Selling Horseshoes in the Age of Driverless Cars: Part 1

I can’t tell you the number of times some digital douchebag announced in a meeting that the new website or the new “CMS” was “finally going to be the game changer we’ve been waiting for. This is the ONE.” Hah. Same shit, different day.”

– A former colleague who needs to remain unnamed

Part 1:  “All Right You Primitive Screwheads”

Listen up

I’ve seen a lot of ways to build a website and they all were a massive disappointment.  The stuff the CMS industry talks about today: personalization and putting dynamic content in front of the right person at the right time based on their history and preferences was in the dreams of the Web 1.0 pioneers right from the beginning. Targeted advertising. Web sites that act like applications and not static pages ripped from paper and converted for the glass.  Database publishing. Dynamic pages. Personalization. All of this stuff was totally and completely obvious and desirable twenty years ago; but good luck making it happen. The only difference is that today a person who is shopping for  “web content management” is buying horseshoes in the age of driverless cars. Things are so crazy and confusing that we’ve thrown up our hands in despair and are walking around trying to describe the rash on our asses as “Digital Experience Delivery.

Digital? That’s the best we can do? When are we going to accept that Digital is a given and at the heart of the matter and stop sticking it in front of our stuff like describing a car as an “Automotive Transportation System” because we don’t want to confuse the market who might be shopping for a one-horse sleigh? “Digital Marketing?” As opposed to what? The “Traditional Marketing Department?”

Content? People who write software are very different from the people who use it. When they want to describe the “stuff” their system processes and manipulates and publishes, they shrug and call it a big generic “Content” which their system “ingests.” Sit down with Marty Barron, the stud editor of the Boston Globe played by Liev Schrieber in Spotlight, and call his reporting “content” and he’ll look you in the eye and tell you that you have no soul when you lump a Pulitzer prize winning series of major journalism and reporting into the generic “Content” bucket.

“I hate the word content, which has infiltrated our profession. You have people who are called chief content officers and things like that. I don’t like the word content. To me, it’s like saying the word “stuff.” It has no meaning, whereas journalism actually does have meaning.” Marty Barron

Experience? Sounds like Austin Powers dancing through London in the 1960s on his way to a “Hippy Happening.” To hell with “experiences” and let’s admit it’s a sign that we don’t know how describe the rash on our butts. It’s red. It itches. It’s on our left buttock and we’re not sure if it’s eczema or psoriasis or an allergy to the cat. So we go to WebMD and we type in “Rash Red Ass” and what we get back for a self-diagnosis is “Digital Experience Delivery” or heaven forbid, “Web Content Management?”

With that off my chest, I’m going to pollute this personal blog with a series on how the world of “content management solutions” is missing the boat and deluding itself and the market into believing it knows what the future holds. It doesn’t. This is going to be a multi-post series on the history of web and content management that ends with some thoughts about the state of the market today and where I think it’s going.

 Next in the series: Let me dust off my bona fides. Not to brag but I sort of know this stuff and this would be one of my Jeopardy categories. I started out with an electric typewriter in 1974, regressed and ran a letter press right out of Benjamin Frankiln, graduated to the first word processor, mastered the greatest software of all time (XyWrite) was around at the dawn of HTML, learned the first web site building tools, launched one of the planet’s most successful financial web sites, rebuilt the world’s top management consulting firm’s knowledge management system, did ecommerce for a Fortune Global 100 company and wound up where I am today marketing the world’s best CMS solution for mega-brands and governments that need to build and deliver websites on the scale of nuclear powered aircraft carriers.

And I’m self-effacing and humble.

Next Enough About Me; What do you think about me?

Author: David Churbuck

Cape Codder with an itch to write

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