May 2009
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Why Content Migration Is Like Changing A Nappy

On a night like this
I can’t get any sleep,
The air is so cold outside
And the snow’s so deep.
- ON A NIGHT LIKE THIS

Well, it just is. It’s something I’ve been thinking about a fair bit these days, normally in the middle of the night. I’ve been burned a couple of times recently by extremely unpleasant content migrations, and extremely unpleasant nappy changes. For those on the other side of the pond, a nappy is a diaper.

Nappy Changing

Some of the similarities are:

  • The content is often extremely difficult to classify, and the consistency of the content is extremely variable
  • Bad content never smells very good regardless of the quality of the repository you try to store it in
  • Sometimes the state of the content is a symptom of some other illness
  • You never have all the tools you need within easy reach, and it gets really messy if you don’t know what you are doing
  • There is always more content than you thought was possible, and if the system is in a bad state, the content export can take much longer than expected
  • There is no chance you can completely automate it
  • It often involves running scripts throughout the night – it is never just a day job
  • You thought it was out of scope until you find yourself doing it
  • Shortly after you think you’ve finished migrating the content, you find more content to migrate

Trust me. I’ve migrated a lot of content, and I’ve changed a lot of nappies. Fortunately, there is one big difference – it is much harder to extract the content from the source than to put it into the target repository. Thankfully, when changing a nappy, the content only comes out. And content never pisses in your eye.

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