Jason over at Bluefish has written an excellent introductory article to Composer. If you are new to Composer and would like to understand a little bit more about it this is well worth a read.
Please welcome friend and colleague Don Robertson to the [EMC/ECM] blogosphere. As well as residing as overall architect on Composer, Don is also the author of smart containers and knows just a little about BOF. If Don doesn’t know it, pretty much no one will. Don has been blogging internally and has bootstrapped his public blog with a few of his internal posts. Highly recommended.
As I said in my opening post on the subject Composer isn’t just an application. It isn’t just a DAB/DAI replacement. It is a lot more than that. And its existence, I think, could be of great importance to Documentum and enterprise content management in general.
To understand the potential impact of this new tooling platform I want to look at the games industry and the effect their tools have had. And then examine parallels that might exist with enterprise content management and games industries.
Back in the late 70s, early 80s when personal computer capacity was small and games were simple, individuals (probably in their bedrooms) were able to design and build games all by themselves using just the operating system and knowledge of the machines’ instruction sets. Over time, as the games got more sophisticated, it took larger and larger groups of people to create them. It became a bit like a making movie. It became the domain of the game manufacturers alone pushing aside the individual contributors who could no longer afford to compete. Internally, tools emerged to help these design teams produce their games by making the production line more efficient. Then in the mid-90s the game manufacturers started including many of these tools as part of the games themselves so the people that brought the games could also customize and extend them. This extended the games shelf-life and maintained the gamers interest. The gamers didn’t have to be an employee of the games company or part of a big team. They just had to have the creativity and the desire. The tools to create where available to them.
By the end of the 90s pretty much every strategy and combat game had tools to allow you create new characters and new levels. Gamers started creating their own scenarios and passing them onto to their friends who, if they were any good, would pass them onto their friends, creating a grass roots type of movement. The manufacturers could observe these grass roots movements and where it saw significant momentum could tailor the next version of the game in those directions. A very collaborative, synergistic and mutually beneficial practice. In fact it was all very Web 2.0!
The games manufacturers had realized a couple of things. Firstly, they didn’t actually have the capacity to create every game for every gamer. And they had also realized that giving the power back to gamer was no bad thing anyway because the gamers were exactly the sort of people that would help take the games in new and innovative directions. For example, it was the grass roots movements that had dictated the rise of the WWII theme-d combat games. It was also the grass roots movements that evolved Machinima, a process whereby a game’s tools and 3D rendering engines were used, not to create new game experiences, but to create films! This movement in particular demonstrates the power of the tools & the community as this type of production could never have been imagined by authors of the tools.
Looking back on it now it is clear that a great deal of what has enabled these games and manufacturers to grow has come from the extensibility introduced by their tools. A renowned game manufacturer has stated that as much as 60% of their games could come from the community as opposed to their professional, internal design teams. Considering how big the gaming industry has become and how big analysts are predicting it will become this is of huge significance. It also means that the games manufacturers are really now competing for communities. Whoever has the most creative community will probably be the most successful.
So, back to Composer, Documentum and Enterprise Content Management. Clearly some parallels do exist. Just like games, ECM systems are large and complex. ECM solutions typically take many people, working together, to create. Composer already does and will continue to simplify this production, giving power back to our partners and customers. This should in turn lower the cost of ownership of the Documentum platform and the solutions that are created upon it. This should also help grow the Documentum community.
Also just like games manufacturers, it is literally impossible for us, or any other content management vendor for that matter, to produce every content-rich application for every customer. Again Composer comes to our rescue helping our partners and customers create the solutions that are right for them. In turn we can monitor these grass roots movements and lend a helping hand to produce vertical solutions where momentum exists.
More exciting yet is the potential for Composer to help us move ECM in new and innovative directions that can’t yet even be imagined. In the same way that game tools evolved machinima and SQL/SQL tools helped the database industry evolve whole new software industries like supply chain and document management. My hope is that the combination of standards efforts like CMIS and tools like Composer will help drive whole new software industries of our own, on top of our content management systems.
Ultimately only time will tell us what impact Composer will have on Documentum or the ECM in general. But the future looks bright. In the meantime…
Happy Composing 🙂