My post entitled, “Structured Content is Like Your Closet,” has attracted a lot of attention in the blogosphere. Overall, people seem to understand the point of the article and the metaphor works. To a point.

I would like to direct you to a brilliant follow-up article written by Mark Baker. As many of you know, Mark is one of the thought leaders in the content arena and his blog, “Every Page is Page One,” is one of my go-to sources for new information and interesting perspectives.  In his article, “Time for Content Management to Come Out of the Closet,” Mark makes a number of excellent points:

  • Organizing clothes in a closet uses a 2-dimensional structure. You can only pick one type of organizing characteristic. For example, all shoes together, all purses together, all shirts together OR red items together, black items together, brown items together. You cannot organize based on both schemas at the same time.
  • When you organize content in the digital world, you can use multiple axes of alikeness. In fact, this is really the purpose of having a content management system: So that you can put “alike things” next to each other on multiple planes.  As Mark puts it, “…like can be stored with like for every aspect of alikeness without limit. Red socks can be stored with black socks on the basis of their sockness, and with red gloves on the basis of their redness, and with winter wear on the basis of their warmth.”
  • The digital world allow us to free ourselves from the constraints of the physical world. Many people do not consider this aspect of organization when they structure their CMSs. And this is one reason why CMS implementations fail. You need to account for multiple aspects of alikeness, not just one.

Thinking about your content strategy like a closet is a good metaphor to understand why you need structured content. If your content is not organized, it cannot have structure, you cannot find what you need. However, the closet analogy cannot (and should not) be used when you think about how to structure your content.  As Mark puts it:

The reason that content management systems are so big, so expensive, and so frustrating to use is that supporting the closet model of organization for a large shared collection is inherently difficult. It artificially makes some properties more important than others, which makes navigation, aggregation, and linking difficult, and it simply does not scale well when you start adding more objects and more users.

I encourage to read Mark’s post – it is really great.

Now, I am looking for a good analogy to describe how to organize your content. Got any? If so, please share.

Val Swisher
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