Beyond Content Management
Lawson Kurtz, Former Senior Developer
Nobody is excited by content. The word itself implies a sterility and blandness that is antithetical to our clients' work. And when you build systems to create and manage content, the resultant experience feels like, well, content. So we don't.
Each of our clients has a unique and compelling story to tell. Battles to save vanishing species. Initiatives to preserve our history. Products to change people's lives. Our job isn't merely to build apps that hold these organizations' content. It's to help them tell their stories in the digital medium. We build systems to create and manage stories.
But what's the difference?
Content is a flat and singular notion, so content management experiences almost always fall into one of two categories:
Contrived (aka Too Rigid)
In systems designed to manage content, stories are treated as a series of data points. A title. A picture. Body text. That's it (deal with it).
Editors are forced to break down their stories into contrived pieces to fit them into a predefined set of fields. The editor loses control of the stories, and the stories lose their character.
Oftentimes, to make up for the constraints, the system will introduce an endless list of options to provide the illusion of flexibility. These efforts typically serve only to render the system bafflingly complex and unintuitive.
Unguided (aka Too Free)
In response to the shackles of contrived content management experiences, many instead favor what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) tools for managing content. These tools give the editor more control, but they are complex, and difficult to use. Every possible decision is left to the editor. Layout. Colors. Font. Sizing. Everything.
So to a certain extent, the tool gets in the way of telling the story. And it's quite often difficult to achieve the consistency necessary to communicate a story in the context of a larger brand or initiative.
Beyond Content Management
Stories are more complicated than content. They are neither flat nor singular. They are structured, but unique. Free-flowing, but nuanced. Their components have relationships. They have context. They are not content themselves, but are instead composed of content. Story management demands composition.
Composition is completely neglected by most content management systems, yet is the key to effective story telling and experience building.
Building a Better Editor
So drawing from our vast experience building and using content management systems, we set off to build something fundamentally better. Something compositional.
The result, Colonel Kurtz, is an advanced compositional editor, that allows editors to intuitively build complex stories and interactive experiences.
Colonel Kurtz allows editors to compose stories from any number of content components (called blocks). And unlike existing block-style editors like Sir Trevor, Colonel Kurtz is truly compositional; Blocks can nest within each other, allowing for the intuitive management of complex experiences (e.g. slide shows).
Different types of blocks can be added to Colonel Kurtz easily, and their display is custom-tailored to the specific property to which they belong. This removes the onus of visual design decisions as the editor creates their story. They compose their story as they wish, and it's guaranteed to look beautiful every time.
And the best parts: We've open-sourced Colonel Kurtz, so it's completely free for your business to use and extend. And you don't have to replace your existing CMS to use it. Colonel Kurtz is a tool that can be integrated with almost any existing CMS.
In the Wild
Colonel Kurtz has quickly become a staple in much of our current work. It already powers the content of beautiful properties like http://wcs.org/ and https://savingplaces.org/, and it's getting better all the time.
We're extremely excited about Colonel Kurtz, and have some really big plans for its future. So give it a try: we're confident you'll love it.
~ Special thanks to Nate Hunzaker for spearheading this amazing work. ~