CMS Expo: Content (Management Systems) Everywhere
Last week, hundreds of content management system users, developers, designers, administrators, and strategists gathered in Evanston for CMS Expo 2013. CMSX has its roots in the local user group community, which makes it feel more like a multi-platform user group meeting than a vendor-driven sales conference. It’s like a DrupalCamp, WordCamp, and Joomla Camp all ended up at the same hotel, which makes for some interesting cross-platform discussions. John and Linda have also really made big strides in shifting the conversation to include not just the platforms but also business strategy and content strategy. This directional change was even more in play this year, with fewer small track sessions in the am and more large sessions attended by the whole audience.
The major theme this year was the arrival of mobile, and how the impact of mobile goes well beyond just responsive design: structured content, content strategy, adaptive content, reactive technology were all discussions stemming from this root.
Many of the highlights were those I had expected:
- Margot Bloomstein (Cart, Meet Horse)
- Jeff Eaton (Prepare for the Mobilacalypse)
- Sarah Beckley (How to Future Proof your Business Content)
- David Aponovich (Five Secret Weaknesses of your WCM)
One unexpected highlight for me was Kevin Drew Davis‘s keynote, which was a model of clarity and vision without getting bogged down in technical details. He touched on the importance of Star Wars (the first one, now retroactively known as Episode IV) as the first presentation of a “used future” in which the world wasn’t all shiny and new. (Though the Star Wars geek in me was tempted to remind the speaker that Star Wars is technically set in the past not the future). We tend to keep thinking that when the next new thing comes all the old things stop being valuable, or that at some point we’ll stop inventing more new platforms and formats, but instead these new things just accrete. We add more devices but we’re reluctant to give up old ones. We need to stop thinking of our users as using “a” platform and recognize all users use multiple platforms in multiple contexts.
I also really enjoyed Jen Kramer‘s take on “reactive technology” – her attempt at a buzzword to replace “responsive design” and try to bridge the gap in understand that responsive suffers right now (in that it means something very specific to developers but business owners haven’t yet really understood all their options for mobile). Her mode of presenting the variety of options (from mobile sites to adaptive options to responsive and potentially mixtures of all of these options) helps back out of the “responsive design is the answer to all mobile problems” mentality that can result from a superficial discussion.
WordPress was well represented this year, on the multi-cms “can your CMS do this” and “can your CMS do that” panels as well as through a series of presentations by:
- Aaron Holbrook (WordPress is a CMS)
- Lisa Sabin-Wilson (Exploring Multi-Site, Creating Community)
- Jake Goldman (Publishing Workflows and Tools)
- Me (Beyond Posts and Pages, We’re on a Mission)
Meetup Monday even included an appearance by WordPress lead developer Andrew Nacin talking about what’s upcoming in WordPress 3.6.
While it’s certainly important to recognize that selecting a platform is just one part of the broader content management
problem opportunity (see the selection myth), it’s also very valuable to be at a conference like CMS Expo and interact with people beyond the tribe where you spend most of your time. If you work on a specific platform (as a developer, designer, consultant, or client) it’s incredibly valuable to see what solutions other platforms rely on as they face the same challenges.