Discussing CMS requirements, file handling, and document management

Recently, I read some good posts regarding content management systems (CMS) on a few blogs I visit almost daily.  The posts have had me thinking and reflecting in general about CMS.  However, I won't talk too much about them so you get a chance to go on and read the articles yourself.  The first post comes from OpenSourceCommunity.org and the second post from Gadgetopia.

Stoyan at OSC asks the question, "What do you think makes a good CMS?"   In the post he discusses which tasks he would like to perform in the CMS as well as what he would like to see with regards to the back-end, front-end, documentation, features, and security.  Hopefully, we'll be seeing a few more people comment on his post with what they think makes a good CMS.  We've had similar discussions, so I'm anxious to see more discussion elsewhere about CMS on a different site with a slightly different audience.

Gadgetopia's Deane Barker takes an opposite approach by not talking about what makes a good CMS, but instead focusing on what he sees CMS lack and what needs to be worked on.  Specifically, Barker discusses how file and image handling in content management really needs to be improved in CMS.

Here’s something that frustrates me in a lot of content management systems: file handling. Specifically, the inability to tightly bind a file to one or more content objects, and ensure that it lives and dies solely within the scope of those objects.

Most systems will put files in a common file library. This is good for some things — if you’re going to have an image of the CEO that will be accessed a lot, then it’s handy to have it in one place. But there’s also a danger in managing that file independent of the content that uses it. If the file disappears, you have broken content.

Put another way, the association of file to content is too loose. It’s as loose as plain ‘ol static HTML, and it’s one of the problems content management was invented to fix.

Mr. Barker is exactly right.  I can name a few good document and file management systems, but I can't think of a single content management system out there that really handles files, images, and documents all that well.  It's frustrating because the problem is so pervasive among CMS applications that there is almost no where to turn too for a good solution.

Luckily, many CMS developers recognize this problem.  For example, Dries Buytaert of Drupal has been discussing for some time the need for better file handling as well as image management in his own open source community's project.  Despite  file handling improvements currently being developed for Drupal 6, I suspect Drupal and other CMS still have a long way to go before Barker becomes less frustrated with file handling in CMS.  We'll likely be revisiting this topic a number of times in the not so distant future.  I'm sure Barker would love to hear from others on their thoughts regarding file handling in CMS.