Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of Open.  Specifically I’ve been immersed in the concepts of Open Source Search and Open Content.  I recently  published an article in Online about the Open Law movement.  Just a few short weeks ago I participated in the Lucene Revolution and I’m currently in the final steps of providing some content management structure to an organization that is committed to open content.

All of this openness truly presents a challenge.  Open content is a great ideal but without proper structure and maintenance it becomes open information overload rather than information access.  I appreciate the Open Source and Open Content movements.  Making accessible publicly funded content beyond the gates of the power house commercial vendors is a worthy cause.  Combine that with the genius of Open Source search technology and you are well on your way to creating an affordable solution to age-old problem of finding what you need.

Notice that I say affordable.  In my recent immersions in the OPEN world, I have come away with the distinct impression that there is much to be done still.  Open Source Search solutions offer great alternatives and if you pay money they will work on a problem for you.  If however, you wait for the community solution your enterprise may fall behind in getting what it needs with the Open solution.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t pretend to know all the ins and outs of how open source code companies offer up their products and solutions.  But I did learn at the Lucene Revolution that the community is passionate and talented and limited.  I say limited because as we all know money talks.  If you are paying for a solution, you will, in all likelihood get a solution.  When the closing panel at the Lucene Revolution discussed the weaknesses of Enterprise search solutions, Mr. Dosher of Exalead missed an opportunity to talk about the responsiveness to customers.  Of course that is a shaky argument, we all know that if the fix you need isn’t in the current development track you will wait but at least you will be soothed into knowing that it will be in the next cycle.

Is there a way the Open Source community can you provide that same assurance?  I’m not sure but I think so, especially as they work out their business model kinks

In the meantime, you need working solutions now. A few suggestions to help you provide structure and improve your enterprise content management as you wait for the provider solutions and these are yours for the open taking:

  • Define and communicate the purpose of your content solution
  • Know exactly what you want the system to do and keep it focused
  • Establish an overall owner – this is a great task for an information professional or librarian (in some circles these folks are one and the same).
  • Establish some gateways – Not all information is worth storing.
  • Know and understand the existing features of your chosen solution and train everyone

These may seem simple on the surface but when it comes time to execute you may find they require more thought than you first assumed.

Constance Ard October 24, 2010