Information Philosopher

Bob Doyle Articles for eContent Magazine, 2004-2009

Between 2000 and 2010, Bob Doyle ran CMS Labs in Cambridge, MASS., where he produced information tools for content management professionals and wrote a regular column for eContent magazine. He was a founder and first executive director of the CM Pros community of practice, is CEO of, where with his son Derek he produced the "TimeLines" CMS. Bob created, with its nearly 2000 pages on problems in philosophy and physics and individual pages on over 500 philosophers and scientists.

Four and a half years of columns, on top of a couple of years prior studying content management systems at CMS Review, taught me a lot about how information is created, managed, and published today, especially on the web.
Column/I Column Like I CM - November 2008 Issue, Posted Feb 09, 2009
In early 2008, I dropped my monthly online column for EContent, and this will be my last print column. I will focus my remaining time and energy on Information Philosopher and my I-Phi blog (, an attempt to examine many classic philosophy problems from the standpoint of information.
Column/I Column Like I CM - December 2008 Issue, Posted Dec 01, 2008
I have been writing about content management techniques and technologies for EContent since June 2004, when I was 67 years old. Last June, I turned 72 and decided to refocus my energy on my longtime interest, information philosophy. I will tell you something about that in my December column, which will be my last.
Column/Guest Columns - November 2008 Issue, Posted Oct 20, 2008
Working in groups with free online tools has become an American passion. In his great 19th-century, two-volume work Democracy in America, Alexis deTocqueville estimated that there were more independent associations in America than there were individuals.
Column/I Column Like I CM - Sept 2008 Issue, Posted Aug 27, 2008
It is a truism that tools and technology are not the answer. Success depends on people and processes that make good use of those tools. The best content management system (CMS) may not help. As someone who has followed tools and technology for many years, I see a seismic shift away from monolithic content management systems to parallel distributed processing models that mirror the latest thinking in cognitive science about how our minds work.
Column/I Column Like I CM - June 2008 Issue, Posted Jun 06, 2008
The toolsets alone can run to hundreds of thousands of dollars when a fully automated publishing solution is integrated with an XML CMS, such as those from Astoria, Vasont, and XyEnterprise, or integrated editing, styling, publishing, and CM systems from PTC Arbortext. Significantly, however, where free content management solutions have been driven by the open source community—who built the leading CMSs such as Drupal, Joomla, and Plone—the free structured publishing option for DITA is the gift of one of those large corporations: IBM.
Column/I Column Like I CM - April 2008 Issue, Posted Mar 21, 2008
For those wishful thinkers who dream of corporate "knowledge management," few tools are more seductive than the enterprise wiki. In the idyllic wiki Web 2.0 future, all your mission-critical information will be easily accessible with a quick keyword search. What's wrong with this picture? We have plenty of evidence in its favor. Hasn't Wikipedia shown us all the way?
Column/I Column Like I CM - January/February 2008 Issue, Posted Jan 25, 2008
The XML dialect of choice is the new DITA (Darwin Information Typing Architecture), developed originally by IBM and now an OASIS standard. Of the original twelve XML editors, eight now do DITA, and one new WYSIWYG XML authoring tool has entered the market that does only DITA.
Column/I Column Like I CM - Posted Dec 04, 2007
For the past three years, my annual wrap-up of content management systems has mostly counted the exploding number of branded products, for sale and open source, on the world market—now nearing 3,000. This year, I want to focus on a handful that are doing things so well that they show the way to the future for all the others.
Column/I Column Like I CM - December 2007 Issue, Posted Nov 15, 2007
XML has established itself as the preferred technology for exchanging data between web applications. Now it has earned pride of place as a document markup language, its original purpose.
Column/I Column Like I CM - November 2007 Issue, Posted Nov 09, 2007
The content you offer about your product is key, but so is understanding how people will search for products like yours, so you can match keywords on your site with their searches.
Column/I Column Like I CM - Posted Nov 06, 2007
Less is not a bad thing. In fact, for those creating the reusable multilingual user-oriented content of today's websites and structuring the writing of today's corporate documents, the cry should be "Less is less."
Column/I Column Like I CM - October 2007 Issue, Posted Oct 02, 2007
I have been writing for some months about the many benefits of component content management and structured publishing. They include content reuse, multi-format, and multi-channel output from single sources, and ease of translation and localization when the components are translated and approved independently.
Column/I Column Like I CM - Posted Oct 02, 2007
In these days of exploding numbers of podcasts and YouTube videos, companies everywhere and many small organizations are asking, "where do we get the interesting content to fill these new communications channels with our corporate messages?"
Column/I Column Like I CM - Posted Sep 05, 2007
I went to the Blackboard World 2007 User Conference in July to see the latest developments in eLearning technology. With 2500 attendees from 40 countries, BbWorld included many users of recently acquired WebCT. The emphasis was on higher education and I found that large companies have training relationships with strong eLearning teams at nearby universities.
Column/I Column Like I CM - Posted Aug 07, 2007
Making the business case for a technology change is primarily about your return on investment (ROI). To make the business case for structuring your content, you must align the many advantages of structured content with specific needs in your business or organization.
Column/I Column Like I CM - July/August 2007 Issue, Posted Jul 03, 2007
This year is the tenth anniversary of the Defense Department's development of the Sharable Content Object Reference Model and SCORM is on its way to dominating the content marketplace for on-line courseware, both educational and corporate. SCORM is now managed by the Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) Initiative, a part of the office of the Secretary of Defense, which now requires that all eLearning materials be SCORM compliant.
Column/I Column Like I CM - Posted Jun 05, 2007
The localization industry is, by its nature, distributed worldwide. The best translators are native speakers living in their locales, though their knowledge of technical content means many are part of the brain drain from developing countries. Common Sense Advisory estimates that the global market for outsourced language services was $8.8 billion in 2005, growing at 7.5% per year. This is big business and localization has seen many revolutions in the technology used to move content to and from translators, each one improving speed and accuracy.
Column/I Column Like I CM - June 2007 Issue, Posted Jun 01, 2007
April was a busy month for content management trade shows, each bigger than the one before, and each with an emphasis on multilingual content.
Column/I Column Like I CM - Posted May 01, 2007
I wrote this month’s column online. Normally I use Microsoft Word or OpenOffice, but the hard drive on my main laptop computer crashed and though all my document files are backed up, it will take some time to reinstall my applications so I figured, why not write about Google’s online office tools?
Column/I Column Like I CM - April 2007 Issue, Posted Apr 03, 2007
I have been trying to understand the past and likely future of topic-based authoring. This is structured writing of content in which you break down the content into topics or "chunks" which have a good chance of making sense when standing alone. Single-source structured content is more reusable and localizable.
Column/I Column Like I CM - Posted Apr 03, 2007
There has been a buzz lately on the mailing lists of the content management community about "Component Content Management." The discussion was provoked by a 2006 issue of the Forrester Wave on Content-Centric Applications.
Column/I Column Like I CM - Posted Mar 06, 2007
You may get what you pay for, but getting started with structured content creation using the new DITA XML standard has recently gotten a lot less expensive.
Column/I Column Like I CM - Posted Feb 06, 2007
In a classic high school essay, you are asked to find the similarities and differences between two things. In your current job, you may be asked to compare and contrast content management systems, probably the one you are using now and the new one being promoted by the boss’s brother-in-law, or worse, the one already purchased by the boss and installed by IT.
Column/I Column Like I CM - January/February 2007 Issue, Posted Jan 30, 2007
The holy grail of structured content is a tool that lets authors write their comfortable and familiar unstructured content, but which then auto-magically converts their text to structured XML when it is saved. But skeptics cite the old maxim “garbage in, garbage out" here. If every document is arbitrarily different, they say, there is no way it can be exported to useful XML.
Column/I Column Like I CM - Posted Jan 09, 2007
The terms Information Architecture and Information Architect were first coined by Richard Saul Wurman, a real architect who created the theme for the 1976 convention of the American Institute of Architects. His theme was The Architecture of Information. Twenty years later, Wurman solidified the essence of his vision with the 1997 book Information Architects, which documented the work of twenty leading designers of illustrations, diagrams, publications, software, and exhibits.
Column/I Column Like I CM - Posted Dec 05, 2006
In EContent’s 2005 year-end roundup of the Content Management System marketplace, I (amazingly) found 1,879 distinct CMS products listed in 20 directories around the world. I have received dozens of requests for my spreadsheet listing all the CMS tools and a second spreadsheet of their most common features, which is being developed as part of the CMSML project (a markup language to help describe and evaluate CMS capabilities).
Column/I Column Like I CM - December 2006 Issue, Posted Nov 22, 2006
YouTube’s tagline, “Broadcast Yourself,” signals the beginning of a new era in digital content, though the necessary production technologies and distribution infrastructure may still be a few years off. The wide acceptance of blogging as a means of self-expression was the first wave of personal content. The second wave, riding on the phenomenon of iPod and iTunes, is personal podcasting. The third wave, which will dwarf the others in gigabytes of content transferred, is personal video or individual television. Variously called vlogging, vidcasting, or vodcasting (the marriage of video on demand and podcasting), I’ll simply call it iTV.
Column/I Column Like I CM - November 2006 Issue, Posted Nov 07, 2006
Publishing your content is not the last stage in the content lifecycle. For user-centered designers, in many ways it is the beginning of great content and services.
Column/I Column Like I CM - Posted Nov 07, 2006
In a past column, I looked at content globalization, which includes internationalization (getting a site ready to handle multilingual content), localization (adapting to the culture and language of each locale served), and translation (including workflow tools to manage the translation process). Now I'll take a look at publishing content to many locales.
Column/I Column Like I CM - Posted Oct 03, 2006
In a follow-up to their landmark publication The Digital Classroom: How Technology is Changing the Way We Teach and Learn, the Harvard Education School noted that essentially all the K–12 classrooms in the U.S. have been wired (though many still have slow dial-up connections). So here, the “digital divide” is fast disappearing, from a pure technology standpoint. For the world as a whole the picture is not so uniformly bright. Asian countries like Korea and Japan have even greater connectivity than we do, while Africa, the Near East, Latin America, and Caribbean countries lag way behind.
Column/I Column Like I CM - September 2006 Issue, Posted Sep 18, 2006
In my recent review of XML editing tools, I looked particularly at their support for DITA, especially integration of the DITA Open Toolkit. The DITA OT is a reference implementation of the OASIS specification for “ready-made metadata” in the DITA DTDs and Schemas. Why is the DITA OT important and likely to affect your choice of a CMS in the near future?
Column/I Column Like I CM - Posted Sep 05, 2006
Where does content management end and community management begin? For some IT diehards “everything is content,” including human resources data that tells all about every member of an organization. For others, content is about text, whether online documents, structured XML files, posts to weblogs, or attached multimedia files, like audio and video podcasts. Stuff about people does not belong in a content management system (CMS).
Column/I Column Like I CM - Posted Aug 01, 2006
More and more often I hear clients who want a new website saying, “Why can’t we use a wiki?” or “shouldn’t we just start a blog?” This is particularly true of businesses and other large organizations that already have significant websites but aren’t satisfied with them for some reason or other.
Column/I Column Like I CM - Posted Jul 11, 2006
One of the great things about technical journalism is getting to talk to the people who are making the tools of tomorrow and thus changing the way we work. It’s also an opportunity to take the tools out for a spin. In this issue, I do my first comparative review of content-creation software XML Author and Developer tools.
Column/I Column Like I CM - June 2006 Issue, Posted Jun 13, 2006
These days, Tim Berners-Lee’s dictum, “If it’s not on the Web, it doesn’t exist,” may need to be supplemented with, “And if your business is not creating XML content, it may soon cease to exist.” Here we take an extensive look at many of the popular XML content-creation tools on the market to help you navigate the power and potential of XML.
Editorial/Feature - June 2006 Issue, Posted Jun 13, 2006
Personas and Scenarios are powerful new tools in the content management toolbox to enhance the user experience of interacting with your content, especially web content that includes any form of interaction.
Column/I Column Like I CM - Posted Jun 06, 2006
You need people and processes, content flows, and a content lifecycle. If you have these things, most of the top tools will do a terrific job for you. But it's not tools and techniques that create the content and its organization, make it usable, credible, and desirable, in short make it into valuable knowledge that is actually used.
Column/I Column Like I CM - Posted May 02, 2006
OpenOffice is a suite of free office tools originally developed as StarOffice for Sun Microsystems to compete with Microsoft Office. Microsoft and Sun have both developed XML support for their office suites, with major implications for managing structured content. Advanced content management systems allow contributors to edit in standard office documents, and XML simplifies the ingestion of that content into a CMS
Column/I Column Like I CM - April 2006 Issue, Posted Apr 10, 2006
Content Management Systems are only ten years old and yet there are already over two thousand types of them on the market. At the low end of the multibillion dollar CMS business there are weblogs, wikis, forums, and news portals--often called CMS-Lite. At the high-end are enterprise content management (ECM) systems, which integrate management of documents, records, customers, and expert knowledge, as well as provide ecommerce support. In either case, we need to structure information in these CMS to create the best interactive user experience. What are the differences between the Big CMS and the Small ones; and do they matter to optimizing the user experience?
Column/I Column Like I CM - Posted Apr 04, 2006
I must admit that can I not begin to count the myriad ways that content is input--created, captured, converted, and automatically ingested into today's content management systems. With multi-channel, multi-format, and multi-lingual publishing, the full matrix of paths through to the system output is daunting, to say the least. However, there is one thing that all content inputs and outputs appear to have in common today: XML.
Column/I Column Like I CM - Posted Mar 07, 2006
Globalization, Internationalization, Localization and Translation are all terms that describe making content readable in the world marketplace. Our CM Professionals community has chapters around the world and hopes to translate its Web site navigation and some content into several languages for outreach to new countries, but the challenges are formidable. So, what is the best way to manage a content globalization project?
Column/I Column Like I CM - Posted Feb 07, 2006
Want to try for yourself a new information retrieval method that is powerful yet very simple to understand and implement? One that will affect everything from enterprise search to your own desktop search? Follow these simple steps . . .
Column/I Column Like I CM - January/February 2006 Issue, Posted Jan 20, 2006
Keeping Found Things Found is a multi-year project at the University of Washington Information School by Professors William Jones and Harry Bruce, with Susan Dumais of Microsoft Research. The team is studying the various ways people attempt to make interesting Web pages they've found easily accessible later.
Column/I Column Like I CM - Posted Jan 03, 2006
Major highlights of the Fall 2005 Gilbane Conference on Content Management Technologies and the accompanying fourth international Summit of the CM Professionals community of practice were both educational and entertaining.
Column/I Column Like I CM - Posted Dec 06, 2005
It's really a jungle out there in the Content Management System space. For the past couple of years, I have attended the Gilbane Conference in Boston and reported on the number of CMSs listed in various online directories, like the Google directory,, the Yahoo! portal, etc. There are well over a thousand systems listed, perhaps even two thousand. I myself edited several hundred entries in the DMOZ Open Directory Project (which has more than 1,000 in its various subcategories) and in my CMS Review (with a few hundred).
Column/I Column Like I CM - December 2005 Issue, Posted Nov 16, 2005
One of the mantras in the CM profession that is right up there with “Separate the content from the presentation” is the hard rule, “It’s never the technology, it’s the people and processes.” Most of the rest of us think of a CMS as software that helps people implement their processes, especially processes that involve digital content. But there is good reason to think of the software itself as involving three groups of very important people and processes.
Column/I Column Like I CM - November 2005 Issue, Posted Nov 14, 2005
Nearly ten years ago, Peter Pirolli and Stuart Card, information scientists at Xerox PARC, compared humans seeking information on computers and the Web to animals foraging in the wild for food. They equated clues that lead animals to food (usually their noses picking up a scent) to clues in a Web page that might lead to what they called information patches. “Informavores,” they called us content foragers.
Column/I Column Like I CM - Posted Nov 01, 2005
When can I do some XML with you? Adapting and reusing this Beatles lyric for our theme works best in the UK, where Rita rhymes with Meta and DITA; It’s a stretch in the US, where Meta sounds like better and DITA sounds bitter.
Column/I Column Like I CM - Posted Oct 04, 2005
The most well-known content management books, reports, and organizations describe various numbers of stages, or phases, of the content management process and lifecycle. While the experts differ somewhat on specifics, aspects of these stages are universal and those seeking to make a CM investment best be prepared.
Column/I Column Like I CM - Posted Sep 09, 2005
How did an IP squabble lead to the first podcast? And why did Jenny Attiyeh quit radio and TV to create her own show on the Web? Well, it all began with the third international Open Source Content Management (OSCOM) conference at Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet and Society in the spring of 2003. Dave Winer, the creative genius and enfant terrible of the blogosphere, was invited to give the keynote address to a couple hundred OS CMS developers from all over the world. As the architect of several Web standards like XML-RPC, SOAP, and RSS, Winer garnered enormous respect from his developer audience.
Column/I Column Like I CM - September 2005 Issue, Posted Sep 07, 2005
Where are all the Web Services we were promised a few years ago with the blossoming of so many new protocols in support of Service Oriented Architecture (SOA)?
Column/I Column Like I CM - Posted Aug 02, 2005
In all the talk about findability, a constant theme is augmenting a sites search engine by adding synonym rings, taxonomies, and maybe even thesauri--so a search for one keyword can find a lot of related topics (or subjects or concepts) on your Web site.
Column/I Column Like I CM - Posted Jul 08, 2005
Open access is an initiative to distribute content over the Web at no charge to the reader. It is not an attack on copyrights, nor does it imply that no money is to be made on the content. Innovative business models suggest that sales of physical items like books and technical reports might actually improve if the content is freely available for browsing and searching on the Web--with some important caveats.
Column/I Column Like I CM - June 2005 Issue, Posted Jun 21, 2005
To paraphrase Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver: "We all gotta get organizized." Otherwise, how will our Web site team know where to put all our content?
Column/I Column Like I CM - Posted Jun 07, 2005
In the age of the intelligent search engine, the importance of metadata is called into question. It seems that Google can find everything we need by sending its robots to crawl around inside all of our documents. Why bother with the hard work of categorizing, classifying, and tagging each document with metadata that’s stored outside the document in a database, or worse, buried in XML/RDF tag attributes in a stored version of the document that is rarely served as is, so the expensive metadata is never seen by today’s search engines?
Column/I Column Like I CM - Posted May 03, 2005
As content management systems add functionality to serve the enterprise, one of the more important capabilities is digital rights management (DRM). For Web publishers with large content databases, how and whether they restrict access may be a life-or-death decision. If a company charges for content, its revenue stream is threatened by anyone duplicating its information.
Column/I Column Like I CM - April 2005 Issue, Posted Apr 20, 2005
Do you get "sticker shock" when you see some of the three- and four-figure prices on analyst reports and some of the new books on content management? Well, I have bought some of them and now that I’m a columnist I’ve gotten more for review, so I will try to tell you whether they’re worth it.
Column/I Column Like I CM - Posted Apr 05, 2005
What are we to think when so many products are being marketed these days as a CMS? For starters, content management seems to have won the day over many management software paradigms in the last decade or so. Companies that once did document management, knowledge management, information management, or--dare we remember--data management, all herald their products today as content management software. But what are we to make of the small specialized systems, fine tuned to organize content in very specialized ways, with intriguing new names like weblogs or “blogs,” wikis, news aggregators, news portals, and forums?
Column/I Column Like I CM - Posted Mar 01, 2005
Sharing best practice knowledge is one of the stated goals of a “community of practice,” an increasingly used content industry buzz phrase. McKinsey & Co. defines a community of practice as “a group of professionals, informally bound to one another through exposure to a common class of problems, common pursuit of solutions, and thereby themselves embodying a store of knowledge.” But even if a small community agrees on a particular best practice, where is the motivation for them to share their knowledge with one another and the wider industry?
Column/I Column Like I CM - January/February 2005 Issue, Posted Feb 24, 2005
AIIM, the Enterprise Content Management Association, has an exciting new marketing tool called the ECM Puzzle. But it's not clear that the puzzle pieces fit together, or that AIIM included all the necessary content management elements. Let's take a look.
News/News Item - Posted Feb 01, 2005
Structured content is easier to manage, but it may prove difficult to find the natural structure of your content. In fact, it is possible that not all content has a natural structure… some content may be doomed to a hopelessly invertebrate existence. Many CMS vendors tout XML as the ultimate way to store content, especially for reuse of elements in different contexts or through different delivery channels. But what’s an editor to do when reusable content elements aren’t that obvious?
News/News Item - Posted Jan 04, 2005
As an industry matures, a sure sign of growth is a desire to get its jargon cleaned up so customers understand what the companies are all talking about. It doesn’t help sales if customers don’t know the difference between a taxonomy strategy and a metadata manager, or a thesaurus and an ontology. The challenge for CMS vendors is to get some control over marketing departments who think their name du jour will double sales and analyst firms who claim their newly-coined buzzwords will describe key industry trends next year.
News/News Item - Posted Dec 07, 2004
So you have finally settled on a content management strategy. Now what? Unfortunately, resources for the CM Pro are not abundant, especially those that will actually help you put strategies into action. While some of these that I've collected here would benefit from community feedback, I offer some knowledge resources intended to help you and your organization get the most out of that hard-wrought content management strategy.
Column/I Column Like I CM - Posted Nov 02, 2004
In February 2004 several CM experts were invited to present a one-day workshop on CM for Information Architects at the IA Summit sponsored by AIfIA and ASIS&T in Austin, TX. The CM professional in attendance were quite envious of AIfIA (the Asilomar Institute of Information Architecture, an international community of practice created by Lou Rosenfeld, Christina Wodtke, and other IA luminaries. So we asked Rosenfeld and Peter Morville to help us create a similar community for CM.
Column/I Column Like I CM - Posted Oct 05, 2004
Here are 15 suggested steps to research enterprise CMS options. Some are expensive and some require plenty of reading and study so, while you may not have the budget, time, or inclination to complete them, you should know what you skipped. If you are part of a large organization that hires consultants to complete some or all of these steps, insist that they document how they covered each step and return the results to you.
Column/I Column Like I CM - Posted Sep 07, 2004
A triple-barreled question facing many enterprises today is whether to use an application-building tool or "framework" to build a content management system (CMS); to buy one of the many out-of-the-box finished products in use by major Web sites; or to simply rent a CMS from an application service provider (ASP) and avoid the headache of running an application server in the enterprise’s data center.
Column/I Column Like I CM - Posted Aug 03, 2004
Content management, especially popularized as Web content management, is nearing its tenth anniversary. More and more CMS vendors are converging on a basic set of features that characterize a content management system. So I spoke to a number of vendors to see who claims priority for their original contributions to the basic toolset.
Column/I Column Like I CM - Posted Jul 06, 2004
Facets may help solve the thorniest problem of digital publishing today: How to help users find their way around your documents. Whether it's Web content, document management, or a sophisticated knowledge management application, visitors want more than a good search engine to get around. I Column Like I CM, commentary on tools and best practices for CM pros written by Bob Doyle of, debuts in today's ECXtra and will generally appear on the first Tuesday of each month. Look forward to thoughts, advice, and anecdotes from someone who has spent 20 years in the trenches and continues to explore the ins and outs of content management!
Column/I Column Like I CM - Posted Jun 08, 2004
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