Working with Content in the Information Age

What is content? Is it data? I like to think of content as the machine (computer) representation of information.

The word data usually conjures up visions of tables in relational databases, SQL, stored procedures, various normal forms, keys, indexes etc. Data in relational database tables is great when it comes to sifting through millions of rows spread across many tables to give us what we are looking for.

So what's wrong with (relational) data? Nothing really - it works great in the world of structured data, where we store information about products, customers, transactions, payments, inventory etc. But can you imagine how painful it would be to do a mashup with relational database tools? Or have to create a new table for every new kind of content you may want to store?

Nowadays the typical "knowledge worker" researches a number of things on the internet and stores potentially relevant information in all sorts of places from browser bookmarks to online bookmarks on services like Delicious, as files, as emails, in text documents and spreadsheets. After this research phase, how do they sift through all the gathered data, connect and analyse it? 

Currently this is mostly done with the best computer invented till now, our brain. The brain is very good at crystallizing the essential information into content for storage and analysis. So the question becomes, how could we get computers to do at least the less intelligent part of storing and retrieving the information / content?

The answer is to work at a higher level of abstraction than data, which we will call content. A single piece of content such as a news item is made up of many pieces of data like a report, pictures, video, reader's comments, tags, links to related articles etc. etc. This is much easier to represent in a content management system and manipulte with a content framework like Drupal than with data tools.

View Comments

nice teaser. where is the article about how drupal doing this?

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