August 2009
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I Have a Dream of the CMS Future

My American dream
Fell apart at the seams.
You tell me what it means,
You tell me what it means.

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest vision for The Future of Content Management Systems.

Fifteens years ago, two great Americans, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, created something. Ross Garber and Neil Webber’s product came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Content Management editors who had been seared in the flames of unmanageable sites. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their tedious static HTML updates.

But fifteens years later, the CMS world is still imperfect. Fifteen years later, thousands of vendors are still sadly crippled by a lack of standard patterns, terminology, tools and concerns. Fifteen years later, CMS vendors still live on a lonely islands of in the midst of a vast ocean of potential standards. Fifteen years later, there still isn’t anyone who has done it properly. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

I am not unmindful that some of you CMS vendors have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have code bases that are ten years old and will resist change at every turn. Some of you have lucrative clients locked in to long term contracts who will not be easily upgraded to new systems. Some of you have come from attempts to differentiate yourselves from your competitors that have left you battered by the storms of feature bloat and staggered by the winds of pricing wars. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Martin Luther King

Go back to Open Text, go back to Autonomy, go back to Microsoft, go back to SDL Tridion, Day, Alterian and Fatwire. Go back to the smaller commercial vendors and hordes of Open Source vendors, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of proprietory isolation.

As we Separate the Concerns and Embrace the Standards, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of standards, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as systems all use different names for the same thing. We can never be satisfied, as long as CMS vendors ignore their core features and focus on gimmicks for sales pitches. We cannot be satisfied when content migration from one system to another takes longer than building a house. We cannot be satisfied as long as as Content Management, Community, Analytics, eCommerce and more are moulded into a giant monolith instead of walking hand in hand like loosely coupled brothers.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the Content Management dream.

I have a dream that one day the vendors will rise up and live out the true meaning of interoperability: “We all need to work together to succeed, and those that don’t play will be left behind.”

I have a dream that one day all vendors will stop building exactly the same thing in slightly different ways, and that ridiculous templating languages will be replaced with the beauty of XSLT. And that repositories will not differentiate between data and metadata.

I have a dream that one day even the commercial vendors, who are often centres of innovation, will implement their systems using standard formats and will interoperate with open source tools. And let the best of these standard formats not start with a J and alienate more than half of the vendor community.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day log into every CMS system using their OpenID and avoid the perils of priopritary user databases.

I have a dream today.

Let logical, standard XML formats replace rigid, sparsely populated relational databases!

Let existing tools such as SVN or GIT release us from the limitations of badly implemented priopritary versioning systems!

But not only that; let these same versioning tools gives us virtualisation and deployment using branching and tagging!

Let authentication happen outside of the CMS. And let Workflow tools operate externally with any payload, not by adding an attribute to a content object.

Let freedom ring from every W3C validator and every WCAG recommendation. From every friendly URL and SEO ranking, let freedom ring.

Let freedom from vendor lock in ring from Austen, Texas to Stockholm, Sweden!

And when this happens, when we allow standards to pervade, when we let them ring from every commericial CMS and every Open Source CMS, from every XML format and every JCR specification and every CMIS binding and every new standard we so sorely need to produce, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s users, authors, developers, content migrators, administrators and system procurers, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the lucky stakeholder who moved to a new CMS quickly and easily, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

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