable contributor interfaces, user generated content, and faceted navigation and other ways to enrich the user experience. I am also excited by social media and its ability to create a dialog *around* the content. Content is turning from a static informational asset to an exchange of information. Finally, thanks to services like Delicous and Flickr, the average user is starting to see the value of tagging. I think that it is great that RSS is becoming so ubiquitous.
On the down side, I am also surprised by the lack of progress. Most companies manage their web content in Word documents passed around as email attachments. It is not until *the end* of the workflow that the content gets into the CMS. Of course, that undermines all the workflow that has been configured in the system. I think that is changing but I expected it to happen faster. One thing that is helping facilitate the change is that the technologies are getting less formal and rigid about process. They are better designed for the average knowledge worker who is more exception driven rather than process driven.
From a publishing perspective, I am very interested in the monetization of content. Something new has to supplement the flaws in the traditional banner advertising model - in particular, in syndication and on small-screened mobile devices.
What's your pronostic for 2009 in content management area (functionnality and technology)? Only products based on Standard (CMIS for example)? Ajax only? RIA?
I think that user interfaces are going to continue to leverage AJAX. In 2007 many products started to use drag and drop for ordering of assets. In 2008 we started to see drag and drop linking and image placement. We will probably see more of that. I am also interested in thicker clients. For example, one of my customers has a custom built WCM platform and the UI is all in Flex which makes it amazingly responsive for assembling packages of content. One thing that would be really great is a Flash-based WYSIWYG editor. Nuxeo is also doing interesting things with their RCP client.
I think that REST based API's will facilitate content integration and customers will demand more functionality in the APIs. Alfresco's web scripts is a great model.
As for CMIS, I would like to see that become a standard before I get too excited about it.
In your blog, you have often spoken about the difference between open source and proprietary business model. What's the main difference from your point of view between them?
I think there is a lot of confusion still in the marketplace about open source. This is an improvement over the fear of open source that once dominated. From a typical buyers perspective, there are two key concepts to understand; and by "buyer," I mean someone who intends to use the software not resell it.
First, I should clarify that, strictly speaking, open source is a licensing model and not a business model. What I mean by that is that a company can behave like a traditional software vendor and still distribute some of their software under an open source license. The business strategy that tends to leverage the open source licensing model the best (what I often call an "open source business model") is one that uses open source distribution to get the software out there and create a market for services around that that product. This is a huge cost reduction over a traditional software sales model that spends a lot of money on sales and marketing staff (and their T&E expenses). Open source licensing allows customers (and system integrators) to do the work of qualifying themselves as a customer. If the vendor does all that pre-sales work on just the chance of a sale, it is probably expecting some upside in the form of a lucrative, all profit software deal. Otherwise it wouldn't be worth the gamble.
Second, just because the supplier identifies as an open source software vendor, doesn't mean they are selling you open source software. Take, for example, Alfresco. Their Enterprise Edition has a commercial software license. They actively discourage the use of their GPL licensed Community Edition. You can't get support for Community Edition. Alfresco partners are not supposed to help customers who are using Community Edition. Because they are solely in the business of selling a commercial software product (that is their only revenue stream), I consider Alfresco to be a commercial software vendor. That is not to say that I don't like the product. I like lots of commercial software products. I like the Alfresco's technology and think it can be a good value if it meets your requirements. Jahia is another example, they identify as an open source vendor but, today, none of the products are open source licensed.
Is there an obstacle for open source company to have double licence Enterprise (commercial) / GPL (open source)?
I think the key challenge is around positioning. First, a vendor has to decide how two the versions are different. There has to be a reason to buy the commercially licensed version. The primary dimensions that I have seen the two products differ are in quality and functionality. Alfresco's Community Edition is neither tested nor patched. Enterprise Edition is certified and supported. Magnolia's Community Edition is the same code line as the Enterprise Edition but Enterprise Edition is bundled with components that provide additional functionality. Alkacon develops OpenCms and distributes it under the LGPL. They sell a commercial bundle of modules (OpenCms Enterpise Extensions) that enhance the scalability of the application.
Second, the company needs to figure out how the two products fit into their business. A critical part of that is whether the open source version is part of the revenue side of the balance sheet. As mentioned earlier, Alfresco Community Edition is not part of their revenue model. Many companies will offer support packages for the open source versions of their software. eZ Systems offers a commercial license for eZ Publish (which hardly anyone buys) for other companies to OEM but they make all their revenue from services around the GPL licensees.
By the way, why have you started blogging? What is the goal? Is it possible to know some anecdotes?
I started blogging after a colleague (Dave Gynn who never blogs) told me to blog. I signed up for a Blogger account and wrote my first post that night. I couldn't think of a good title and that is how I can up with "Enter Content Here." The name just stuck. Blogging has been very valuable to me. It is the most efficient and effective way for me to think through and learn how to express ideas. It helps me remember things that I learned. I think I would blog even if was just me reading. What puts the value over the top for me is my readership. I really love getting feedback on what I write and hearing that I helped people.
Are you a member of an open source community promoting WCM or ECM? Do you make other contributions (Animation, articles, posts, forums ...) ?
Being vendor neutral, I don't actively participate in any projects. However, I do subscribe to a lot of mailing lists and from time to time jump into an IRC channel. I have also spoken at conferences for OpenCms, Daisy, and Plone to inform them what is happening outside of their respective projects. Before becoming an industry analyst, I participated a little on forums and I even wrote the workflow documentation for an open source WCM product. 100 MB of software off Source Forge for any one of your readers that can comment in with the name of the project!
In 2009, Can you advise us on public meeting/ event or conference we must not miss? Will you be present?
I try to make it to Jboye in Århus every year. This spring JBoye is holding conference in Philadelphia.
Finally, can you recommend us weblinks or blogs about ECM or IT in general ?
Here is a short list of what I follow:
And, of course...
•Going to an OpenSource ECM World (http://www.open-source-ecm.com/)
What would you say to conclude this interview?
Thanks for having me. Your questions really made me think. Hopefully my answers will do the same for your audience. Keep on blogging!
Many thanks, Seth, for this interview. We wish you a nice and exciting journey on Open Source ECM Road!
To find out more about Content Here: http://blog.contenthere.net/
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