There has been a meme developing in recent weeks, started perhaps by Matt McAllister at Yahoo (my former colleague for a brief time at IDG, former web guru at The Industry Standard and InfoWorld) that open-source blogging tools such as this one — WordPress — represents the true future of content management, providing the masses with a very capable tool for rapid web site development, but more importantly, ongoing refreshment and tweaking.
As I look over the content management landscape — an expensive and complex array of products from the enterprise level down to the personal — the old model of HTML development tools, followed by server-side development tools such as the old Vermeer, now Microsoft Front Page seems throughly dead, swept away in large part by what McAllister and his cohort, Chad Dickerson, correctly identified as the death of the page view model. For large organizations, the trend is still towards large enterprise systems such as Stellent, Documentum, Vignette and Interwoven, but creeping into the landscape is not only open-source CMS such as Bricolage and Drupal, but perfectly capable blog environments such as WordPress.
After 18-months of blogging in the WordPress environment, I see no reason not to recommend and deploy it to any layman anxious to get a site up and running quickly and then continuing with it as the preferred environment for ongoing site refreshment.
The old model, of using Dreamweaver, or Hotmetal, HotDog, etc. to craft a page and then FTP it up to a server, was way out of reach of the average user and insured that site development would remain locked away in the temple of the webmaster and producer. Now, with a tool such as WordPress, any user can manipulate CSS, get images and text live, and then easily syndicate it out without a lot of muss and fuss.
So what does this bode for the very expensive, very capable enterprise CMS vendors? Not much of a threat — a small business is not going to commit to a Vignette license and worry about .TCL templates any time soon. But as Google betas a page builder, and the old Geocities model of quick and dirty page building and hosting is transformed, expect to see a widening gulf between the $500,000 work of Interwoven and the $Zero world of open source CMS’s and blog tools.
As I dive into a refresh of my wife’s interior design company’s website — something I pounded together with Microsoft Frontpage three years ago, my temptation is to trash the entire thing and bring it back inside of WordPress, using the page development facility to build the “old” page model and letting her and her partner blog — if that verb applies to their view of the job — updates and images as needed. The main thing is to get me out of the picture as the gatekeeper. Trying to give a layman a tutorial into FTP and anchor tags, let alone CSS and XML is absurd.
So, what inspires this post? Content management is at the heart of my thinking these days — at one level one of the arguably most complex implementations imaginable — using a CMS to insure content standardization and global commerce across 70 countries — and at the other supporting a little interior design business on Cape Cod with two non-techies, low traffic, and a high need for good design and ongoing content refreshes.
There seems to be no middle ground.
[Chris Murray comments on his blog about his experiences with Documentum]