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Published on September 11th, 2009 | by Rahel Bailie

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Component content management as content mashup

Component content management as topic mashup
Explaining CCM (component content management) to clients is sometimes difficult. The concept of combining content at the component level, to create publications, is complex to understand to people who aren’t typically involved in the production or management of content.
Ironically, one group that has a hard time with the concepts of CCM are the IS/IT groups. For a while, this flummoxed me, as I thought that an understanding of the technology side would be an advantage to understanding it. Then it dawned on me that knowing the general principles of content management could actually become a barrier. Content management has become synonymous with WCM (Web Content Management), with CCM considered an obscure niche within the broader field, and WCM does not handle content at a sufficiently granular level. The final two words, “content management” are the same, but it’s the first word that makes the functional difference. It’s a little like thinking a truck is a truck, whether the prefix is “moving” or “dump”.
The difference is a little like that. For the average WCM system, content is input directly into the content management system, and managed at whatever level the content is input – generally, at the page level. A change to made to a page, and an edit udpates the entire page.
For the average CCM system, the content is created in smaller-than-page chunks, and assembled, much like a content mashup, to create a larger-sized page for output. A change is made to a component, which can be a single word, phrase, paragraph, or larger, which is then compiled, much like a software “build”, which generates a presentation version of the specified sources. The aggregated content can be pushed out to a Web page, a PDF, or a print destination.
When we think of mashups, we think of the Wikipedia definition of a mashup, which is combining data from two or more sources to create a richer information set. A common mash-up is an address with a map, that displays that includes both components as a single, integrated screen, with more meaning. A content mashup is similar – for example, when an ecommerce retailer pulls product descriptions from one data source and the prices from a financial system to mash together and display according to the requested content.
The technology that allows content to be mashed up before making it to the end display is an XML editor. The editor allows authors to determine how the components will be mashed together, whether that be through a manual mechanism such as a content map, or automated through an information retrieval system such as a taxonomy or thesaurus.
Whether understanding CCM as a mashup application is helpful for purposes of explaining to the technical parties remains to be seen. I do suspect that the analogy will strike a chord with a certain client segment, though, and that’s about all I can ask.

Explaining CCM (component content management) to clients is sometimes difficult. The concept of combining content at the component level to create topics, which then get combined to create publications – or not; sometimes, topics just remain topics – is complex to understand to people who aren’t typically involved in the production or management of content.

Ironically, one group that has a hard time with the concepts of CCM are the IS/IT groups. For a while, this flummoxed me, as I thought that an understanding of the technology side would be an advantage to understanding it. Then it dawned on me that knowing the general principles of content management could actually become a barrier. Content management has become synonymous with WCM (Web Content Management), with CCM considered an obscure niche within the broader field, and WCM does not handle content at a sufficiently granular level. The final two words, “content management” are the same, but it’s the first word that makes the functional difference. It’s a little like thinking a truck is a truck, whether the prefix is “moving” or “dump”.

The difference is a little like that. For the average WCM system, content is input directly into the content management system, and managed at whatever level the content is input – generally, at the page level. A change to made to a page, and an edit udpates the entire page.

For the average CCM system, the content is created in smaller-than-page chunks, and assembled, much like a content mashup, to create a larger-sized page for output. A change is made to a component, which can be a single word, phrase, paragraph, or larger, which is then compiled, much like a software “build”, which generates a presentation version of the specified sources. The aggregated content can be pushed out to a Web page, a PDF, or a print destination.

Web and Component Content

When we think of mashups, we think of the Wikipedia definition of a mashup, which is combining data from two or more sources to create a richer information set. A common mash-up is an address with a map, that displays that includes both components as a single, integrated screen, with more meaning. A content mashup is similar – for example, when an ecommerce retailer pulls product descriptions from one data source and the prices from a financial system to mash together and display according to the requested content.

The technology that allows content to be mashed up before making it to the end display is an XML editor. The editor allows authors to determine how the components will be mashed together, whether that be through a manual mechanism such as a content map, or automated through an information retrieval system such as a taxonomy or thesaurus.

Whether understanding CCM as a mashup application is helpful for purposes of explaining to the technical parties remains to be seen. I do suspect that the analogy will strike a chord with a certain client segment, though, and that’s about all I can ask.


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About the Author

Rahel Anne Bailie is a synthesizer of content strategy, requirements analysis, information architecture, and content management to increase the ROI of content. She has consulted for clients in a range of industries, and on several continents, whose aim is to better leverage their content as business assets. Founder of Intentional Design, she is now the Chief Knowledge Officer of London-based Scroll. She is a Fellow of the Society for Technical Communication, she has worked in the content business for over two decades. She is co-author of Content Strategy: Connecting the dots between business, brand, and benefits, and co-editor of The Language of Content Strategy, and is working on her third content strategy book,



2 Responses to Component content management as content mashup

  1. Amanda Shiga says:

    Hi Rahel,

    Good post! As a CMS consultant I love the idea of CCM and struggle to frame it/create it within current WCM technologies. I see the “content mashup” as the future, yet it is difficult to reconcile it with the page-based structured data we build in WCM.

    When you talk about a CCM system, are you referring to particular vendors or products? I am curious to know.

  2. Rahel Bailie says:

    When I refer to component content management, I’m talking about a system in the sense of “a complex of methods or rules governing behavior” or “a group of independent but interrelated elements comprising a unified whole” (both definitions from Wikipedia). CCM has a greatly different set of methods and rules from WCM, and this is not well understood within the greater industry yet.

    There are vendors and products, which change from time to time as companies get bought out by others. A great source of information about specific vendors and how their products work is through CMS Watch, who create vendor-neutral reports.

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