Retrenching the content ecosystem: Smaller ponds for more manageable content management

Over the past few years, the greater content ecosystem has expanded dramatically – pushing content management to its farthest reaches. What used to be small ponds of data has become an ocean, leaving many content management system designers struggling to handle all the user generated content and data modules that are now flooding in. While improvements in automation to better handle high data volumes may be on the horizon, the fact that they are beyond our current capabilities means that CMS design may be temporarily better focused elsewhere: into retrenching internal data ecosystems into smaller, more relevant ponds.

Connected themes making connections 
Content creation and discovery begets new content, as data is processed by new users and reconfigured into forms that meet a niche. This is, fundamentally, the purpose of good content and is woven into the structure of modern content languages: inter-connectivity, hyperlinking, the ability to be shared and reconfigured on demand, while still preserving some modicum of authorship tracking. Without inter-connectivity, content represents a dead end for users – a nearly insurmountable obstacle in the modern ecosystem.

“Unprecedented ease in authorship comes with a distinct drawback.”

Here comes the flood
Of course, even in this time of unprecedented connectivity comes with a distinct drawback. Users are very nearly drowning in a flood of content, with the influx showing no signs of abating any time soon. According to CSC, we will see a staggering increase in data production by 2020 – growing 4300 percent. With this much data, the focus on the interrelationships between data that matter most to us is paramount.

While many assume that this interconnection between data is the source of the volume, this is more of a situation where the tail wags the dog. Content authorship has expanded due to simplified creation tools and platforms – breaking down traditional barriers to entry – making interconnection the only means we have to navigate such high volumes of data.

Creating the smaller pond
Since the operational challenges of dealing with the unrelenting torrent of data are beyond the capabilities of even the most sophisticated automation and web-scrapping capabilities, content marketers and CMS designers may have to turn to a counter-intuitive solution: creating smaller, proprietary ecosystems.

This “smaller pond” tactic may seem like a step backward in the overall pursuit of a larger, more integrated content ecosystem, but it does help mitigate some of the issues related to handing such high volumes of data. By building up a organization’s internal content ecosystem, you are essentially damming off the data influx – allowing it to flow through automated gatekeepers for processing and integration. This is a key step in converting raw data to hypertext.

By setting up an in-house ecosystem, organizations can more effectively scale their storage and CMS needs based on the data that they have on hand. While this may pose some limitations when it comes to providing linking to data and content currently outside the parameters of the CMS, it may ultimately prove more responsive and nimble in the long run. Rather than wading into the deep end of the content, setting up your own space allows for more easy and intuitive innovation, thought leadership and the more straightforward marketing of your content insights.

How DITA and XML facilitates managing regulation revisions

Since the start of publicly distributed legislation, the U.S. government has sought to make it as easy as possible to read and distribute non-classified government documents. This has led to the sometimes tentative embracing of content languages as they are developed and deployed throughout different industries. In June 2016, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) spoke to attendees of the 2016 Legislative Data and Transparency Conference and emphasized the importance of translating all legislative measures into a standardized formatting like XML. Ryan framed this an an effort to promote governmental transparency.

“Now we’re working to go further, and publish even more current and past documents in XML,” he told the assembled. “I’ve asked our team to keep moving ahead by publishing all legislative measures in a standard format. That means enrolled measures, public laws, and statues at large. We want this data to be as accessible as possible throughout the legislative cycle.”

“The goal is simplicity – something that XML models excel at.”

Keeping It simple and accessible
As with all forms of communication, the goal is simplicity – something that XML and DITA models excel at. The Federal Register affirms the importance of making regulations readable with stylistic guidance on how to author legislative documents.

“Readable regulations help the public find requirements quickly and understand them easily,” writes the Register. “They increase compliance, strengthen enforcement, and decrease mistakes, frustration, phone calls, appeals, and distrust of government. Everyone gains.”

This focus on compliance and limiting confusion – and the accompanying administrative nightmare – is a key way that DITA and XML can make legislation and regulations less of a hassle. Since the law governing any particular industry is a living document – made up of countless, frequently revised laws that dictate everything from tax codes to prohibited transactions – ensuring that documents are not only accessible but also find their way in to the most relevant hands can be easier said than done.

A ‘quality control nightmare’
This was a particular challenge that Chris Drake, the deputy legal counsel to Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy, identified and sought to make less troublesome. In 2014, prior to Speaker Ryan’s comments – Drake and the governor’s office attempted to launch a “e-Regulation” program, moving away from the traditional and inefficient paper-based authoring process into something that would allow users to more easily interact with legislative content.

“Some agencies didn’t know where the most recent text-edited version of a regulation was,” Drake told GCN. “It was a quality control nightmare. We needed a system that was more transparent and accessible.”

“Lawmakers may be less than experienced with content authoring platforms.”

This e-Regulation system was pioneered with the help of Fairfax Data Systems to convert PDFs into DITA XML, with the goal of over time authoring legislation directly in XML so as to limit potential conversion errors and inefficiency. This in and of itself posed a challenge: Lawmakers and their staff are typically less than experienced with certain content authoring platforms, making it a steep learning curve. To compensate for this, the e-Regulation initiative focused on breaking authorship into a two stage process, with the first stage relying on automation.

“Extraction is a mostly automated process,” Mark Gross, president and CEO of DCL, a company also assisting with the conversion, to GCN. “The trick is to do it in a consistent manner, which is not that easy.”

Following extraction, the documents were edited and approved in XML draft form by humans. While still time and resource intensive, the process will in the long run save countless hours of having to convert documents into new formatting over and over again.

“If we had tried this six or seven years ago we might not have been able to find a solution that does this,” Drake said.

The ongoing value of DITA legislation
Of course, beyond accessibility, the virtue of an XML content framework is the ability to integrate live regulatory changes into existing and future content. As legislative content is converted into DITA, each element becomes a component. If a law is amended, changed or struck from the books, the components of that law as it relates to technical documents like work manuals and safety training can be automatically reconfigured to match the most up to date regulatory guidance. With agencies like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration on board with publishing all guidance in DITA, both companies subject to the regulations and the regulators themselves can work on the same page, without requiring extensive redrafting every time the law changes.

The impact of corporate interests on content development and marketing

The idea that we live in a world driven by niche interest – particularly when it comes to the creation of new content – may not reflect the whole picture. True, the content landscape is broader and more multivariate than its ever been. Yet amid this niche content renascence, the pressure to monetize this content has never been greater, leading to the encroachment of corporate influence.

As part of an announcement related to its 2017 layoffs, Medium, the online publishing company started by Twitter co-founder Ev Williams, described how ad-driven online media is a “broken system” and how this is undermining the company’s bottom line. Williams took to the company’s blog to defend the layoffs as a step away from the ad-driven business model and a means of renewing the company’s focus on content.

“The vast majority of articles, videos, and other ‘content’ we all consume on a daily basis is paid for — directly or indirectly — by corporations who are funding it in order to advance their goals,” Williams wrote. “And it is measured, amplified and rewarded based on its ability to do that. Period. As a result, we get … well, what we get. And it’s getting worse. That’s a big part of why we are making this change today.”

A detriment to content … and society? 
While Williams remains coy about how exactly Medium will be shifting its business model to rely less on ad dollars, he isn’t alone in his assessment that ad-driven material may have a negative impact on the quality of content. Speaking to Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge blog, Feng Zhu, assistant professor of Business Administration at Harvard had equally strong words about the impact of ad-driven content creation models. 

“Ads may have a negative impact on the quality of content.”

“Many media scholars think this revenue model is detrimental to society because it provides incentive for the content provider to produce only popular content that can attract lots of eyeballs,” said Zhu. “Content providers are serving advertisers rather than the audience, and consumers with niche preferences will be out of luck because the content they’re seeking only caters to a small group of people.”

Zhu, alongside fellow researcher Monic Sun, sought to study the impact of ad-revenue-sharing programs on bloggers and content creators. Looking at a data set from a leading Chinese media website that offers a range of services, including blogging, Zhu and Sun were able to compare posts written by authors taking part in an ad-based profit model versus ones who did not.

Comparing the two populations, Zhu and Sun were able to determine that the posts supported by ad revenue showed a significant uptick in content focusing on “popular” topics, such as the stock market, salacious content and celebrities. Interestingly, while the topics became more culturally homogenous, the ad-supported blogs were typically longer, published more frequently and included more photos and video clips than those not ad-supported.

What can we take from this data, as well as the warnings issued by Williams? The lesson here may be that content backed by advertising facilitates a certain level of depth and innovation not easily achieved without some form of sponsorship – yet this comes at a price. The key for content creators and advertisers looking to work together and leverage a content strategy is identifying the niche they are writing for and determining the demand and – ideally – value of the content before bringing it to market.

Continuing trends in content language and marketing

Content languages and content marketing are poised to enter a highly competitive space. While previous years have seen much of content creation and management innovation focused on generating volumes of content, the past two years in many ways marked a shift in the market.

Content volume – without a meaningful way to parse and verify data – has led to the the challenge of finding relevant, useful content for specific audiences. The burden of parsing, packaging and distributing content has traditionally fell to marketers, yet the increasing role of sophisticated automation is helping mitigate the near unmanageable influx. With that in mind, we see several distinct content-related trends taking shape in the near future.

Increasingly effective segmentation
The struggle to match relevant content with certain populations remains at front of mind for content designers and marketers. In many ways, niche is the new norm. The issue in modern times is rarely, “Is there content that caters to a specific audience?” Rather, more often than not, the question becomes, “Can this content be located and delivered?”

In response, audience segmentation has grown from an auxiliary tool to aid in distribution to a bedrock of content management and marketing. While traditional conversion rates for content remain low, as content segmentation gets more sophisticated and automation drives increased speed and responsiveness, marketers are reporting that they feel their efforts are more successful. According to data from the 2017 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends report published by the Content Marketing Institute, over 60 percent of B2B and B2C content marketers say their efforts are are “much more” or “somewhat more” successful than last year.

Multimedia on the rise
Over the past few years, our definition of content has changed dramatically. This in turn has driven content language design, expanding the way we integrate data modules and other features into responsive, dynamic content.

“Social media has made a massive push to embrace new multimedia content.”

With social media companies doing a massive push for users to embrace new multimedia content generation – think the wide-scale rollout of Facebook Live and announcement of live streaming functionality being developed for Instagram – businesses must contend with the prevalence of multimedia as an effective communication and collaboration tool. With that in mind, the ability to parse and distribute non-written content like video, memes, GIFs and other popular forms of media is going to be a crucial challenge for content designers going forward.

Mobile dominance
There’s nothing new about how mobile devices have upended the market share of desktops. Yet the way that mobile is being used to access content is shifting in subtle ways. According to comScore, 2015 was the year that saw smartphone app usage inch closer to half of all digital media time spent.

This has big implications when it comes to CMS design. Specifically, it means that – in addition to auditing content and content delivery for content on mobile – content markets and managers need to look at the ways that proprietary apps filter, deliver and format content.

User-to-user content
One of the more fascinating trends we’ve seen in the past few years is how people interact with user-generated content. According to AdWeek, 85 percent of people trust content made by other users more than content generated by businesses or brands. As such, they are almost twice as likely to share it with friends and family.

“Maintaining branded content still remains a challenge.”

This will have a profound effect on the influx of new content in coming years. Simply put, brands and businesses are turning to users to create content for other users. To fully leverage this, the brand must design a CMS platform that users can easily interface with, prompts users to create content – a la Facebook’s “reminder” notifications – and still be maintained by the brand.

While companies like Facebook have led the way in this arena, maintaining content that falls within brand guidelines still remains a challenge. This something that automated metadata tagging will help with, allowing the content delivery platform to more quickly and accurately identify content outside its branded guidelines.

Pay to play
While not directly connected to the development of content, the slow but steady rollout of paid promotion, at the expense of organic reach, is having an impact on the way that content delivery platforms are being designed. Foregoing its traditional chronological feed, back in 2016 Instagram introduced an algorithm-based feed, marketed as a way for the company to deliver content based on “the moments we believe you will care about the most”

For many in the world of content creation and management, this kind of vague language combined with a secretive and proprietary algorithm does not bode well. Because recent data from Social@Ogilvy shows that for Facebook pages with more than 500,000 likes, the average organic reach has fallen to about 2 percent, many are worried that this evolution is inevitable for all content on social media platforms.

“I think marketers are just accepting the fact that Facebook is a place where you pay to play. The whole story of building a community is not operative anymore,” MEC North America Head of Social Noah Mallin told Advertising Age. “For building a brand story, you really have to do it with a budget.”

As each of these respective trends shapes the world of content management and marketing to come, the key for those in the world of content design to remain abreast of things as they evolve. Technology is likely to only speed the rate of innovation, meaning that a top priority should be to remain agile and response to market demand.

How content is fed and influenced by attribution modeling

The standard configuration of most content generating organizations has authors on one side and marketers on the other. This division of labor facilitates the creation and distribution of content, yet fundamentally both sides serve the same ends: to create compelling content for a particular audience.

Attribution modeling – the process of determining the most effective pathways that deliver desired results – feeds content creation and influences authors in several distinct ways. While ostensibly a marketing diagnostic and analytic process, understanding how content drives valuable operational metrics like conversion, retention and sales leads can help authors and reviewers better tailor content for audiences.

Single-touch attribution
There are several varieties of attribution models that marketers focus on, each with its features and ways to reflect on content. Nevertheless, there are two major categories within attribution modeling—single-touch and multi-touch.

Single-touch attribution refers to when a customer is converted after a single interaction with content. Typically, single-touch attribution models are broken into first-touch or last-touch attribution, referring to what the analyst determines to have been the most meaningful interaction that eventually drove conversion. First-touch emphasizes the importance of the moment the customer enters the marketing funnel, essentially attributing the conversion to this single moment. Last-touch takes on the perspective that the final step in the marketing process was the one that prompted the customer to make the leap.

“The virtue of single-touch attribution is it’s simplicity.”

The virtue of single-touch attribution is its simplicity: It can be implemented with ease and marketers and analysts can point to a singular moment in the marketing process, thereby zeroing in more effectively on these stages in content strategy recommendations. Within single-touch content strategy, it’s easy to emphasize the importance of customer “hooks” that prompt conversion. CTAs, sign-up forms and customer personas all feature heavily into this attribution model and the conversion process is seen as linear, which in turn allows content authors to focus in on these features.

However, one of the pitfalls of single-touch attribution is that, due to its simplicity, there is a significant risk of errors and improper attribution. As Jordan Con of bizible points out, technological limitations – combined with marketing speculation – often lead to conclusions that may not accurately reflect the customer pathway.

“The issue here is that if you are using conversion tracking (e.g. Google Analytics) in a B2B setting, the time between first touch and the conversion can be longer than the common 30- to 90-day expiration on the tracking cookie,” Con wrote. “So often times, this model is really attributing credit to the first touch that’s within the cookie expiration window, and not the true first touch.”

Multi-touch attribution
Recognizing the shortcomings of single-touch attribution models, multi-touch is a more nuanced approach to measuring the efficacy of content. Multi-touch attribution presupposes that there is rarely a single piece of content that drives conversion. Instead, a sustained and multi-step process of encountering content is what will eventually result in conversion. Data from MarketingSherpa suggests that multi-touch attribution models may increase ROI by 22 percent year over year.

The nuance of this approach lends itself to both a variety of different models within the umbrella of multi-touch attribution as well as its likelihood of filtering into a greater content strategy. Rather than presuming that single exposure will be enough to hook a potential customer, multi-touch attribution allows content to be crafted in more subtle ways. Content authors may be better served focusing on branding, thought leadership and the creation of a conversion-encouraging environment instead of leading with a strong CTA or forms.

While neither single-touch or multi-touch models are perfect, they both can inform a content development and management strategy in distinct ways. The close relationship between marketing and authorship means that focusing on determining the most operationally helpful modeling for what is key.

Astoria Software and WittyParrot Initiate Quantum Shift in Structured Authoring

The Astoria-WittyParrot integration allows multiple departments to reuse corporate Intellectual Property curated by technical documentation without using XML-based tools

SAN FRANCISCO, CA and CUPERTINO, CA—November 6, 2017 – Astoria Software, a division of TransPerfect, today announced the release of its integration with WittyParrot. The combined product allows non-XML content creators in Marketing, Sales, and Customer Support departments to reuse corporate intellectual property encoded in XML by the Technical Documentation department. The result is an unprecedented level of content sharing that allows the entire organization to speak with one voice without the burden of using a common set of authoring tools. Astoria Software and WittyParrot will showcase the solution, and a customer deploying it, at the LavaCon Conference in Portland, Oregon.

A Quantum Shift in Structured Authoring

Structured Authoring—most commonly associated with authoring in XML—suffers from restricted adoption for one principal reason: it asks all users who wish to be content creators to also be conversant with the bewildering details of XML elements, attributes, cross-document linkages, document-type descriptions, and so on. Companies seeking to surmount this barrier have chosen one of two approaches. The first is to force everyone to use non-XML tooling, which is easier for creators outside of Technical Documentation to understand, but which also sacrifices well-defined content structures and standard content-reuse mechanisms that make content useful and resilient. The second approach is to refactor all content into a lightweight-markup language such as MarkDown, which makes it easy for subject-matter experts to put ideas, concepts, thoughts, and descriptions into written form. The problem with languages like MarkDown is their inability to enforce either a content structure or an in-context reuse that would otherwise optimize information sharing.

The Astoria-WittyParrot integration takes a better approach. It allows creators in the Technical Documentation department to describe an organization’s intellectual property with all of the purposeful structure, rich metadata, and classification taxonomy found in XML-based authoring. Astoria provides all of the tooling and capability for version control, branching, revision, translation, and distribution. Approved content flows from Astoria to WittyParrot, where its seamless integration with Microsoft Office products allows Marketing and Sales users to consume such content within Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Teams, and Outlook. Sales and Customer Support users working in customer-relationship management (CRM) packages such as Microsoft Dynamics or Salesforce have a similar experience. Where organizations employ artificial intelligence to drive automated customer-service agents (i.e., “chat bots”), WittyParrot ingests micro-content managed in Astoria to provide content for its “Intelligent Q&A” module. Intelligent Q&A allows users, including an organization’s customers, to make natural-language requests and receive accurate, approved answers automatically.

The result is a quantum shift in the way the Technical Documentation team disseminates corporate intellectual property across the organization and to its customers. Each team uses the tooling best suited to its method of operation, and the content—be it multi-paragraph topics or sentence-level micro-content—retains all of the relationships, metadata, and taxonomy information encoded by the structured-authoring team.

Making the Quantum Shift

Attendees to the the LavaCon Conference in Portland, Oregon, will be able to speak with representatives of an Astoria Software customer that has incorporated the Astoria-WittyParrot integration. As one such representative describes it,

“One of the things we have had to overcome is the challenge of sharing content between departments. The appeal for us is that it allows other departments to use vetted content, content that is accurate for a customer-facing audience, without having the technical skills to author in DITA, and that’s huge for us.”

The documentation team at this company has pushed easily shareable tasks, like those you might find in a frequently-asked-questions list, from Astoria to WittyParrot so that Customer Support and Sales Engineering personnel can reuse that content in Microsoft Outlook and Word. In another project, PowerPoint slides for instructor-led learning will reuse DITA content authored and stored in Astoria. According to another representative of the same company, the benefit is tremendous because, “When you update the DITA material in Astoria, it’s automatically updated in PowerPoint!”

The Astoria Software Market Approach

In describing the transformation afforded by the Astoria-WittyParrot integration, Michael Rosinski, President and CEO of Astoria Software, commented, “The CCMS application vertical is dominated by vendors that focus on XML technology and related standards. Astoria Software is proposing an entirely new approach that allows the widely adopted Microsoft Office application to use content originally authored in XML. This means that content developers trained in Microsoft Office—and that’s millions of people in thousands of organizations—will reap the benefits of rich, structured content without having to learn anything about XML.” Marketing, Sales, and Customer Support organizations are usually shut out from reusing the intellectual property described by the Technical Documentation department. Yet personnel in these first three groups spend far more time talking to customers than any technical writer. Mr. Rosinski observed that, “The focus over the last decade on customer-relationship management can now be leveraged with WittyParrot. Sales and Marketing teams building customer-specific content can reuse the highly valuable content in Astoria, thereby increasing the return on investment made in CRM and technical documentation.”

Speaking with One Voice

Organizations of all sizes face too many barriers when trying to find and reuse approved, accurate descriptions of intellectual property. Intranet portals and CRM tools offer some relief when such descriptions are otherwise trapped within documents or scattered across repositories and local drives. However, these systems still require users to sift through search results; and, in large organizations with lots of portals and CRM systems, users cannot be certain that the results are showing approved, accurate content. Anil Jwalanna, Founder and CEO of WittyParrot, explains, “WittyParrot collates the information you want to share with customers into a single knowledge-automation, collaboration, and communication platform.” The WittyParrot solution makes accessing information easy. Through its built-in “bot” engine or with a few clicks in its user-interface, users bypass complex portal navigation to discover, classify, assemble, deliver and track all the content needed to communicate quickly and accurately with customers. As Mr. Jwalanna puts it, “WittyParrot centralizes the approved versions of all your messaging and best-practices communication, enabling your entire organization to speak with one voice.”

About Astoria Software

Astoria Software is the world’s most successful Enterprise solution for XML Component Content Management to help companies engage with their customers. Cisco Systems, Xylem, ITT, Siemens Healthcare, Northrop Grumman, Kohler, GE Digital, and other Forbes Global 2000 organizations rely on the Astoria platform to build meaningful, purposeful customer experiences around complex, business-critical content and documents. The Astoria platform’s reach extends to its web-based portal and to its mobile-device apps, forming an end-to-end solution that includes authoring, content management, and rendering systems, fully integrated and delivered on public or private clouds. Astoria Software, a division of TransPerfect, Inc., is based in San Francisco. For more information, visit

About WittyParrot

WittyParrot is a disruptive, intelligent micro-content automation, collaboration and communication platform for Marketing, Sales, and Support organizations. WittyParrot improves knowledge-worker consistency in communication, productivity and responsiveness by making information nuggets available through bots and widgets. The company’s investments in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data science enable it to automate both effectiveness and messaging consistency in all knowledge-worker communications. WittyParrot is fully integrated with Microsoft Office and Microsoft Office 365, several CRM platforms and various chat-bot technologies. WittyParrot has offices in Silicon Valley, California and in Bangalore, India. For more information, visit

Make a Quantum Shift in Structured Authoring

Eric Kuhnen and Michael Rosinski join Ed Marsh to talk about their presentation at LavaCon, Making a Quantum Shift in Structured Authoring.

According to Eric, one of the key changes in the content industry has become the inability for multiple groups within a department to share content while using a common set of tools. The technical documentation team works with structured content, and the content repository is often not available to those outside the team. Astoria Software now provides integration with Witty Parrot to enable “rich sharing” and ensure that XML-based content is available to non-XML content creators.

Julie Newcome of Ultimate Software, an Astoria Software customer, immediately saw the appeal of the integration:

When we first saw the demo with Witty Parrot, it really excited us. One of the things we have had to overcome is the challenge of sharing content between departments. The benefit for us is that [Astoria with WittyParrot] allows other departments to use vetted content, content that is accurate for a customer-facing audience without having the technical skills to author in DITA, and that’s huge for us.

Ultimate Software is scheduled to go live with their integration of Witty Parrot soon after the LavaCon Conference. You can see a demonstration of their implementation at the Astoria booth; the demonstration includes:

  • Pulling technical content, such as a task or FAQ, from the content repository and sharing it with a customer
  • Generating instructor slides for a training class directly from the source DITA and creating an updated course manual, which is a faster, more efficient, and better managed process

On this Podcast

  • Michael Rosinski: President and CEO of Astoria Software, Inc.
  • Julie Newcome: Content Management Analyst at Ultimate Software.
  • Eric Kuhnen: an expert in product research, development and management.
  • Ed Marsh: Creator and host of the Content Content podcast.


Castaways: Dealing with orphaned content

Even the most robust, expertly maintained content management system will inevitably face the challenge of orphaned content. Regardless of how small or seemingly insignificant the content block may be, when an important piece of your written intellectual property loses its link to its original author, that piece of IP loses its chain of provenance that gave rise to the content in the first place.  The effect is a disrupted chain of linkages, rendering many related content blocks essentially useless and degrading the value of the IP itself.

It takes careful and regular monitoring to avoid orphaned content and the subsequent increase in resources needed to rectify the condition.  Let’s take a look at a few issues surrounding orphaned content, starting with its genesis.

What makes content ‘orphaned’?
Content is orphaned when it loses its link to authorship and, therefore, its link to an authoritative source. This can occur if a CMS user/author account is deleted or updated without the content itself being updated. The content subsequently can become a “problem resource” – disconnected from clear authorship permissions and only able to be updated or deleted by a system administrator.

“You can’t verify the veracity of orphaned content.”

When content is orphaned, it can send ripples through the entire CMS. Every piece of linked content that refers back to data owned by the orphaned content is affected by its change in status, rendering them either broken or unable to be edited since the original author no longer exists in the CMS. This can be a serious problem, particularly if a CMS has significant user turnover or the system purges its authors regularly.


The impact of orphaned content
The challenge that heavily linked orphaned content creates is a considerable one. In addition to the manifold software errors it can prompt, the lack of author roles can undermine the authority of the content. Without author accountability, it becomes impossible to verify the veracity of data underpinning the piece of content – or even whose job it is keep the content updated. Deleting it may only make the matter worse – doing so can further break links in related files and folders.

“As content wranglers accustomed to dealing with orphaned content, we know from firsthand experience that it is unrealistic to rely upon the availability of original authors as the backbone of our quality system,” Robert Norris wrote in The Content Wrangler. “Far too often we’ve been left wondering who is going to fix the problem…and how…and when.”

Repairing orphaned content
To avoid the operational hassle of orphaned content, Norris urges CMS designers to build a mechanism that acts a “self-examination” for a system, combing through content and flagging issues of quality and authorship, and funneling these issues into a repair feed.

“[It] makes sense to assign topical content ownership at the upper-management level to establish accountability with a role that has authority,” Norris said. “Since every resource we publish incurs a burden of maintenance, this principle places that burden on the shoulders of someone with the resources needed to prioritize and execute the task.”

What this means is that orphaned content ideally needs to be repaired rather than purged. As previously stated, regular author turnover means that the task of repairing orphaned content defaults to a system administrator. The best practice, though,  is for the self-examination algorithm to assign ownership to widely accessible dummy account whereby qualified authors can claim ownership and reestablish the chain the provenance.

By taking a tactical, strategic approach and flagging content as problems arise – rather than only discovering a buildup of orphaned content after an audit – CMS managers can ensure their systems are clean and efficient.

DITA Europe 2017

2017 Content Management Strategies/DITA Europe conference
October 30-31, 2017
The Radisson Blu Hotel, Berlin

Join Astoria Software and content curation colleagues from around the world for two days of career-empowering knowledge, practices, networking, and practical solutions.  Click here to register.

Astoria Software will deliver a lecture entitled, “Your Connected Content—From CCMS to Mobile Devices”.  Click here for more details.

Event Template

Information Development World 2017
Information Development World 2017

Astoria Software will venture south from its offices in San Francisco to the heart of Silicon Valley venture-capital: Sand Hill Road in Menlo Park, California, and the latest gathering of the Information Development World.  The theme of the conference is Preparing Content for the Coming Artificial Intelligence Revolution.  Click here to register.

There’s nothing like IDW. Not even close. It’s a three-day, laser-focused, guided journey designed for technical, marketing, and product information managers—the folks responsible for managing the people, processes, and technologies involved in creating exceptional customer experiences with content. This year’s program features:

  • Innovators, artists, scientists, engineers, academics, and business leaders prepared take you step-by-step through the topics that matter
  • One single room, an intimate setting for collaborating with colleagues across multiple disciplines while focused on a common discussion topic

IDW is going for a more intimate venue this year: the Quadrus Conference Center.  Here’s a map of the location: