ECM – “It Was The Best of Times, It Was The Worst of Times”

Those that know me, as well as loyal readers of this blog, know that I am an ECM zealot – some say a nerd. So perhaps this post is just another ranting – but I felt compelled to reiterate myself because of certain current events.

I entitle this post with a familiar quote from Charles Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities, in which he describes the state-of-the-world at the time of the French Revolution: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Turbulent, but ripe with opportunity. That is exactly where we are today in the world of ECM.

Over the last few weeks I was struck by the degree to which ECM is being talked discussed within the context of the best of times/worst of times.

Consider content publishing. It continues to undergo major, some might say revolutionary redefinition. The future of newspapers is a primary example. In the past week, The Boston Globe, my own hometown newspaper, was threatened with extinction. Are we in danger of losing high quality press coverage and editorial?

Modes of communication are rapidly morphing. In an earlier post I referenced a New York Times article that reported paper consumption in the United States, France, Germany, Japan, Belgium, Sweden, Austria, Canada and Finland actually went down (between 2000 and 2005), for the first time in history. In a more recent article, Ruport Murdoch and Arianna Huffington debated the future of online news and whether readers of the electronic news will be willing to pay for access. Are we redefining the meaning of the word “free’ in the phrase “the free press”?

Recently, a group of architects have started a project collecting “unwanted” wrist watches, in an effort to preserve them in the Smithsonian Museum. Apparently, the advent of cellular communication devices is also changing the way we tell time.

But these same cellular devices and new approaches to communication, networking and publishing are fueling and facilitating innovation and entrepreneurship. It is truly the best of times as well. Another recent article reported that the effort and cost associated with starting a new company has never been lower. The entrepreneurial and innovative spirit is fueled by ECM. Apparently over 100 million companies have signed up for free web-based tools, such as Google Apps to serve as their technical foundation. Networking and collaborating have never been easier, or more accessible. (I will confess that my company, Information Architected, is a subscriber to several Google apps.)

In yet another recent article the question, “Is working from home the next gold rush?” is asked. New business models made possible through online content may be eliminating some jobs and industries, but also serve as the genesis of countless others.

I have to say that, I for one am most happy and excited to be part of this revolutionary time. It is the worst of times; layoffs and the possible demise of entire industries is scary and unfortunate. But on the other hand, the amazingly fertile potential for new businesses, new industries and new business models seems virtually infinite. I stare at the future with wide-open eyes, amazed at the possibilities.

If you do not agree, or simply want to further fuel you own enthusiasm, then view this presentation and demonstration at this year’s TED.

This glimpse into what ECM can/will be is nothing short of amazing. I dare anyone to view this and tell me that we are not experiencing “the best of times.” Indeed, to further quote Dickens, “we had everything before us…”

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“I have really enjoyed working with Dan on several recent projects. I find Dan is very insightful with a great perspective on technology and the industry. I also enjoyed the intellectual conversations that allowed both of us to challenge the boundaries of today's realities against the possibilities of tomorrow.”
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