Cleve Gibbon

content management, content modelling, digital ecosystems, technology evangelist.

Content APIs: A is for Access

Please watch this two minute video. It does an amazing job of describing the utility of APIs using a deck of playing cards.

Content APIs are on the rise because we need ubiquitous access to content.  For a while now, I’ve felt like our content management systems are being deployed as Roach Motels (see resources at the end), where content checks in, but it doesn’t check out. Forever locked into a single (web) channel with no easy way out.

A couple weeks backs, I explained why content APIs are becoming critical to those in the content business.  They help mitigate the Roach Motel problem.  The big guns are already reaping the rewards of their early investments in content APIs. Take Netflix, after just two years of deploying an API, it’s seeing a x37 increase in API usage, the majority of which is through internal consumption.

Today, let’s walkthrough through a couple of examples to drive home the point that APIs lower the bar to making content accessible: available to people, processes and products that potentially do not to contribute to the production or ongoing management of the content.

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CSForum 2013

So hot off the tails of a couple of amazing Confab conferences in both London and Minneapolis, comes CS Forum 2013.    This year CS Forum comes to Helskini with a Facebook community to boot.

I must confess; I’ve haven’t spent enough time in Helskini.  Always passing through.  Kinda silly really, given that it’s only a couple of hours away.  Time to right that wrong.

This will be my third CS Forum.  So, if you’re interested in content, and I know you are, come join us. It’s always fun and there so many smart folks to meet and learn from.

Get involved and see you there.

Why Content APIs

Have you been hearing a lot about APIs recently? Or maybe the Create Once, Publish Everywhere (COPE) thinking that came out of NPR? It doesn’t matter whether you have or haven’t really. What’s important is that we understand why APIs are on the rise.

Why did the big guns invest heavily in APIs and are now reaping serious benefits. Netflix, NPR, Twitter, Facebook, Expedia, Guardian, Google, to mention a few, have well established APIs that grant third parties, that’s people like you, me and other companies,  controlled access to their functionality and content.  That’s right, these companies have created a playroom filled with shiny new toys (content and functionality) and have given us the key (API) to play with them.  But why?

What value do these companies see in APIs? Why do they continue to invest in them?  And how do I get me some API action?

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Meaningful HTML

Today you’ve been asked to create some meaningful HTML.  What’s that you ask?  We’ll get back to that.

However, you knew that this day would come and prepared for it.  You have a very simple, but workable content model jammed packed with meaning and structure.  You’ve already done the hard content modelling work and identified the key content types for your business.  For for each content type, you have:

  • A name.
  • A one line description of its purpose.
  • A list of its attributes and a one line description for each.
  • A clear understanding of the relationships it has with other content types.
  • Open and transparent agreement, across business, UX and technology, on all of the above.

So, back to the meaningful HTML task.  HTML was never designed to convey meaning.  It’s a display language. However, search engines, web crawlers and browsers need meaningful content to better display search results and deliver awesome customer experiences.  They can’t do that with a display language.  Microdata, RDFa and Microformats are popular Internet specifications that add semantics to HTML to make it meaningful.

You have a content model.  Let’s put it to work.
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I am not bored

David BeckhamOn Thursday, 16th May, David Beckham retired from the beautiful game.  Unplanned, I joined him.  I was out playing 7-a-side football that Thursday, scored the first goal. A left-footed scorcher into the top-right hand corner, and was turning up field to collect a second.  Then smash, someone took me out.  Hard.  I heard a massive pop deep down in my left leg.  I turned around to give some young scally a right dressing down but no-one was there.  I tried to lift my left foot and it was like jelly.  Game over.

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On Demand Vs On Schedule

ondemandWe want everything on demand.  From content to food.  But we are programmed to do things on schedule.  This year I’m running a number of mini life experiments to see if I can make long term changes to things that have been bugging me for, well, a long time.  Here’s the first, with a couple of lessons learnt, moving from an on-schedule to an on-demand mindset.
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Planning, Productivity and Progress – The Power of P

cookie-monster-letter-pI love the letter P.  A powerful plosive that you can’t pronounce without putting your lips together – go on, do it – and then POW!

We need to mind our P’s on projects, specifically around planning, productivity and progress.  All important.  Seldom meeting everyone’s expectations.  Because they’re hard and gnarly things to get right.  Across the board. Think about your current or past projects, how did you get on? So, so? Room for improvement?

There’s always room for improvement. We have to get better at doing them or continue to be average in our project outputs and outcomes.  And frankly, who strives to be average these days? Interested? Good.  This way.
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The Rise and Rise of Content Junk

The amount content we produced in 2011 alone exceeded the content created in all previous years combined. ALL previous years combined! We more than doubled the size of our digital content universe.

That wouldn’t be such a bad thing if all that content could get everywhere it needed to be today.  It can’t. Instead, it’s trapped in the applications (CMS, DAM,Word) and/or channels (e.g. Web, Email) that created it.  This is not a sustainable business model for many companies that create and publish content to better engage with their customers.

It’s stupid, costly and uncompetitive to create great content and not invest the time and effort to make it structured and meaningful. To make it future friendly. And yet the rate of growth for digital content continues to rise exponentially, more than doubling every couple of years.  It’s time to stop creating more content (junk) and start making content work more.

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Taxonomy, Metadata and Search at Confab 2012

Notes on Seth Earley’s Confab 2012 Workshop on Taxonomy, Metadata and Search: Put Your Content to Work:

  • It’s okay to have more than one taxonomy.
  • Taxonomy is NOT the same as navigation.
  • You want to create multiple navigation structures from a taxonomy and prevent people from creating multiple taxonomies for navigational purposes.
  • Taxonomies are the organising principles behind metadata and the values that populate metadata fields.
  • Not all classifications are taxonomies.
  • You need clear rules for when the business will own metadata vs when technology will own metadata.
  • Use metadata to drive our content models.
  • Always tag by id and never by term, so that you can change terms without impacting the taxonomy.
  • Need to sell business value of taxonomy to business users.
  • You cannot have a single standard for metadata that will cover all types of content for the Internet of Things.  Embrace that and move on.
  • You have to provide context to concepts to make them meaningful, which makes it difficult to beg, borrow and steal taxonomies from one business and apply it verbatim within your own.
  • What seems like a taxonomy at first, may become a process.
  • Information metabolism is about enabling the business to make information decisions faster.  You need frameworks in place for improving an organisation’s information metabolism.  Example given of Motorola going form 4 weeks to 24 hours.
  • Understanding the different paces of change within your organisation clarifies a lot. You need adaptability in fast moving layers and stability in slow moving ones. Pace-Layering.
  • You must pay attention to the clock speed of your process (e.g. web content (medium), e-commerce(very fast), intranet dev(slow))
  • You need a universal remote control system for taxonomy.  Each application has a remote for their system, a way to implement taxonomies, but there are not universal.  They only pretend to be.
  • Metaphor around moving house was valuable.  So when migrating content, you need to touch it and see where it adds values, instead of  just moving it.
  • Every business case has ancillary benefits, that are harder to quantify.  Stay focussed.  Baseline, benchmark, and have a clear understanding of what value your intervention brings.
  • Be clear on the relationship between maturity and capabilities, and where you as an organisation are on that journey.  Then map your process requirements within the context of known capability gaps and seek to plug them and/or address them later. Use taxonomies in different ways depending upon your maturity.
  • Always build capabilities on solid foundations.  Invest in change management because whilst some folks gradually evolve with you, others have been forced into that change, so build capabilities with this in mind.
  • Don’t ask data architects for taxonomies.  Ask for reference data.  That’s what you really want.
  • When doing taxonomy, you must be thinking about search and SEO.
  • Searchers search ambiguously.  We need to help them disambiguate their queries by giving them values.  Values derived from taxonomies.
  • Beware what happens when you fix search, you find out that your content sucks.

Simple Site for Authors

An on-going challenge for CMS build projects is that they are pre-dominantly design led with the primary focus set on publishing content. With less attention paid to users in content producing roles, editorial needs are rarely catered.  The new solution goes live and “The CMS” quickly becomes a dirty word because it has not been deployed to effectively create, understand and manage content.  Sound familiar?

Content producers do a lot of things – Create content, Find content, Re-use content, Value content, Review content, Tag content. The CMS also pulls its weight with content: storing, indexing, auto tagging, displaying, recommending, publishing and workflow. This requires us to think really hard about how we intelligently structure content. And that’s where the battle is waged today for both time and effort to do editorial thinking on CMS build projects.

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Get In Touch

About Cleve Gibbon



I'm Cleve Gibbon, CTO at Cognifide where we are passionate about digital content.

My sort of up-to-date cv tells you my past, linked in shows you my professional network and on twitter you can find out what I'm currently doing.

This year I plan attend a number of events. Hopefully I'll see you there. I'm easy to find as I'm always laughing. Find out more about me and get in touch!
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