At the GC Summit, Debbie mentioned that the organizers of the excellent DASH treasure hunt game will start using a content management system to keep track of their puzzles. Someone in the audience asked, "What's a content management system?" Debbie didn't think she had a good answer, so she didn't try to answer. I have an answer, and I can point you at another one.
A content management system is a computer program that manages of "content" that [an author|authors] want to make available somehow. It tracks stuff from when you create it, as you collaborate on it, to when you publish it—though you can find content management systems that don't fit that model 100%. If this description sounds vague, then you were paying attention. It's a broad category.
- Wikipedia is a content management system that lets thousands of people edit thousands of articles which are then viewed on the web by millions of people over the internet. Wow, that's amazing!
- This here blog is a content management system that lets one person (me) edit articles which are then viewed on the web by my mom. (Hi mom!)
- Any big book publisher or newspaper has some kind of content management system. Authors write stuff and put it in the system. Editors tweak stuff. Folks lay out pages. Eventually the system sends files to a printer.
So the DASH folks will use a content management system for their web site. That sounds like a good way to let different people in different cities update their city's local information. Especially if the alternative is just, you know, calling up Curtis and asking him to edit their stuff for them. Whatever system they use, it'll be a content management system. It probably won't be much like Wikipedia, or this blog or... But it'll be a content management system.
Different content management systems are different. This makes sense. You'd expect the system underneath a medical-info website to require a few people to edit/approve a new article before publishing it. But for your personal blog, if it forced you to take time to "approve" each blog post after you wrote it, you'd call that program clunky.
There's so much variation between content management systems that ranty computer programmer Steve Yegge used it as part of his main example for "The Nonesuch Beast," his article on the hard slog on getting people to agree on what a product should do, even if at first they all think that they agree. (Most big companies have had a big push to unify on a single content management system; each tries once, fails, and learns that that's a stupid idea.)
The good news is that the DASH folks are all working on the same website. So they can probably mostly agree on what they want from their content management system.