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The Future Is So Like Old

by | Jun 11, 2009 | Content Management, ECM Industry, Enterprise Content Management | 0 comments

“I was making my plans when life happened.”  (John Lennin)  I should have Googled that quote.

What just happened? I presented a “quote.” I discredited the quote and myself by admitting that I did not do even minimal research on a commonly used Web source. I misspelled John Lennon’s name, the person credited with saying it, and I did not use spell check to catch the misspelling. Your opinion of me is now “in the tank,” if it wasn’t already. Of course John “Lennin” is underlined in red here as I type it in Word – automatic spell check is so convenient. However, being the obtuse luddite that I am (“luddite” is also underlined in red but a perfectly good word), I consider the warning just a decorative protest. However, our relationship is now fundamentally altered all because I did not use culturally accepted technology.

Technology changes how we live. Well, duh. More than that, each advance in technology changes the social motif in unexpected ways. From each point we branch to develop faster, better, newer technologies to support our new set of expectations and the way we live. We relate to each other differently. Our language changes – “Google” becomes a verb, and the culture changes. Facebook allows me to extend my circle of friends and to keep up with acquaintances I would otherwise lose track of. I have 85 Facebook “friends.”  My daughter has over 200. We follow “Tweets” at 140 characters a pop. “Microblogging” becomes a new gerund and culture changes again. Technology that was once the “big bang,” becomes obsolete. We develop applications around Twitter. The pattern repeats itself at higher and higher frequencies, and technology twitches.

On June 9, Armedia and our partner Alfresco hosted an event in Atlanta. It was a packed room. John Newton, co-founder of both Documentum and Alfresco, made a presentation, “Simple Enterprise Content in Complex Environments.” He is an interesting speaker, and has been on the leading edge of technology at least twice, especially as it relates to content management. He spoke of open source, now fully accepted and commercially viable, and in equilibrium with closed source software models. OSS won’t go away. He looks forward to content management “officially” becoming a platform, its common law status made honest by the CMIS standard (“Content Management Interoperability Services”). He also gave us an interesting observation relative to the current world-wide recession. He said that in each of the previous major recessions, over the past 30 years or so, technology advanced in fundamental ways. Mainframes to client server, mini-computers, WWW, and now the whole “iWhatever” phenomenon and technologies to support it – all these advances changed how we live and relate to the world.

So then is “content management” as we think it will become, already obsolete, along with the tools, language, and hardware we use to support it? Just for fun, consider if “Twitter” avoids being crushed by the dinosaurs to become the dominant species, and ascends to be the normative way we relate online. How do we respond? Do we revert to building software and systems tuned to small message blocks? What becomes of the Web itself?  Are rumors of its death exaggerated? What does “content management” mean if most content is immediate and reactive? Define “version management” for Twitter. Of course the term does not apply in the context I normally think of, and that is my point.  My pondering is probably already dated.   The future is so like old.

My son designs and builds iPod Touch style applications presented in very large screen format. He builds them for point of sale applications and information kiosks. His customers are as diverse as automobile dealers and resort hotels.  Things are changing fast.  Contracts are rolling in and his company is making money.  A few weeks ago he complained that he had found only one company with the expertise to deliver the expected content in the format his company needs. The vendor is outside the U.S. Last week we talked again. He told me that he had to let the old vendor go because he had found another one who could deliver what he needs faster and better.  Such a shark!

We can plan for technology as it is, or as we think it will become. However, “Life is what happens when you are making other plans.” (John Lennon). And you can quote me.

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