Content Modeling Roundtable - Part 1

Content Modeling Roundtable - Part 1

A panel of 9 thought leaders shares fresh insights on the current and future state of content models and related topics.

An on-demand, online roundtable video.

Fill out the form on this page to gain instant access to an engaging, 47-minute roundtable discussion on content modeling, featuring the global leaders in structured content. Check the Roundtable Highlights with Minute Markers section below for an overview of topics discussed during the roundtable. Also included here are brief paraphrased quotes from participants.

Core Discussion Topics

Participants in this lively roundtable engaged in discussions on several key topics and issues, including:

  • How content models help publishers from an editorial perspective.
  • A need for common components related to content models.
  • Elevating awareness of models beyond web development or UI.
  • The challenge of communicating with two types of internal customer stakeholders.
  • The critical relationship between semantics and structure.
  • The need for vendor-agnostic content portability.
  • The increasing consumer need for content component selection in order to generate unique, new customer experiences.

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  1. Aaron Bradley, Knowledge Graph Strategist at Electronic Arts (EA)
  2. Carrie Hane, Content Whisperer at Tanzen LLC
  3. Cruce Saunders, Founder and Principal at [A]
  4. Deane Barker, Founder and Consulting Analyst at Blend Interactive
  5. Eamonn Glass, Director, Network Channel Strategy at Electronic Arts (EA)
  6. Joe Gollner, Master Architect at [A]
  7. Michael Andrews, Digital Content Strategist
  8. Mike Atherton, Content Strategist at Facebook
  9. Rachel Lovinger, Content Design Director & Content Strategist at SapientRazorfish

Roundtable Highlights with Minute Markers

03:00 — Cruce Saunders introduces the initial objective of a brief “worldview” summary from each thought leader. “So individually, how do we personally, within our organizations or for our clients and those we influence, use content models? And what are the issues we see around making those models work across content set groups and organizations?”

06:40 — Aaron Bradley of Electronic Arts covers the communication challenges around content models lacking standard, widely accepted definitions. “What are the content objects in the digital universe to which these sorts of standards can be applied? And which models can be built?”

09:07 — “More broadly, as content or content modeling elements are the relationships that are described, they're capable of being described by simple hierarchies or by their nature, poly-hierarchical … What sort of constraints can be applied to model structures and how should these constraints be captured?”

11:00 — Carrie Hane of Tanzen LLC discussed the difficulty of making meaningful progress without more common definitions of what a model and its parts are. “What I see in my work is ... raising content models above interface planning and just getting people to think of them as an organization-wide thing … that in itself is difficult. Because it raises the question, 'who does it?' … The person who makes, maintains and enforces a content model needs to be much higher in the organization.”

15:00 — Deane Barker, Blend Interactive: “My interest is in interoperability ... How do we present a seamless end-presence, whether that be a website or some other channel, from different multiple content repositories? To do that, we have to achieve some level of interoperability, and some agreement on what a model looks like and which features are supported … I'm wondering what minimal subset of content modeling features can we agree on as an industry?”

18:00 — Cruce Saunders, [A]: “You're getting to vendor-agnostic content portability, and I think that's at the absolute essence of where we need to get content sets in the future; independent from the systems of record. So they can move from authoring, through management, through publishing without any concern for which platforms are handling that content. The only way I think we can get to that content set that's fully decoupled from our supply chain is structural management. To your point, Deane, we have to agree on some of the basis for that; otherwise, vendors won't be able to work together. CMIS was a starter there, it sounds like the other ones are as well … it's all about creating these object-oriented interactions.”

22:20 — Eamonn Glass, Electronic Arts: “We are always going to have multiple types of content stored in various different systems, and we are aligning on a set of standards that describe those. [At EA,] if we conform to those standards, it allows us to publish content into our content graph, which we marry up with clear data, and then process with some intelligent machines. The interoperability there is afforded by common taxonomy and ontology … then we move that content through a personalization framework, and we can take that payload of content, represented as a JSON payload, and the API we access that through is something that we control. We developed that API ourselves.”

30:00 — Joe Gollner, [A]: “So, we all look at content and use the word ‘content’ a little differently and therefore we have to ... triangulate on a good working definition of what we mean by content … what makes content modeling special? … one of my more recent blog posts is on how do we find an elegant answer to this problem of the marriage of structure and semantics, particularly when we want to move within enterprises across many, many different types of systems.”

31:15 — Cruce Saunders, [A]: “The structure and semantics separation, just like content from systems or other forms of separation … I think within modeling we often conflate structure and semantics, or at least I've seen it done. Being intentional and decoupled about this ultimately provides a lot more flexibility.”

35:00 — Michael Andrews, Digital Content Strategist: “... what I've been thinking about lately is how can these models help publishers from an editorial perspective? A lot of the discussion so far has been around interoperability, it’s been about technical implementation, it's about harmonizing different systems in an agnostic way … and all of that is very, very important. Ultimately, I'm thinking, why do people who publish things care about content models? … I see that when you structure information, it gives this ability to customize the information in different ways and present it in different scenarios in different contexts. So the question I have about content models is this: if we have this ability, what does the content model need to offer different parties?"

37:45 — Mike Atherton, Facebook: “And to add another output to the mix, there are teams here [at Facebook] that have been kicking around ontology and knowledge graphs and stuff with a view to training ML models and doing AI, where they're essentially the presentation layer ... It's more about gaining insights from semantic connections between things and what’s now becoming popular to call content understanding.”

47:00 — Rachel Lovinger, SapientRazorfish: “I think the artifact of the content model is very important, but increasingly in my work, what's really important is the activity ... the verb of content modeling rather than the noun … establishing standards would certainly be a great starting place for people and could maybe make it so that instead of having to start from scratch, they're starting with something [tangible]. But I think having those conversations is still really important. Like: what are the business needs, what are the designers’ needs, what are our goals and our vision with this content and how do we extend a model so that we can fulfill those needs?”

Recommended Reference Materials (by publish date):

Content Modelling: A Master Skill by Rachel Lovinger
Content Modeling Series by Cleve Gibbon
Designing Connected Content: Plan and Model Digital Products for Today and Tomorrow by Carrie Hane and Mike Atherton
[A] Guide to Mastering the Master Content Model by Joe Gollner and Cruce Saunders
Redefining the Role of Content Models by Michael Andrews
Towards a Content Modeling Standard by Deane Barker

More About The Content Order

This Roundtable was sponsored by the Content Order, an [A] program. The Content Order brings together experts and ideas. View more sponsored resources here.

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