Top critical review
34 people found this helpful
Provides a good start, but.....
on March 13, 2003
At first reading, this book was good, but I later found myself confused about the processes Hackos describes. The first chapter is strong in that it provides an overview of the five phases of a content management project, complete with lists of deliverables. The book includes a number of process checklists in the appendices.
When I see a book that lays out a process structure in the beginning, I expect the table of contents to follow that structure. This book fails to do that. It can be difficult in the first reading to know what phase of the process is described in any particular chapter. The last two phases of development--the pilot project and the roll out--are not described outside the introductory chapter.
Since the content management field is apparently devoid of a conventional vernacular, authors get to invent their own terms for things. I had to read several chapters many times to understand what Hackos means by "information type" and "content unit." It was also difficult to see where metadata fits into the picture. Her information model shows an information repository containing "modules of content", such as reports or manuals. Each module of content may contain one or more "information types", such as letters or recipes. Each information type is constructed of "content units", which can be recipe ingredients or procedure steps. But, you start by defining "dimensions", which become retrieval metadata for the information types.
A dimension is essentially an enumerated data type with a set of discrete values. Once you define the dimensions, you can then define information types and, at the lowest level, content units. These dimensions are translated into metadata attached to "modules of content". This is what confuses me. As described in the book the metadata is attached to the highest level of document in the repository, but not the lowest level of content unit. Apparently, the sole function of metadata advocated here is to aid user-level searching and retrieval, and not to support authoring workflow. I find this a significant shortcoming.
Strengths: Strong focus on the end user, case studies, process not overly detailed, a chapter on making a business case, appendices full of checklists, & a good introduction.
Weaknesses: Book doesn't follow process flow, the jargon is difficult to grasp, reuse mechanisms are not well covered, uses a weak metadata model, and really only details the first three phases of a five-phase process.
Recommendation: A number of people I work with like this book, so maybe I'm just cranky. I would check out the comtech-serv.com website where Hackos lays out the process for you and provides some detail. You should be able to get a feel for her style and process there.