DAM News has posted an article that asks whether the Dropbox Carousel Photo Sharing App is a game-changer for digital asset management. Author Ralph Windsor asks all the right questions, and he makes good points. But, personally, I don’t see Carousel as a DAM game-changer; rather, I see it as further evidence that the game has already changed. You just wouldn’t know it from looking at today’s DAM software.

Ellen and Gang Oscars Selfie

Woody wouldn’t have smiled.

The change was that DAM 1.0 is now dead. What used to be “DAM enough” is no longer so, and “DAM Lite” arrived a decade too late. In fact, just as the world searches for increased simplicity, it’s likely to be the more advanced DAM systems that survive—the DAM platforms. The fact is, we’re running out of room for “DAM enough.” And the Dropbox and Google Drive development teams are no more than a productive weekend away from being able to swallow DAM Lite whole.

People ask “Why not Dropbox?” or “Why not Google Drive?” when we try to explain the benefits of digital asset management. They do this not because those services offer truly viable DAM alternatives—they don’t; people ask because the DAM industry has done a pathetic job of defining itself.

“File sharing” is an entry point for discussion that virtually everyone understands. Add to that, the concept of social sharing and people still get it. Hell, once you have all those people listening, you could then add something called “Custom Attributes” or “Personal Properties” and, without anyone noticing, you’ve snuck metadata in through the back door. Then all you need is something along the lines of Google + Circles to determine who can see what, and you’ve made permissions palatable too.

Before you know it, the world’s DAM vendors are left with their thumbs up their asses, wondering how it could be that they’ve offered the same thing for 20+ years, yet so few people cared. And don’t get me wrong—I’m not suggesting that this might happen; I’m predicting it. You don’t hire Ross Piper as VP of Enterprise Strategy and then call it a day after making a photo sharing app.

The problem as I see it is that DAM vendors got no game. We expect sex on our first dates with prospects, and we insist that our dates know exactly what they want out of life before we even order dinner. Then, when we finally get them home, they see our lame UIs, just as we explain to them how sex needs to work with us. Once we’re done, we see that familiar hybrid of disappointment and disbelief staring back at us. Then we hand them a five- or six-figure invoice and ask them to recommend us to their friends. DAM is quirky that way.

It’s like DAM is Woody Allen to the Bradley Cooper called Dropbox. Though it’s a virtual certainty that Allen will have ultimately had the richer career, far more people want to get into bed with Bradley. And that’s the measure of success in market definition—people need to want you; they need to be able to imagine you enriching in their lives.

So, yes, the game has changed. DAM vendors had better get their asses to the gym, and fast.

While too many other companies and organizations in the digital asset management industry continue to feed us DAM ROI infographics and other such nonsense, the DAM News team has once again built a resource that’s intended to actually help people. This time, it’s an all-you-can-eat buffet of DAM-related white papers, all available from a single (free) login. 


Some white papers on the site are not free, but my guess is that most that are uploaded to the site in the future will be available at no charge. That said, the for-fee papers up there now were written by DAM News team members, so at least you know they’re coming from a source of integrity. (It’s no secret that I think the world of this team because of their knowledge and willingness to always call B.S. when it’s warranted.)

My hope is that after all the me-too DAM vendors start stinking up the place with their 200-word “educational” white papers, the DAM News team will start reviewing them all. Given the team’s sharp skills and even sharper tongues, I think we’re in for an even better (and much more entertaining) resource in the future.

Kudos to DAM News for yet another wonderful resource! 

For the record, DAM News builds these sites from scratch. There is significant development effort (and expense) that has gone into this site, the DAM Vendors Directory, the DAM Glossary and DAM Projects. These are much more than just domain registrations.

While recording Berlin’s second record, we ended up with a few too many tracks. You know, albums and cassettes had their limitations. One of the extra tracks was called Lost in the Crowd. I loved this track because it was one of the few on which I played guitar. I was officially a keyboard player for the band; but I was actually a better guitar player than I was a keyboard player–go figure. (Somehow, it made sense at the time.)

Anyway, because this was considered a “throw away” track, we got to have fun with it. For me, this meant bringing out my inner Blue Oyster Cult. You can hear my guitar at the opening and during the outro (3:30). But the most interesting part is at about 2:15. Right after our real guitar player, Ric, finishes his solo, I sort of stepped out of bounds. The part I added ended up in a feedback-sustain that actually caused an argument in the band. Some argued that this wasn’t Berlin. They said it stepped on Ric’s “new wave” guitar part that was more who were were. Others saw it as being cool.

Ultimately, all my noise stayed because, after all, this track wasn’t going to be on the album or cassette. It would be only on the CD player thing, and no one had a CD player.

So, here we are, just a few years later. I find myself writing a new piece for CMSWire that discusses how mandatory metadata fields or having too many metadata fields, and a few others things, can actually lead to content becoming lost in the DAM. Now, I know that this is going to piss off some people who are believers in these things. But I’m getting used to this social media-staged warfare. In fact, the anticipation sort of put me into the same rebel mood I was in when we recorded Lost in the Crowd, back in 1984.

So, I’m ready for it. Tell me I don’t understand DAM policy. Tell me my experience is theoretical and not practical. Tell me all about it. All I know is that my guitar was howling that day. It was so loud that it was like a taste of World War III. And by adding this track, we didn’t know what to expect. Would our synth fans abandon us? Would real rockers make fun of us? I remember hearing it all.

But sometimes, you just have to turn things up to 11 and deal with the consequences. Sometimes you have to admit when something isn’t working and either be ready to fix it or walk away.

Read Lost in the DAM here.

And thanks to the fact that there are others who are willing to shake things up, we have YouTube, so you can actually hear my inspiration too. (And another thing, David, new-wavers aren’t supposed to have facial hair. So lose the Clark Gable mustache.)

Goodbye Ben

Posted: February 7, 2014 in Opinion
Tags: , , , ,
Ben Smidt

Ben Smidt

Just a few moments ago, I said goodbye to a Picturepark coworker whom I have enjoyed working with very much. Those of you who know Ben Smidt know what a good guy he is. During his time with Picturepark, he gave his all; I simply could not have asked for more.

On Monday, Ben starts up with another company that can offer him some opportunities that we could not offer. He leaves with our complete blessings and best wishes.

Ben, you were my partner-in-crime here at Picturepark. We did a lot of good things. We fought the machines and (usually) won. We conspired on what was possible and it often turned out better than we expected. From DSG to eDAM to the webinars to the website redesign to DAM Guru Program, #LearnDAM and that damned 7Steps in those “miserable” Kindle and ePUB formats. I think it’s safe to say that the combined efforts of every other DAM vendor marketing team on earth don’t begin to approach what we’ve done for the DAM community this past year.

Thank you for your tireless commitment to Picturepark. And for your dedication to always showing customers and the DAM community integrity and genuine concern for their interests and needs, even when it meant more work for us. Thank you also for surfing my “diva” moments with absolute and evergreen patience. Thank you most of all for the DAMMY. Had it not been for your nomination, I would not have it.

I hope you take with you one thing that we practiced as a team: Doing the right thing to the highest standard of quality is the only worthwhile goal—ever. And when that isn’t possible, we revise the plan; we don’t sacrifice the deliverable.

Thank you, my friend. It has been a pleasure.

- David

Are DAM vendors trying to construct software that can do anything?

Are DAM vendors trying to build software that can do anything?

It’s been more than 20 years since digital asset management software was known simply as an image database. In this time, DAM has evolved so far that we sometimes still call it an image database just to make it understandable to newbies.

There’s no question that DAMs have become much more than image databases. The question is why. The vast majority of DAM customers purchase their systems to manage images. And even those who do use DAM to manage Office documents, videos and more, usually have more images in their systems than anything else.

In straying from the focused, easy-to-understand (and easy-to-sell) image-database class of software, the DAM industry is now mired in a software discussion that is always too complicated. Worse, we have created an industry that virtually no one understands.

An Industry without a Market

If I tell you that I sell software that enables you to manage PowerPoint presentations, you’d understand the value of what I’m offering, even if you had no need for the software yourself. You could probably even explain it to others. If I tell you that I also sell software that automatically converts InDesign files into PDFs so people can preview them over the Web, you’d probably understand the point of that product too.

But if I told you that my software does both, you’d look at me like I’m selling an erectile dysfunction pill that’s also perfect for reducing all those bothersome symptoms of menstruation.

Who was today’s Digital Asset Management designed for?

Marketing has been traditionally been considered DAM’s low-hanging fruit, but Marketing is not the only tree in the forest. Museums and universities use DAM too. So do governments and countless other types of organizations.

But few DAM vendors are willing to carve themselves niches and then operate solely from within those niches. It’s not like MediaBeacon has raised its hand to be the DAM provider for Education, while Picturepark takes on museums and North Plains cozies up with governments. All DAM vendors think they’re perfect for all segments.

In fairness, the digital asset management use case for many of these segments is similar. But in trying to address the needs of all segments within a single software genre, we provide products that are too horizontal. The fact is, today’s DAMs offer virtually no segment-specific benefits unless, of course, you’re willing to pay for API-based development services. We have pardoned our unwillingness to focus on specific markets by saying that our DAM software has evolved into a panacea “platform” that’s perfect for everything. One size, color and style fits all—like it or not.

Make no mistake, there is an absolute need for the functionality we expect from digital asset management software. The question is whether this “everyone, everything” target market we’re collectively imagining is willing to put up with plain-wrapped DAM, when the makers of CMS and other adjacent technologies are offering DAM features that fit neatly into digestible conversations: Here is your website; here is software to create the content on your website; here is the menu item you’ll use to manage the images and movies you use on your website.

When presented in this context, digital asset management seems as obvious and necessary as electricity. But we DAM vendors don’t present DAM in contexts this simple. It’s not enough for us to design DAMs to cure a specific illness, we strive for DAMs that can cure death.

Targeting the Luxury-Camping Segment

What’s wrong with this picture?

Imagine a 1960s Jaguar E-type—cherry red, convertible, stunning. Now imagine adding a canopy roll bar and mud tires so big and thick that you could climb a mountain. Now that you have a sexy/safe vehicle that can take you anywhere you want to go, you realize it should also have a camper shell for those times when you’re just having too much fun to go home.

What you’re imagining right now is what DAM software has become.

When you have an “automotive solution” that’s as clearly defined as the Jaguar E-type, you ignore the feature requests of Ranger Rick and the Soccer Moms. Successful car makers understand this but DAM vendors just can’t say no. Whatever we’re asked to do, we do. Then we do whatever some other vendor was asked to do, too, just so we can say we offer it all.

We have collectively delivered the Terrafugia of enterprise software and we wonder why our industry doesn’t grow at the pace we expect.

A Creative Burst of Limitation

The DAM industry has fallen victim to our medium—software. We aren’t bound by the physical restraints that challenge automakers. We are free to do anything, and that’s exactly what we have done.

But when it comes to the design of anything, limitations can be an effective seed for creative inspiration. Without them, we can lose focus. Limits keep UPS branding brown and they keep Joni Mitchell from releasing her Death Metal debut.

When limits are not imposed upon us, we must define them for ourselves. It is the mature thing to do. And in doing so, we might even find ourselves redefining Digital Asset Management into something people actually understand.

Images via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

DAMMY of the Year!

Posted: October 24, 2013 in Industry News
Tags: , ,
2013 DAMMY of the Year

I won the DAMMY, Bitches!

Imagine my confused delight while in Aarau, Switzerland, in the middle of the night, jet-lagged beyond my wildest imagination, I get word that I had won the 2013 DAMMY of the Year Award from Createasphere.

It all started a few weeks before that. My colleague, Ben Smidt, whom some of you will recognize as the manager of DAM Guru Program, asked me if Picturepark should enter anything into the DAMMY award competition. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the categories, but they’re pretty specific. And being one to take things at face value, I didn’t want to pretend we had something that fit when I knew we didn’t—that’s not the Picturepark way of doing things, and it’s not my way either. I told Ben that I didn’t think we had anything that was a good fit and we left it at that.

Fast-forward a few days and I get an email from Ben with a subject line that reads, “I hope you don’t think I’m sucking up.” Attached was the DAMMY nomination. I just sat there for a few minutes and stared at it. I couldn’t believe someone had done this for me. Further, I couldn’t believe the nice things Ben had written. I thanked him for the effort, but told him not to get his hopes up. (Then I think I thanked him a few more times.)

Createasphere told me that the judges picked me because of the contributions I’ve made to the DAM community, including DAM Survival Guide and DAM Guru Program. (Yes, DAM Guru Program was my idea, but Ben is the one who keeps it humming along so nicely, and Picturepark is the one who pays for it all to happen.) Anyway, these are exactly the sort of reasons I would want to win such a thing. Much better than being chosen because I was the most adorable person in DAM (duh) or that I’m getting to that age where I deserve a lifetime lack-of-achievement award (also duh).

A giant heartfelt thanks to Createasphere and the DAMMY judges. Between this and my time with Picturepark, it’s difficult for me to believe now that I wrote DAM Survival Guide with the intent of leaving the DAM industry after Canto fired me for being “too difficult to work with.” I would have missed out on DAM Guru Program, our killer DAM webinar series, being able to write for that wonderful Picturepark website, meeting my Swiss coworkers, homemade Swiss fondue, getting with deal with Hector again and, of course, working with Ben.

Thank you, Ben. Thank you, Picturepark. I might be too difficult to work with, but you are not.