PCMT – The Perfect Content Management Tool, take two

Continuing the idea of my last post on the topic, let me introduce you to my world of the “ideal” (?) CM tool.

Let’s start with the basics: content. Content is something I want to use for various purposes. Lacking a better description, it’s a file with some additional information attached to it. That’s the “atom”. You can bind some of these together and generate a “bigger” content. Much like atoms attach to each other and form compounds. Or files/cases in our situation.

I’m not going to go deeper that this for the moment. Feel free to rant about it as you wish.

I need a tool to help me work with this content. Let’s call it PCMT.

Since PCMT is something revolutionary, it should show me new ways I can work with the content. Ways I never thought they were possible until today. Isn’t it so? NOT! People or businesses generally don’t like revolutionary things. Think about Galileo presenting his ideas to the general public. Or think about the tons of products which came into the market and had no success until they got reinvented 2 decades later and rocked the world. No, in order to make a perfect tool it needs to be used by today’s people. We are not building the tool for tomorrow.

Ok, that’s settled. The tool will not be revolutionary. Cool, let’s build a filesystem explorer and make it use some metadata and we’re set. NTFS/ext3 anyone? Bleagh, not good enough.

Let’s look at how real people interact with real content today. They take it from wherever it sits and put it in a physical file. Organized by some misterious way in which they hope or know that will help them later solve some task.

Feature 1: must allow the user to “pick up” or “receive” content. Easy, huh? Now… content can be: a file on the filesystem, a file on my USB stick, an email, an attachment, a web page I’m just visiting, a picture in a webpage. A pictore on my phone, a photo in my camera, a voice recording… Easy.

And content must have context. It might be very important if the file I’m picking to use comes from a certain folder on the drive or comes from an email attachment. The tool must capture this.

Capture? Anyone said capture? How about extracting meaningful information from the content, at the point of ingestion? Suddenly this “feature 1” looks interensting enough to spend some significant effort on it.

Feature 2: Help me create files to put content into. Yeah, exactly like getting one of those plastic folders from our lovely assistant, scribbling some acronyms on the cover and throwing the papers in. But electronic. And under the seamless control of the organization policies. Repeat after me: seamless.

Apply business rules. On what? On whatever the user puts there or creates. How? Ask the user what’s all that mumbo-jumbo about and then perform the business validation and raise the necessary actions.

Feature 3: Help the business admins define the rules they want obeyed on the content created by their  employees. Make this easy – aim for trivial – to be technically entered in the system. Something like “all purchasing contracts over 2000 USD must be approved by the corresponding department head before entering the final approval stage”. Or “only secretaries can register incoming documents”.

Then what? Let the employees work towards their business goals while the software makes sure the business rules are observed. Don’t get in the way of real work with software which slows processes to a crawl.

Of course, you can’t define all business rules in software. Much like you cannot build a software to interpret the law and give the verdict. You still need a judge for that.

Feature 4: Provide visibility on the whole data. Turn data into information by presenting it into context to the users. Detect anomalies…. Such as: “user X, although it has the same business role as Y, creates 10 times less documents of type T in a month… I’m going to inform the department lead about this and let him/her judge what to do if it”

Enable the user drill down into the information. Search, navigate, faceted something, metadata driven navigation, pivots, reports… whatever you call it.  Link together the pieces, show the people who interacted with a document, and show me what other documents did they access/change in the process… show me the most popular documents used by my coworkers, show me the fact that a new document entered the system related to a search I did last week.

Feature 5: Help IT. Please don’t make it a pain to monitor and keep alive. Once its installed, it must “just work”. Unattended. Don’t complicate the architecture with multiple modules stiched together with duct tape. Or worse, orchestrated as if they were a cards castle. All the IT should need to do is to monitor CPU/Disk/memory usage and act on them. And the error log. The system must have one place for all logs. Core, addons, applications… whatever. Not to mention a common format.

IT is your friend. You want them to be your friend. Provide them with statistics and notifications on important IT related events. Enable them to define quotas for users or groups. Help them perform chargeback calculations. Report the licensing usage.

Too much for you? Go play with your toys then, father has some things to do.


Reality check:

Check-out / check-in! …. WTF !?! Who the f.ck understands that? I edited a document and now no one can see the changes I’ve made and they can’t edit the document either, although it’s secured with a key besides it…

Some ACS server was not available for UCF to … what?

New document? What object type you want to create?…. Me? Dunno, I just have this contract on my desk.

What should I do with this task? Says I can “Forward” or “Delegate”. Hmm…..

I want this invoice to be attached to the PO…. If I put it in this folder is enough? Yeah.. cool.. look… it sits there and does nothing, because I need to call a developer to build the business logic so that it links.

Have you checked the renditions? Your PDF should pop up there any minute now. Or in some 1-2 hours… depends.

Do you want versions with that? Remember that the one labeled with _TNERRUC is the one you need.


No, I don’t like this world. Let’s fix it!

Give me the music

Not totally unrelated to content management, but I have an idea. I’m sometimes full of them, to the dismay of my colleagues.

As many usual working dudes out here, I spend about 2 hours in my car each day. And I happen to like music (doh!) and there is stuck me: “I like this song, I’d like to buy it”.

So here it is, my invention (a quick google on the topic revealed nothing similar):

Let’s build something which will allow regular persons to purchase songs they hear on the radio. Without knowing the  artist or song title. Even without being capable to reproduce it in the shower. And, staying true to my ideas, this must be “one button easy”.

Let’s double the complexity. I’ll probably need 2 buttons: “Buy this!” and “I like this”.

How can it be done?

First of all, who are the involved players?

At this moment, I can think of: radio stations, radio producers. Coming in second: music rights regulators, car manufacturers (remember, I was in my car, and you can find me there 2 hours each day… listening to music).

So, it would be good to put these buttons on the radio.

Sure, one crazy (?) idea would be to creat an app for my mobile device to record provide the button and then do some magic to find out what the song is.

How can it find out: build a signature of a brief recording of the music and then compare it to an online exhaustive database.  Nah…. For those of you who want this… try shazam, it’s really cool and it works.

Record the exact time and lookup in the playlist of “that” radio. This means i have to also select the radio I’m listening to. Not an easy task, I’ll probably not do it if it needs so much actions on my side.

So, the best way would be to have the button in the radio. The radio also knows the station I’m tuned in, the time (usually) and also has access to the RDS stream of the station, if any… to pick up any useful information (some deliver the song name by RDS).

So, let’s build inside the radio a GSM module to send the timestamp/radio station/any other thing to a cloud server (see…. see… I used the magic word). That server will know my account, will communicate with the radio station to find out the exact song details and will purchase or mark it as favorite, or put it in a shopping basket.

On my convenience I will login in the cloud and download my tune on the iPod/mp3player/computer/tivo/whatever. Simple, easy, micropurchase.

I can even think of bundles between mobile operators and radio/car manufacturers to charge that tune to my phone bill linked to the GSM card… so that would be even easier.

In the cloud, I can anonymize the data from many users an build a reccomandation system for other songs/items… the sky is the limit.

This is cool, let’s do it.

Where’s the money? The radio station can be paid a part of the song fee, helping it support the fees it pays for music to the regulators/guilds/autors. The car/radio manufacturer adds another feature to it’s product and thus differentiates from the competition, thus it has more sales and exclusive cusomers.

Speaking of this idea, we can implement it in Android and apply it on mobile phones with an FM radio. That solves quite a lot of challenges but limits the user base. But this user base is formed by youg people who love micropayments and are also more in touch with modern technology (like logging in the cloud). We just need to cooperation of radio stations.

Why am I coming open with this idea and not patent it myself? Because I’m sick and tired ot software patents. And I hope that by making this public I help discourage anyone to patent it.  And since I’m going to build it myself, that will also help.

Do you wish to work together? If I can help and provide valuable work items, I’m all in. There are multiple possible variations on the above, like connection your phone to the radio by Bluetooh, instead of building the GSM inside the radio…

How is this related to content management? Well, is somehow an answer to “if all the obstacles to ECM adoption were to go away, what would you do with ECM?” and a followup to my idea of “One button for all I want“.