Perspectives on Content Management Education: An Interview with Bob Boiko
Metatorial Services, Inc.
Bob Boiko wrote the bible on content management, literally. His Content Management Bible was first published in 2001 and its popularity generated a 2nd edition, hot off the presses in November 2004. Apparently, people are keen to learn about content management and rely on the Content Management Bible as an authoritative source. Bob Boiko is certainly a good person to learn from; he is currently President of Metatorial Services, Inc. (www.metatorial.com) and Associate Chair of the Masters of Science in Information Management (MSIM) program in the iSchool at the University of Washington (www.ischool.washington.edu). Bob also helped found and is now serving as the first president of CM Professional (www.cmprofessionals.org), a content management community of practice. For this issue, we turned to Bob for his perspectives on content management education.
Q. What is your background?
I studied science (physics and oceanography) until graduate school, then in graduate school, I studied human communication.. Studying human communication helped me to balance the issues of science with people. This education prepared me to work in the modern age of computing. I moved to Seattle with the intention of continuing to study. I got an interim job as a technical writer to "tide me over" just as the industry was transitioning to online. I did not return to my studies at that time. I worked as a technical writer for 5-6 years in the traditional "paper" world, then I transitioned to electronic documentation. I then moved into consulting, and most recently I moved to academia. I have been teaching professionals and students for four years.
Q. What drew you to content management?
I had this big "aha" moment in the late 80's, nothing was online, and everything had to be online eventually. This drove me to determine what had to be done to put large amounts of information online successfully. Content management didn't exist at the time, but digital resources had to be organized and categorized for retrieval.
Q. Recently you have begun teaching at the University of Washington iSchool. What drew you to education from full-time consulting?
When I was in business I was running the business, developing new methodologies, and developing the vision for the company. I realized I was most interested in creating and purveying information. I ran the company like a professor, always looking for new and better ways to do things. I became known as the "academic". I made connections at the university and when Chase Bobko dissolved, people pointed out that I would make an excellent teacher/college professor. I've always wanted to do this, so here I am.
Q. Why do you think education is important?
Currently, content management has very loose boundaries and it needs to coalesce as an area. Education is half teaching what is and half what should be. When I started to teach I had to think very solidly about what this means, what are the parts and pieces, what is the essence, and what is the discipline. Education is the core of building a solid reproducible methodology. Without education, methodology becomes what people want it to be, not what it needs to be for the industry.
Q. What happens if we don't start educating people in the area of content management?
The discipline will meander and dissipate; the subject matter will be encompassed by another discipline. Education provides a solid agreed upon core of terminology and concepts.
Q. Can you describe your program?
It is a full year sequence in content management. It covers the core concepts of content management and what you need to do to successfully implement content management. It includes the logical core of the context of content management, the audiences, the content types, the authors, the sources, and the goals of the organization. It also includes the physical design of the content management system to meet the logical design that you have come up with.
Q. What are the areas where education/knowledge is critical to success in implementing content management?
The team members need to have a solid head for business; if they don't they will build something that doesn't have value to the business. They need the ability to bring together people from diverse areas. Content modeling is also very important. Content modeling includes the ability to understand information and its structure and how to bring structure to unstructured materials. Organizations also need infrastructure and technical skills (e.g., computing, database).
Q. Your program is pretty unique in the world. What do you suggest others, who are unable to participate in your program, do to get the education they require?
I believe that it is very important to provide education in this area and I am more than happy to share my materials. They can be found at: