Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A New Kind of Content Management

I've been enamored with classification of content through my entire career (which is certainly long enough). Early on, I was working on library automation systems and in particular with Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) data and I always thought classification of documents and other content types was a panacea we should try to achieve. Librarians used these and other tools as finding aids to locating specific information, usually books.

Along came the internet and the amount of information available grew exponentially. Search engines provide keyword access to text-base content. Publishing was redefined to include anyone putting information out on the internet. Published content became a thing to be managed with buzzwords like single-sourcing, XML, multimedia, syndication, blogs, Wikis, and so on.

Well, the world is very different now and with everything from books and documentation to audio and video as well as thought streams all published on the web, finding a particular bit of information can be a nightmare. Even traditional textual content is hard to find in the vast archive that is the internet.

So how do we find things now? What are our modern finding aids starting to look like?

Some very cool new technologies have come along recently: folksonomies and mashups, to name two.

Folksonomies in particular offer a new approach to an old problem -- how to capture the "aboutness" of content. Classifying content is an age-old process that has spawned many fields including taxonomies and indexing. These, in turn, have created an arcane set of rules and procedures wherein the maintenance of the indexes or thesauri become big efforts on their own -- at times larger than the content management effort they are supporting.

Mashups are a cool way to combine content from multiple sources into a single presentation. Kind of like federated search and portals in a social-networking environment.

I'll be exploring these more over the next several posts.