re: should it all be miscellaneous?


This is a response to Cole Camplese's great post "Should it all be Miscellaneous" - which was, itself, a response to the Penn State Web Conference (which, in turn, sounds like it was a fantastic gathering of PSU folks).

Go read Cole's post before reading any further. It's worth it. I'll wait.

Really. I'll wait. Go read it. Seriously.

OK. You're back. Took long enough. Great post, eh? Here are my thoughts in response:

  • Content management is not the problem - overly prescribed, rigid, and enforced application of content management is. One-solution-fits-all "solutions" that are applied as universal hammers are the problem. If people are free to choose the right tool(s) for the job(s) - and are aware of available and relevant options, they should be free to choose whatever tools fit best. Sure, some options might have different levels of support, but that will help inform an individual's decision - don't need support? choose whatever you want. Need lots of support and training? Choose one of the institutionally supported options.
  • Does the act of management interfere with the natural flow of content through a community? Does it interfere with the connections and links between people, concepts, and bits of content? Does cramming content into a predefined taxonomy and/or site structure affect the content, or the utility of it? Does a community (and its content/context/information) become subtly altered through the process of trying to manage it. Do we kill the community/content when we stuff it in a content management box?
  • Efforts to "manage everything" have typically failed. Miserably. Remember learning object repositories? They started as a small-scale effort to organize some content, then ballooned into massive, interoperable, enterprise-scale metadata storehouse and indexing systems, complete with multiple specifications, namespaces, and taxonomies. Content (and people) fell by the wayside. Fail.
  • Cole's thoughts triggered images of Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control. DIY. Edupunk. Control isn't necessarily bad - control helps keep focus and direction. Some level of control helps maintain group cohesion and productivity. But the locus of control must be the individual or workgroup, not the institution.
  • I'll take you up on the beer. It's been far too long.

I'm in the early stages of planning what could turn into a pretty large scale community project on campus. My gut reaction was to craft a website using our CMS of choice. I wanted to keep it as organic as possible, letting people in the community do pretty much anything they want with it. But, now I'm seriously wondering if even that would be too constraining. I'm now thinking about just having individuals and groups set up blogs wherever they like (with several suggested services provided to help guide them) and let them publish whatever they want, however they want, wherever they want.

The downside of that approach is that it's difficult for people to get a feel for the activities of the community at a glance, or for new people to get up to speed. It's messy and noisy, but that's one of the reasons the approach is attractive. Maybe I try rolling out some form of Eduglu service to pull the various bits back together in context, and track links and conversations? hmm...

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