COPEing Mechanisms: The Peril and Promise of Create Once, Publish Everywhere


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Presented by Deane Barker at the Now What? 2014 conference on April 24, 2014 in Sioux Falls, SD.

NPR’s COPE (Create Once Publish Everywhere) process is viewed as one of the most effective answers to structured and mobile content. But not every organization can implement it in the way that NPR does. This talk will discuss why we love COPE, what problems can be introduced when trying to put it into practice, and some alternatives and coping mechanisms when the ultimate dream can’t quite be achieved.

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  • I almost did this. Seriously. I had the form filled out and everything.
  • I write blog posts about how much I love content management. And what is a “Content Management Practice Director”? It’s a guy who loves content management so much that he invents his own job title.
  • This is why we’re talking. There’s so much more we could be doing.
  • The tagline for the 2013 version of this conference was poor (we minimized the tagline this year). Content is not bound to a “website.” The real tagline should be “you have a bunch of content, now what?”
  • I interviewed Zach Brand for this presentation. Daniel Jacobson has since left NPR.
  • COPE was an initialism for “Create Once Publish Anywhere.”
  • This article hit the CMS industry in a very bombshell-like fashion. Everyone in CMS circles was talking about it for quite a while (there are reasons for this, explained later).
  • Interesting that it was a “philosophy,” not a technology. COPE is platform and technology agnostic.
  • This an article about the return of Winnie the Pooh in the core editing interface. Notice that this interface is fairly generic. Very little (nothing?) in this interface is specific to WEB content.
  • This was the article on the main NPR website.
  • This is the article in their iPhone app.
  • Another iPhone app: Public Radio Addict
  • Yet another iPhone app.
  • This is the article in their Internet radio interface.
  • This is the article on their Boston affiliate site.
  • This is the article in iTunes/podcast.
  • This is the article in their iGoogle gadget.
  • COPE is not a new concept. It’s just a nice name around a concept we’ve been pursuing in various forms for decades.
  • Put another way: where your content comes out.
  • This is the traditional model that 99% of organizations use. Call this “single-channel publishing.”
  • Lisa Welchman has an alternate definition of “multi-channel publishing.”
  • This is the thing that vendors and integrators have paid lip service to for years, but no one actually did it.
  • This was the only channel many of us ever intended to publish to: HTML delivered via a browser.
  • I wrote a sidebar for “Content Everywhere” last year (great book, BTW), where I essentially called practitioners (including myself) out.
  • The separation of content and presentation is not a new concept. More recently that Aristole, William Tunncliffe fathered the Generic Coding movement in the late 60s which sought to separate content from presentation in what would eventually become SGML.
  • I wrote this article in April 2009 (pre-dating the original COPE article by six months) where I pointed out that content management has gotten too web-centric.
  • Social media was really the thing that pushed us into other channels. LinkedIn started in 2003, Facebook in 2004, and Twitter in 2005. These services gathered steamed for 2-4 years, and by 2007-2008, organizations were expected to have presences on these services and were pushing content into them on a regular basis.
  • When 2009 rolled around, organizations were experiencing legitimate pain juggling content in multiple channels.
  • At a minimum, this is where a lot of organizations were at: how do you we push content into our website, Facebook, and Twitter gracefully?
  • COPE showed us that someone had done it well. What we hoped was possibly actually existing. This is why it tickled the collective imaginations of the content management industry.
  • This is the control room for a nuclear power plant. There are 72 screens in this image. It represents how we envision managing out content – a master view with complete control.
  • People love dashboards. They give the illusion of control.
  • Content editors are scared. We’re afraid of what the future might bring. (The animation of this slide likely doesn’t work in other contexts – it’s a bunch of scared cats.)
  • This is animated GIF of a cat jumping off the hood of a car when the windshield wiper starts. Again, a reference to content editors being scared of what the future might bring for their content.
  • An animated GIF of a dog tripping over a ball, for no particular reason.
  • “Click here” doesn’t mean anything outside the web. This content will have trouble adapting.
  • This is what happens when you try to use web content directly in other mediums.
  • Another example of what happens when you try to use web content directly in other mediums.
  • If this content depends on changing the font in the headline, then you will have a problem if you try to push into a channel which doesn’t support that.
  • Vendors are actively trying to address “the preview problem.” This is a screencap from EPiServer, a web CMS, this is a page in the “standard” channel… (cont. on next slide)
  • …and this is the preview in an “iPhone vertical.”
  • When you’re done with content, it might be of value to call someone on the phone and read it to them, in an effort to strip away all the visual formatting from it. (Although, now you introduce “audio formatting,” which opens up an entirely new set of problems.)
  • We hope that content will go directly from our repository into our channels, unaltered.
  • In reality, channels impose limitations, and content often has to be reformatted (“rendered”) for those channels. We call these “renditions.”
  • Notice the two types of teasers. Neither would appear together in any channel – a channel would use one or the other, in an attempt to render the content in an appropriate manner to fit into that channel.
  • You end up with “core” content, and multiple renditions surrounding it.
  • Cropping content is a human-centric process. A human has to look at this image and decide how best to crop it to make sense. This can’t be done automatically.
  • Try creating content to fit these two channels.
  • This is referring to TRUE omni-channel content. Content that can go into ANY channel with no modifications. Content like this would be so generic and simple as to essentially be worthless.
  • There’s a theoretical mindshift, and a set of technical imperatives.
  • Our priorities have been misplaced for years. We’ve concentrated too much on the channel, and not enough on the message.
  • Remember Aristotle? He loved the message first (logos), the channel second (lexis).
  • This is an overstatement. But the spirit is true.
  • This is our message, in it’s purest form, devoid of formatting or channel.
  • This is the web page we use to transmit our message. Sadly, this is usually what we think of INSTEAD of our message.
  • These are all the channels I came up with in 60 seconds. There are even future channels we haven’t thought of yet (a la “Minority Report” where they beamed ads right into Tom Cruise’s head). Sadly, we tend to tune out all channels except the web page.
  • We tend to look at web pages like this – a single conceptual unit.
  • In reality, web pages are a combination of smaller elements.
  • In 10 seconds, I broke an IBM press release down into pieces which can be select and re-used.
  • You want to turn your content into a salad bar – separate units that can be selected and combined to form new things and to work in and around someone dietary needs and taste preferences.
  • This is what happens when you try to use web content directly in other mediums.
  • This service allows you to connect systems together, from the outside. It operates on triggers – something happens on System A, and this does something on System B.
  • An example “recipe.” Then someone new appears in an RSS feed, post it to our Facebook page.
  • An example of how it works.
  • Zapier is a industrial-strength version of “If This Then That.” It integrates hundreds of apps, essentially connecting them together in arbitrary ways.
  • Huginn installs in your organization, behind-your-firewall, and performs content integration tasks for you.
  • Dynamic PDF generation has come a long way. It’s not hard to push your content into print channels. Kindle Direct Publishing is releasing an API later this year that will let you update your ebook directly in Amazon’s store without any manual work.
  • Kapow makes a screen-scraping system that can capture your web content directly from the “public” face of your website without making changes. You can then re-combine this content into new forms.
  • This should be our rallying cry.
  • Content managers should have the nerdiest protest ever.
  • This is only half in jest. Structure, Purity, and Integration = Freedom
  • COPEing Mechanisms: The Peril and Promise of Create Once, Publish Everywhere

    1. 1. @gadgetopia
    2. 2. @gadgetopia
    3. 3. @gadgetopia
    4. 4. @gadgetopia We‟re not doing enough with our content.
    5. 5. @gadgetopia • What is/was COPE? • What benefits does COPE offer? • What challenges does COPE present? • What does this mean for us? What do we need to do?
    6. 6. @gadgetopia
    7. 7. @gadgetopia If you could publish your content every way except as a web page, what would that look like?
    8. 8. @gadgetopia NPR project, spear-headed by Zach Brand and Daniel Jacobson
    9. 9. @gadgetopia Create Once Publish Everywhere
    10. 10. @gadgetopia The project was publically introduced in a Programmable Web article in 2009
    11. 11. @gadgetopia “In order for content providers to take full advantage of these new platforms, they will need to, first and foremost, embrace one simple philosophy: COPE.”
    12. 12. @gadgetopia “Build content management systems, not web publishing tools.”
    13. 13. @gadgetopia
    14. 14. @gadgetopia
    15. 15. @gadgetopia
    16. 16. @gadgetopia
    17. 17. @gadgetopia
    18. 18. @gadgetopia
    19. 19. @gadgetopia
    20. 20. @gadgetopia
    21. 21. @gadgetopia
    22. 22. @gadgetopia
    23. 23. @gadgetopia Create Once Publish Everywhere
    24. 24. @gadgetopia This is multi-channel publishing.
    25. 25. @gadgetopia channel: a distribution point for your content.
    26. 26. @gadgetopia Content Channel CMS Website
    27. 27. @gadgetopia Content Channel Channel Channel “once” “everywhere”
    28. 28. @gadgetopia multi-channel publishing: publishing content into more than one channel
    29. 29. @gadgetopia multi-channel publishing: that thing that everyone said they wanted but hardly anyone actually did.
    30. 30. @gadgetopia “Great Lie of Content Management”
    31. 31. @gadgetopia
    32. 32. @gadgetopia “We feigned interest in separating content and presentation, but deep down we knew that press release was only ever going to be published as a web page.”
    33. 33. @gadgetopia “Separating content from presentation.”
    34. 34. @gadgetopia “Aristotle phrased this as the difference between logos (the logical content of a speech) and lexis (the style and delivery of a speech).” Gideon O. Burton “Silva Rhetoricae”
    35. 35. @gadgetopia
    36. 36. @gadgetopia
    37. 37. @gadgetopia When COPE was unveiled, we had a multi-channel problem.
    38. 38. @gadgetopia Content Facebook Twitter WWW
    39. 39. @gadgetopia COPE was the dream come to life.
    40. 40. @gadgetopia 1. Expansion 2. Cost Reduction 3. Peace of Mind
    41. 41. @gadgetopia Expansion • New marketing channels • New revenue models • Reach more people • …but…can‟t we do that now?
    42. 42. @gadgetopia Cost Reduction • Multiple channels means re-work • Re-work means $$$ • High-velocity content just makes this worse
    43. 43. @gadgetopia We want the benefits without the drawbacks. We want control.
    44. 44. @gadgetopia
    45. 45. @gadgetopia
    46. 46. @gadgetopia We want to futureproof our content.
    47. 47. @gadgetopia We want to keep our options open.
    48. 48. @gadgetopia
    49. 49. @gadgetopia
    50. 50. @gadgetopia
    51. 51. @gadgetopia Content that‟s bound to it‟s channel is “locked in.” That scares us.
    52. 52. @gadgetopia The Dream: Infinitely adaptable content that can shift shape or format at will. Forever.
    53. 53. @gadgetopia We want peace of mind.
    54. 54. @gadgetopia 1. Editorial changes 2. Rendition management 3. Content/channel elasticity
    55. 55. @gadgetopia #1 Editorial Changes
    56. 56. @gadgetopia Since a web page will be a single channel among many, your editors can‟t create content solely for that channel.
    57. 57. @gadgetopia
    58. 58. @gadgetopia
    59. 59. @gadgetopia
    60. 60. @gadgetopia
    61. 61. @gadgetopia Question: Will your editors know and understand all the different channels where their content might be published?
    62. 62. @gadgetopia Training Issue: Can your editors abstract themselves away from the presentational specifics of a channel?
    63. 63. @gadgetopia Philosophical Question: Is it possible to mass produce content without thinking about where it will be presented?
    64. 64. @gadgetopia “The problem is this: The question content people ask when finishing adding content to a CMS is „how does this look?‟. And this is not a question a CMS can answer any more – even with a preview. How we use the web today has meant that the answer to that questions is, „in what?‟” • “WYSIWTFFTWOMG!” Mark Boulton
    65. 65. @gadgetopia
    66. 66. @gadgetopia
    67. 67. @gadgetopia “How does this look?” should change to “How does this read?”
    68. 68. @gadgetopia #2 Rendition Management
    69. 69. @gadgetopia Content Mobile App Social Media WWW What We Hope For…
    70. 70. @gadgetopia Content Mobile App Social Media WWW Rendition Rendition Channels impose limitations
    71. 71. @gadgetopia • Rendition: a version of content designed to adapt to a particular channel
    72. 72. @gadgetopia
    73. 73. @gadgetopia Core Rendition Rendition Rendition Rendition
    74. 74. @gadgetopia Managing multiple renditions is harder than managing single pieces of content. It becomes an N+1 problem.
    75. 75. @gadgetopia
    76. 76. @gadgetopia When we change content, how do we propagate manual interventions through all the different renditions?
    77. 77. @gadgetopia At what point do manual interventions cause a rendition to become its own piece of content?
    78. 78. @gadgetopia #3 Content/Channel Elasticity
    79. 79. @gadgetopia • Content elasticity: the ability of content to adapt to a rigid channel • Channel elasticity: the ability of a channel to adapt to rigid content
    80. 80. @gadgetopia
    81. 81. @gadgetopia Generating omni-channel content is virtually impossible.
    82. 82. @gadgetopia 1. Editorial changes 2. Rendition management 3. Content/channel elasticity
    83. 83. @gadgetopia 1. Theoretical 2. Technical
    84. 84. @gadgetopia We need to break up with the channel and fall in love with the message.
    85. 85. @gadgetopia
    86. 86. @gadgetopia message: what we‟re trying to say
    87. 87. @gadgetopia channel: how we say it
    88. 88. @gadgetopia Channels should be interchangeable.
    89. 89. @gadgetopia “The north parking lot is being resurfaced tomorrow at 4 p.m.”
    90. 90. @gadgetopia
    91. 91. @gadgetopia Channels • Verbal • Physical print media • Physical digital media • Web page • RSS item • Email • SMS • Social media • Audio broadcast • Video broadcast
    92. 92. @gadgetopia If you could publish your content every way except as a web page, what would that look like?
    93. 93. @gadgetopia “The north parking lot is being resurfaced tomorrow at 4 p.m.” ≠
    94. 94. @gadgetopia Historically, we haven‟t been creating messages, we‟ve been creating web pages.
    95. 95. @gadgetopia Technical Imperatives 1. We need to design for content structure 2. We need to value content purity 3. We need to insist on content integration
    96. 96. @gadgetopia Structure
    97. 97. @gadgetopia How can we break our content down into reusable pieces?
    98. 98. @gadgetopia What is the MRU? Minimum Reasonable Unit
    99. 99. @gadgetopia
    100. 100. @gadgetopia
    101. 101. @gadgetopia
    102. 102. @gadgetopia Credit: Wikipedia user “Tudokin”
    103. 103. @gadgetopia Purity
    104. 104. @gadgetopia How can we keep our content free of formatting that inhibits re- use?
    105. 105. @gadgetopia
    106. 106. @gadgetopia
    107. 107. @gadgetopia
    108. 108. @gadgetopia
    109. 109. @gadgetopia You can remove or minimize most WYSIWYG with structure.
    110. 110. @gadgetopia Integration
    111. 111. @gadgetopia How can we get content out of our CMS in a neutral format to power other channels?
    112. 112. @gadgetopia How can we connect our CMS to other systems?
    113. 113. @gadgetopia CMS Integration • Content export • Content retrieval services • Programming APIs
    114. 114. @gadgetopia
    115. 115. @gadgetopia If This Then That
    116. 116. @gadgetopia
    117. 117. @gadgetopia
    118. 118. @gadgetopia
    119. 119. @gadgetopia
    120. 120. @gadgetopia
    121. 121. @gadgetopia
    122. 122. @gadgetopia
    123. 123. @gadgetopia Content Integration liberates our content.
    124. 124. @gadgetopia “Structure… Purity… Integration!”
    125. 125. @gadgetopia
    126. 126. @gadgetopia
    127. 127. @gadgetopia COPE lets us do more with our content.
    128. 128. @gadgetopia More Value Less Cost Less Risk More Control
    129. 129. @gadgetopia • We need to think in terms of messages, not channels. 1. We need to design for content structure 2. We need to value content purity 3. We need to insist on content integration
    130. 130. @gadgetopia @gadgetopia