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  Best Practices for Content Management
Pattern 0.0 A Design Pattern for Best Practices
Intent Make design patterns that communicate the practice technique and show clearly where this practice fits in the good practices pattern language.
Context Good practices need to be reported in a clear and consistent format. Using a standard presentation layout will help avoid ambiguities. A familiar format helps the user separate form from the content.
  • Why use formal design patterns to describe good practices?
  • This problem is difficult because
    • If different experts use completely different formats and styles describing best practices, it makes it hard for users to see the important differences between practices.
    • The tendency to invent jargon is irresistible. It takes a lot of discipline to have a standard controlled vocabulary and a standard set of practice descriptors, organized into a standard arrangement of sections.
    • If it looks too "cast in concrete," users may not challenge the practice when techniques and technology require change.
    • Some CM Pros tend to invent practices and jargon for their marketing advantage, rather than studying the industry for pre-existing good practice.
  • Just do it! Solve the meta-problem by designing a master design pattern format.
  • Various considerations include...
    • Be prepared to change the master design pattern if/when the community of practice demands change.
    • If your sections of the pattern (content chunks) have been kept distinct, adapting them and reusing them in the new design pattern should be very easy.
    • Structuring the design pattern sections as properties of a resource (at a URI) allows use of XML/RDF. The pattern language becomes a formal ontology, navigable via the Semantic Web's inference engines.
  • Design patterns remind professionals that we are doing knowledge management. Good practices are not (always) inventions or innovations for competitive marketing advantage. They are documenting proven good work, which gives the community a "collaborative advantage."
  • Use the web and web content management itself as the principal documentation tool. For example, use tooltip mouseovers to explain the sections (try it).
  • Try to maximize community "buy-in" by providing the content as a "single-source" web service that can be syndicated to participating members' websites. Make them look like the professionals they are.
  • Repurposing the content (multichannel publishing using CSS/XSLT) is critical. The delivered content should have the same look and feel as any collaborating CM Professionals website.
  • Pros
    • A standard format makes the learning curve shorter. Once you have read one or two patterns, understanding other good practices is easier.
    • A standard format enhances acceptance by the community of practice, especially if they have participated in the design process, and they know that the master design can be changed when the community wants it changed.
  • Cons
    • Formal structures discourage criticism.
    • A "finished" look may give the practice more authority than it deserves.
  • Difficulties
    • It is hard to maintain the active feedback loops needed to keep practices current. Consider wikis, blogs, and focussed mailing lists. Always allow public comments on the practice, preferably with a threaded discussion forum at the bottom of the page.
    • The NIH mentality ("not invented here") and "what's in it for me?" may prevent influential members of the community from participating.
Rationale We have a golden opportunity to make the CM Professionals website a living demonstration of our own good practices. Many websites of CM Pros are less than exemplary, rarely using CMS tools, hand-editing static HTML pages with no style sheets, not offering RSS news feeds, not reusing their own content. When they do, it's often a simple Movable Type blog. Good practices will help them look like the professionals they are.
Proven Uses At the moment, our CM Professionals community of practice is a demonstration site for design pattern use, "practicing what we preach," "eating our own dog food," and managing our content with the very best content management practices.
Related Patterns Managing a controlled vocabulary (Pattern 1.4) also requires a formal structure and a vetting process.
Getting Started Consider starting with Managing Content Everywhere (Pattern 1.0)

A Pattern Language, Christopher Alexander, Oxford, 1977.
Design Patterns, Erich Gamma, Richard Helm, Ralph Johnson, and John Vlissides (The Gang of Four), Addison Wesley, 1995.
Design Patterns Explained, Alan Shalloway and James Trott, Addison Wesley, 2002.
Object Oriented Reengineering Patterns, Serge Demeyer, et al., Morgan Kaufmann, 2002
Common Ground, Jenifer Tidwell.
Web Design Patterns, Martijn Welie.

CM Pros Practices Format Research

More references in the CMS Glossary entry.

Status e.g., Balloted 2004/07/22 Yes 13, No 5, Abstain 7
Contributors Bob Doyle
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