Web Content Management – Deane Barker

by | Oct 18, 2016 | Intranets, Reviews

I remember with great affection the Content Management Bible that Bob Boiko wrote in 2002. At over 1100 pages it covered everything you wanted to know about any aspect of specifying and implementing content management applications. It was published at a time when supporting the selection of these applications was a significant element of my business, and led to me writing the Content Management Handbook in 2005, now out of print. The book was no where near as comprehensive as the CM Bible, but instead was written for non-technical intranet and web managers to help them fend off vendors promising the ultimate CMS experience. This baton was then taken up by the Real Story Group with its subscription services so the arrival of Web Content Management, authored by Deane Barker (Blend Interactive) and published by O’Reilly, is very timely as the range of CMS applications shows no sign of decreasing.

The strap line of the book is Systems, Features and Best Practices, and it runs to just under 350 pages.  Part 1 deals with Basics, including advice on a CMS team. Part II is a pretty deep dive into the technology. covering topics which include content modelling, content aggregation, editorial tools, output and publication management, and APIs and extensibility. Deane is adept at explaining quite complex technology in a way that intranet and web managers without a technical background will appreciate. Part III deals with implementation issues, including a very good chapter on migration (“content migrations…are always underestimated”) and on working with external agencies. The layout is excellent, as with all O’Reilly books, and I noted that Deane has been guided by Ally MacDonald as Editor, who also provided me with a great deal of support for Enterprise Search. There are useful footnotes and many call-outs written by other CMS gurus. For a technical book the writing style is excellent, and Deane’s expertise and experience shines through each paragraph. As always with an O’Reilly book the index is faultless and that makes it so easy to find guidance on a specific topic.

The quality of the content throughout the book is excellent and I could find nothing that caused me to raise even a slight eyebrow. But then I would be surprised if I could as Deane has been in this business for around 20 years, co-founding Blend Interactive in 2005. My only reservations on this 1st Edition is that there is no advice on how to manage a CMS selection process and the word ‘intranet’ does not appear in the index. Since receiving the book for review Deane and I have had a very good exchange of views on the extent to which intranets might be a ‘special case’ and worthy of a chapter on their own. I’ll be doing my best to persuade him to consider adding a chapter in the 2nd Edition. However I would not want to convey the impression that this book would not be of value to the intranet community – a solid understanding of the technology and how this translates to high quality applications is essential for any intranet manager.

Overall this is a book I can recommend with enthusiasm even if you think you know all there is to know about CMS technology. I know from my own experience just how much time a book like this takes to write, and the impact that writing has on earning a living as a consultant. The CMS community should be very grateful to Deane for finding the time and energy to write this book.  The quality and scope of this book are such that if you were planning to write a book on CMS technology press the delete button now. There is a significant gap in the market for this book, which in many respects is the essential technical annex to the Morville/Rosenfeld/Arango book on Information Architecture. . All you then need is a book on enterprise search (!) and perhaps Theresa Regli’s recent book on Digital Asset Management applications.

Martin White