Product Patterns: What is Content?

In my posts about Product Patterns, I’ve mentioned the word “content” a lot.  I’ve even mentioned a few high-level product patterns called the “Content Manager” and “Content Authoring Tool.”

This is an important product pattern because basically every piece of software that touts itself as a “platform” or “server” or “service” uses the Content Manager pattern.  The Content Manager pattern underlies just about any software or service where people share or collaborate.

But first, before I get into the details of the Content Manager product pattern, I need to first define what i mean by “content”  because I am using a much broader definition of “content” than many people.

But what do I mean by “content”?

I tend to use a broader definition than you might think.  My definition is not limited to what’s managed by an official “Content Management System”  (aka “CMS”), like Microsoft Exchange, Drupal, or WordPress.

By “content” I mean any type of “object” that either a user creates, that the platform/server itself creates, or that a third-party system created.

This “content” is managed by a server to allow users to use it, share it, secure it and control access to it, etc.  (This definition needs improvement, so please comment below if you have suggestions on how to improve it).

Some examples of “content” from the enterprise software world:

  • In VMware vSphere, a virtualization  platform, the “content” are virtual machines.
  • In Jira, the content are issues/bugs that need tracking.
  • In Salesforce.com, the principal content are leads, opportunities, and profiles of prospects and customers
  • In Eclipse, the content are user-created code files, libraries, and executables.
  • In the Oracle Database, the content consists the “user data to be stored in the database and metadata that describes that data.
  • In Microstrategy, a business intelligence platform, the content includes OLAP cubes, reports, and dashboards.
  • In  Microsoft Exchange Server,  email messages are the content.
  • In WebEx, the content is  presentations and meetings.
  • In DemandTec, a promotion and price optimization SaaS platform for retailers, the content are prices for individual retail items and promotion plans.

And here are some content examples from the  consumer side

  • In WordPress, a blogging platform that has evolved into the leading CMS (Content Management System), the “content” consists of blog posts, articles, and snippets of web pages.
  • In Google Docs, the content consists ofdocuments, spreadsheets, presentations, forms, and drawings.
  • In Shutterfly, the content are photos and albums.
  • In MediaWiki, the software that powers Wikipedia, the content are wiki pages.
  • In craiglist.com, the content are the user-created advertisements.
  • In YouTube, the content are user-created videos.
  • In Gmail, the content consists of email messages.

A long list, but hopefully it drives home two points:

  1. First, “Content” is not limited to just the “Content Management System” (CMS) category of products.

  2. Second, “Content” has a broad meaning,  ranging from spreadsheets to virtual machine images to sales opportunities. Content management is THE MAIN activity performed by most software described as a platform, server, or online service.

Sue Raisty

Product management geek, born-again engineer, adoptive mother of boys, coach & mentor, mountain trail runner, tinkerer, no-bull communicator, wannabe writer, room mother & compulsive researcher.

Silicon Valley, California http://blog.sueraisty.com