"Information on your own ongoing experience with content management in an online environment would be useful." — A JEP reader

We never thought of what we do here at JEP as "Content Management" until an alert JEP subscriber raised that point in the "unsolicited opinion" section of the subscription form.

To address it, we first set out to determine what Content Management is. One organization's [formerly http://www.fourthwavegroup.com/Publicx/959w.htm] definition is: "Content management encompasses all business practices and technical processes that are performed for the purpose of capturing, maintaining, sharing, and preserving recorded meaning."

Well, we like to think that we provide meaning here at JEP, so we decided to share our content-management processes.

As all loyal JEP readers know, JEP is very sophisticated — but that does not mean it's high tech. We don't use much more than HTML: no back-end databases on $25,000 database software; no cascading style sheets, no Flash, no Java, no Rational Unified Process to pull it all together. We just present good ideas in a format that we hope doesn't detract from them.

That said, there's a lot that goes into this simple approach. Here are our content-management steps:

  • An article gets accepted for publication, and is put into the JEP format, by hand, using a rough template. Links are added to and from the footnotes, and links in the article are checked by hand.
  • The article is edited, with edits marked in the text in the !—comment— format.
  • The article is posted on the JEP Web site in a secret area for author review.
  • The author is asked to review the article in the source code, and respond to questions and suggested changes.
  • The article is changed to reflect the author's responses, and the author is invited to come back and check it again.
  • The article is published.
  • We make changes as appropriate (see below).

Once a month JEP runs a simple program to check every link in every article in every issue. Each month we receive an e-mail message with up to 300 questionable links. We go through that list by hand, verifying real problems (some are just timeouts, or transitory problems). When we find a real dead link, and can figure out what the link should be, we change it. When we can't figure it out, we ask the author for help. Most of the time we can come up with a working link, but someimes we have to remove the link entirely.

Our content-management process is principally people run, based on the willingness of our staff to format articles in HTML, to drag out The Chicago Manual of Style and make sure everything is grammatically and stylistically correct, and to get down into the Internet to update outmoded links. We think we do a pretty good job capturing, maintaining, sharing, and preserving recorded meaning — managing content.

This issue of The Journal of Electronic Publishing looks at content management from several other points of view. As always, these JEP articles provide life lessons in e-publishing, for your reading enjoyment.

Evolution of an Electronic Book: Scholarly Electronic Publishing Bibliography

Charles W. Bailey, Jr., assistant dean for systems, University Libraries, University of Houston, started The Scholarly Electronic Publishing Bibliography in 1992. In the ensuing nine years he has amassed citations for over 1,400 articles, books, and other publications. Managing that content has been a challenge; his article covers the development and use of SEPB since its inception.

The Indexing of Scholarly Journals: A Tipping Point for Publishing Reform?

John Willinsky, Pacific Press Professor of Literacy and Technology at the University of British Columbia and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada; and Larry Wolfson, who teaches English and photography at a Vancouver high school in Canada, and who recently received a Ph.D. in Educational Studies at the University of British Columbia, look at another aspect of the issue. Content management, they say, is more than just writing and publishing works electronically (or correcting errors as they arise). It involves making the work accessible. These authors propose a free on-line indexing service that would help guarantee that all content is easy to reach.

Electronic First: The Upcoming Revolution in the Scholarly Communication System

Mike Sosteric, assistant professor of sociology and educational technology, Centre for Global and Social Analysis, Athabasca University; Yuwei Shi, president of Peerview, and associate professor, Monterey Institute of International Studies; and Olivier Wenker, M.D. co-founder and president, Internet Scientific Publications, think that it is easier to manage content — not to mention more efficient — if you create the electronic version of your work first. Their article explains why (and how) to do that, based on their own experiences.

Note to Self: Print Monograph Dead; Invent New Publishing Model

Marshall Poe, Allston Burr Senior Tutor of Lowell House and a lecturer in History at Harvard University, wrote a monograph on the Duma Ranks, the Russian elite of the seventeenth century. He knew that no more than 200 people would read it, ever. So he published it himself, electronically. In this JEP article he tells how anyone can do the same. Self publishing is, of course, the ultimate content management.

The More Things Change . . .

Philippa Benson reminds us that we need to remember paper when we're publishing electronically.

Q.A.: Style Conscious

Contributing editor Thom Lieb shows that an important part of content management is style management. He explains how and why a style guide helps electronic publications, and shows us how to establish one.

Whether you are managing content yourself, or just enjoying the fruits of others' management, it's interesting to have a look behind the curtain to see how it's done.


Judith Axler Turner may be reached by e-mail at judith@turner.net.