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A Simple Case of Content Management

Submitted by Leo Klein on Thu, 7/30/09 (9:09am)

When people think of content management, initially they think of blog posts and calendar entries and schemes for keeping the content current.

That's what you'd expect any system to deliver. But what I've found, once you get beyond that point, is that the kinds of problems you routinely have to deal with often require customization. And that's a good thing!

I'll give you an example.

In Registration (my other job) we need a way to get students back into the system after they (usually mistakenly) drop all classes for the semester. All that's required is their name, student ID and the semester when they want this to happen. The Registration people call this 'reinstatement'.

Anyway, it's about as simple a set of requirements as you can get. The student fills out a brief form, the form data goes into a page that only certain staff have access to and, just to be extra careful, a copy of the results is also sent to the person who normally handles these requests.

Sound easy?

Depending on your CMS, this can either be a breeze or a nightmare. Drupal, I'm happy to say, can handle this out of the box -- not as the result of some awful API that only a programmer can understand -- but as part of its default feature set that anyone with good administrative skills can master.

Now maybe other CMS's can do the same. I certainly hope so. But the moral of the story is that I get requests like this all the time. It's to be expected, encouraged even, because content management isn't just about blogs and calendar entries but about solving the particular needs of the particular department where you happen to work.

Librarians for example have all sorts of strange and exotic content types -- things like 'citation' and 'resource listing'.

As I told people at both programs where I helped out this year at ALA (Drupal BoF & BIGWIG), if you're going to work with things like citations and resource listings, you might as well make sure that the CMS you're getting is flexible and robust enough to handle them -- in as easy and accessible a way possible.

That's the true 'power and glory' of content management. In my view, it's pretty much a basic requirement.