The last ten years have seen revolution after revolution within information technology and telecommunications. The rise of the Internet, the success of the World Wide Web, the availability of personal computers and server performance, more recently the circulation of mobile devices and the distribution of broadband Internet are all trends of the new technological infrastructure which supports the world of modern assets which is electronical or digital data and information.
As to illustrate the increase in digital capability in containing data, one might consider the fact that the information estimated lost in the burning of the Great Library of Alexandria would fit on one single DVD. As storage space has grown, and network bandwidth has widened, the mass of digital information has exploded, both internally on intranets, and on the Internet. Users of the Internet have been most significantly effected by the increase in e-mail traffic and the amount of documents and pages available on the World Wide Web.
The value of information is only equal to that of its use. To use information, it must be found, recovered, formatted and presented. Information which is stored but never used is worthless. Digital information is enabled by the use of Information Systems. Before one can define the particular kind of Information System referred to as the Content Management System, one needs to define content itself, and seperate it from data and information.
Data, information. content and knowledge are four ambigous concepts which are regularly applied in Information Systems. If allowed to delimit the definition to digital representation, we leave out the definition of knowledge for now, focusing on the other three. These terms have various meanings, and are potential candidates for extensive ontological discussion. To avoid confusion, the meanings of these terms as used in this paper are defined as follows:
The basic unit of digital representation which can be used to construct information and content with more value for the consmer. Data is raw and granular. It does not inherently have any meaning, meta-data is not self-contained.
Data is a set of symbols, ranging from a numeral value to a string of words, or even a large series of encoded symbols that compose a binary value representing sound or picture. One often mentions data processing, feeding data as input to a program or algorithm, the output being either new data, information or content. Imagine calculating the mean of a hundred numerical values into one number. Data has been processed, but no meaning has been added. Had the value been wrapped with the context that this is the average temperature for the last three months, it could have been considered information.
One definition of information is data with meaning (Davenport and Prusak, 1998 [fix]). The same information can be conveyed with different data. Pieces of data combined with meta-data to form a package of meaning that can be conveyed. Bob Boiko includes all the common forms of recorded communication. Liz Orne ([Boiko 2002]: Orna, E (2004) Information Strategy in Practice, Aldershot: Gower, p. 7). describes it as knowledge transformed into a transportable format, visible or audible.
This is perhaps the vaguest term which we must define. Ideas include
Information put to use [boiko 2002]
Information with human meaning and context [wikipedia]
Information with an intended consumer, artificial or real [personal note]
Information with a purpose (the now disbanded ContentWatch organization's definition [Boiko 2002, p. 8]) .
The definition used in this paper is streamlined for how content can be handled by an Information System. A collection or subset of information intended for a given audience or non-human consumer with a context of location, period and situation.
Now that the definition is in place, the segment of Information Systems known as Content Management Systems can be defined. Note that in the industry of content management, the use of the term is indeterminate. Some CMS vendors claim their services feature knowledge management or enterprise content management. On the other side of the scale, many lightweight web applications claim to do content management when they actually are providing what is by most percieved as web content management, or perhaps merely weblog or wiki functionality.
Content management means different things for different actors. The basic lifecycle of content is production and consumption. For the producer, the processes of content management includes creation, formatting, structuring and integration of content. For the consumer, it includes search, export, and display. The sum of these processes make out content management. A content management system (CMS) is a suite of tools designed to assist and support these processes.
Web content management
As pointed out earlier, the explosion of digital information has been most significant on the World Wide Web. To manage this mass of online content and use, a new breed of information systems has evolved; the Web Content Management System (WCMS). The responsibility of such a system is similar to that of the CMS, only it is delimited to content which consumption is done by way of the World Wide Web. [See “Why only a web content management system” to see how WCMS has become detached from the CMS].