So, you’ve revolutionized the way people access information. Again. Just after the novelty of a search engine wore off, the ingeniously simple magic of content aggregation is taking the world by storm. Now, you don’t look for the information — the information comes to you. More than that, with the advent of casual blogging, everybody and their grandmother — quite literally — can be producers of this information. Spaces, Blogger, the oft-forgotten LiveJournal, and other online services make it almost too easy for you to start your own personal feed, ready to be subscribed to in a matter of seconds. Type away, grandma! The world is listening.
And type they did. Suddenly, everybody has a blog (“online journal” is so two years ago, you know). People are pouring out their emotions, latest tidbits of news, however big or small, linking to each other, expressing their thoughts, ideas, from asinine to wickedly brilliant. The collective chatter is getting louder and more diverse, adding more and more harmonics, fast approaching the complexity of a white noise… And when my desktop aggregator tells me every two hours that there are 500+ new posts found in 100+ feeds, I know something’s gone terribly wrong. The magic spring of information turned into the busted open hydrant of blabber. Now what?
Welcome to the field of Social Content Management. Just a couple of years ago, its older cousin Enterprise Content Management (ECM) was all the buzz. But unlike ECM, Social Content Management is not here to support and enforce business rules, workflows, and an overarching information architecture of content. You can’t enforce workflows on a blogging community. Suddenly, it’s all about what sites you link to, what others think about you, whether and in what context they link to you. Rather than business rules, it’s cliques, networks of friends, and circles of interest. In this new world, content management is a byproduct of social interaction. There is no editor. There is no producer or reviewer. Instead, editing and reviewing activity is woven into the process of blog surfing. Whether it’s commenting on a post, clicking thumbs up or down button, pinging a TrackBack, even adding a link to the post — each of these actions is used to infer more information about organization of content.
Speaking in definitions, Social Content Management is a set of concepts, methodologies, and standards, which enable and facilitate creation, organization, and maintenance of content by means of social interaction of individuals online.
To avoid being egged mercilessly, I must disclaim that I didn’t come up with this term first, and certainly didn’t invent the notion. Slashdot is a shining example of Social Content Management, and this site has been around for a while. All I am trying to do is organize and orient the various thoughts regarding this subject to gain a better perspective on the field.
Of course, just naming the process does not solve the problem. By definition, Social Content Management produces highly compartmentalized and biased content structures. Not having centralized due process makes objective organization impossible, which makes it hard to get out of the boundaries of compartmentalization. However, centralization or accumulation of content organization leads to various issues of ranging from API or even problem domain disparity to identity verification and privacy. In other words, the field is wide-open. Actually, it’s more like a steppe, with rolling tumbleweeds and wild grass hiding treacherous ravines.
All the more exciting, isn’t it?