Interview for Content Management: Why It Matters, and How ColdFusion Helps
CMS interview with Kelly Tetterton
Michael Smith: This time we are talking with Kelly Tetterton about his CFUNITED-
05 talk "Content Management: Why It Matters, and How ColdFusion Helps". So why
should a developer come to your session Kelly ?
Kelly Tetterton: There are many reasons for a developer to come to this session,
not the least of which is a chance to be a hero! Let me explain: for many
companies (both big and small), managing the company's content is an immense
headache -- but it's often the kind of headache that's not even expressed as a
problem that can be solved. For example, if Joe is the designated content
person, and everything has to go through Joe, and Joe is manually creating html
pages and putting them up on the website when he has time away from whatever his
main job duties are, then Joe is a bottleneck for that company. But that almost
never gets expressed as, "we need a data-driven content management system!" --
instead, it's usually expressed as, "our content is completely out of date. I
wish Joe were better at his job."
MS: That doesn't sound fun for Joe!
KT: Yes and this session can help Joe. This session is going to explore how
developers can solve this problem very quickly, not by tackling Joe, but by
taking advantage of ColdFusion's built-in RAD capabilities to create something
that really fills a company's needs for content management. We're also going to
explore how to ramp up from a small, stop-gap content management system to
something much more robust. We will be talking about code, of course, but we'll
be focusing a lot on the *process* that businesses (and the developers who love
them) need to go through to achieve that.
MS: That is great for Joe - but what about his boss?
KT: Good question - it's not just developers who can learn from this session --
management types who already know (or even suspect) that they need a content
management system will get a lot out of this as well. So if you're either a
developer or a manager, you'll leave with some definite ideas about how to solve
a problem back at the home office -- and if you can do that quickly,
effectively, and cheaply, you'll be a hero in your company.
MS: So what exactly does "content management" mean?
KT: "Content management" is actually a very difficult term to pin down -- does
it encompass raw data, documents, digital image assets, workflow? There's an
entire industry devoted to content management, and a good portion of those
industry resources are devoted to merely nailing down standard vocabulary and
MS: Wow - how will you deal with this at your talk?
KT: We'll talk about what some of those definitions are (and provide some CM
industry references), but primarily we'll be focusing on the data that you might
want to manage (not Word documents or PDFs or source image files), and some of
the strategies available to manage it as your circumstances change.
MS: Can you give an example?
KT: Sure. For instance, you may want to come up with a better way to publish a
company's press releases to the web -- other than going through good 'ole Joe.
For now, you really just want to create or find a mechanism to publish the
title, its date of publication, and the body of the press release. There are
lots of ways to do this, and most of them are as simple as this scenario sounds
-- construct some tables, a few simple forms and queries, and you're ready to
go. Most of the time, this will be your first step.
MS: Isn't that just a means to content *publishing*, not management?
KT: Yes, content publishing is just a first step. Management comes into play
when you start addressing larger business process questions: should only certain
users have access to these tools? should there be multiple levels of access?
will the content be re-used or re-purposed in some way? If you solve the "Joe
problem" with your content publishing tools, success will inevitably spawn these
MS: So what else will you cover in your talk?
KT: This session will focus on the best ways to plan for growth and change in
your content management system without inducing such project paralysis that you
never get started in the first place.
MS: And how does ColdFusion fit into the CMS?
KT: Because ColdFusion allows developers to create working applications so
rapidly, it's very easy to get to that first publishing step -- most developers
will be able to create a simple version of the press release system we just
described in a matter of hours. But probably more importantly, ColdFusion has
built-in tools to allow a company to really scale its CMS as its needs change.
To take just one small example: it's very easy for the volume of a site's
content to get out of control quite quickly. Once everyone can publish press
releases as often as they'd like, they'll usually take full advantage of that.
Within a matter of months, you may have hundreds of articles swamping your site.
How do you deal with that load on your site without being forced into another
round of code re-writes?
ColdFusion already has functions specifically designed to increase performance.
For instance, you can cache the queries that pull those articles in several
different ways -- using the cachedwithin attribute, or even caching the entire
query in the application scope. These are changes that can be made in just a
couple of minutes, and yet they can have a profound effect on site performance.
This is just one aspect of what ColdFusion can do for you, but I think it gives
a sense of the power and flexibility that you have when you're developing a CMS
MS: Are there many CMS packages available that work with CF and how are they
KT: You have lots of options to review if you're looking for an established CMS
product that works with CF -- it all depends on what your particular
organization needs. One of the most popular off-the-shelf products is
PaperThin's CommonSpot; it's been around for years now, so there's a solid track
record to look at. The price for CommonSpot varies depending on the licensing
model you choose, but it's generally in the $20,000-$50,000 range. If you're
interested in Open Source projects, FarCry is a good FREE bet -- and Steve
Rittler will be talking about it right here at the conference. If you feel like
you need more guidance and/or help, however, there are plenty of companies like
my own, Duo Consulting, that can provide customized ColdFusion solutions
engineered specifically for your needs -- and the pricing for that can range
from $10,000 to $100,000. There's really a full range of packages out there, and
one of them is bound to match whatever it is that you're looking for.
MS: Thanks for talking with me - see you at your talk!