A lot happens at conferences.. CMF2006

November 15, 2006

Historically, I have been sceptic of conferences.  Some very big software conferences usually have good sessions with very little opportunity for meaningful networking. Some are highly glorified sales pitches and product launches. CMF2006 on the contrary was a very cosy environment.

Some said that it was the “lack of clients”  which made the environment so friendly. But, I think it was the Danish hospitality which made it so.

Most people I met, were real people with real problems and real opinions – “practitioners”.

Many good people were present. There were a few things which did surprise me – size of the many vendors present there – rather the lack of it.

Companies under 10 million usd turnover were exhibiting, and were mainstream players in the nordic markets. If the amount of innovation that comes out of nordic region impresses you as much as it does me, you would sit up and take notice.

The one that impressed me is sitecore. Its .NET – that doesnt mean anything till you are a microsoft shop looking for MS based solutions. Chances are that CMS is the only Java solution that you have.

Among the people who impressed me most – the one who stands out is Eric Hartman . He has a very friendly “non threatning” approach. His session had real take aways. a gem of a person.

The biggest disappointment was consultant stressing over and over again that the makrt is so immature. I think whoever says that is wrong. Its a function of processing power and some unreasonble licensing prices which forces many to use sub-optimal options.

Just think about it – we can now do full text search in the blink of an eye – and it tolerates mis-spelt words as well. Categorization algorithm (bayesian) had always been available, but never more popular than now – thanks to email spam filtering. Disk space is now actually affordable, and network is cheap enough to make keeping flies at a central location viable.

Content input, search and dissemination is now a commodity.  There are a few problems of course. There is still some element of presentation which people like to put in the content and people dont agree on the minimal subset of formatting required during content authoring. I tend to go with subset allowed in Wiki notation  to be a part of the content.

Publishing to web is so easy now – look at Joomla which does what we want how we want, and we realize how hard the commercial product vendors have to work to compete with it.

The industry is now talking about the next phase, including managing “document components” instead of the whole.

There were two other talks which I am not sure I liked.

The “consultants” claiming that techies have landed us in this mess. This is something which I strongly disagree with. Typically “techie” led projects tend to implement what customers are asking for, so if you ask for Junk, you get junk out. But most software vendors, including my employer ( MindTree) dont work like that. We have Business Analysts who question, analyse and get a healthy brain storming session going when it comes to requirements. They make the requirement gathering time more productive. Of course there is a different way as well. Some clients want to go with the best practices followed in the industry. This is where many product vendors have now started offering “solutions” lets say for legal firms etc.

The second thing which I didnt like was that people tend to agree that many CMS projects fail. Eric made a statement saying that definition of failure should be relaxed to say – if the system is not used, it is failed. Currently agreed definitions include cost and time overruns as well. In my opinion when these projects are considered “failed”, it is usually because of inexperience of the users defining the requirements, or because the leading edge technology doesnt live up to its promise. Actually inexperience is a wrong word, users expect too much or too little from technology. If this is the first CMS project your organization is having, I tend to advocate a prototyping phase, let the users pilot it for a few months, and then finalize on the requirements. Hiring a consultant who tells you exactly you should do it is also a good approach. Ultimately, what works best for your organization depends on a lot of factors and its very likely that it will be an iterative process.

I recently relocated to india and had to go for customs clearence of household goods. They have a fully computerised process, but what computers have done is to replace hand-written forms with typed forms and to replace the clerk who used to carry the form around with a “send to” button. You still have to queue in front of 5 different offices for getting the 5 different steps of workflow done. This is also as common in the CMS world where we replace the manual workflow 1-1 with automated workflows, with all the goods and the bads coming with it.

Coming back to CMF – I think it was a good one as all practitioners realized that others faced the same problem as they did. They had a chance to ask for opinions – and chances were that they would get both sides of the coin. And it wasnt all about shameless marketing.


3 Responses to “A lot happens at conferences.. CMF2006”

  1. Nice Blog, I’m using toko for content management (it’s a free one)… http://toko-contenteditor.pageil.net

  2. great article…i love sitecore

  3. Frank R. Says:

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