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Technology Does Not Matter

I've had the privilege of attending some great events this year: WordCamp, PHP / eZ Publish Summer Camp and finally DrupalCon. These were all great experiences for a professional working with Web Content Management, but the most food for thought came from a much more modest event: A two hour breakfast seminar titled "The right content for the right context".

The three larger events focused on specific Content Management Systems:

These events are heavily focused on the specific technology. Attending all three gave me perspective on the strengths and weaknesses of these products as a developer. There were interesting insight into multilingual content management with WordPress, Advanced Solr search integrations with eZ Platform and numerous sessions on refactoring Drupal 8 to Object Oriented PHP and much more.

The above paragraph might sound interesting to you. But let me tell you, all of that does not matter. It's all just unnecessary evil to allow people to communicate, share information and work together. It has inherently no value in itself. It's for developers by developers.

Your elegant code will be as interesting as a VHS tape recorder is today - in just in a few years. The nature of technology is to be disposable. Even more so on the web.

P2P IRL (what's that?)

As a web technologist it's impossible for me to imagine how "normal people" experience the web. But as consumer of broadcast or printed media I have an outsider role, I perceive technical quality and delivery differently.

I imagine all creative professions such as software development have a tendency to create something that will impress our peers. The advertising industry thrives to win trophies in advertising competitions such as Cannes Lions and every journalist dreams of winning a Pulitzer.

Developers like to mystify and glorify technologies. Talk about the bliss of generators, reactive patterns and document database replica sets. That's all cool and necessary professional banter, but it shouldn't happen at the expense of your customer. Increased sales or other targets that the work set out to accomplish should be a priority.

In the breakfast seminar "The right content for the right context" Esa Nettamo from Ixonos discussed how they approach service design. The key takeaway for me was how inflated the role of technology continues to be in digital service projects:

  1. Technology
  2. Design / Content
  3. Business

From my professional experience I can say that this does seem to be the order of priorities in the majority of projects I work on. Technology and design are tangible and provide instant gratification, where as business is easily pushed aside in the daily grind. But it certainly is tangible when your employer announces cuts due to financial woes.

Making a buck is the hard part

For a long time it has been been trivial to become a worldwide content producer thanks to the internet and accessible content creation tools. Creating a blog is trivial. Writing interesting articles is harder, but hardly impossible. And the audience will come if your content is interesting enough. But making a living off that audience continues to be hard.

The above continues to be true for large media conglomerates as they struggle to find ways to monetise their content. The situation has been dire for newspapers in the US, but there are some good news too as the New York Times says it has more subscribers than ever.

The New York Times is an excellent example of a company that has learned to share technology with their Open Source technologies. Open Source and the Internet has truly commodised the business of content publishing. NYT has realised they need focus to on what they can be unique at. Technology is not it.

Obtainining unique "alien technology" is harder than ever, but innovating unique online services ontop of the common products can still be done. Most commonly it's nowadays simplifying an existing complex task. It takes is a good idea and thorough implementation. The odds are the technology to create it already exists.

The next time you start working on a task, question whether it should be done at all. Does it create value or would the effort be better spent somewhere else?

It's up to you to break the disconnect between technology, design and business.

Written by Jani Tarvainen on Thursday October 15, 2015
Permalink - Tags: ezplatform, drupal, cms, business, wordpress

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