Best Practices

Are You Ready for Digital Asset Management?

I just recently published a piece in the Picturepark blog that deals with helping organizations determine whether or not they’re even ready to adopt a DAM system. (Yes, I realize that sounds like someone’s getting a puppy.) It comes from the “DAM Prep in 7 Steps” eBook, but we figured it was worth publishing on its own.

If you’re in the “I need a DAM” stage, please read it. Please also direct others to it who are getting into DAM. I’ve seen many DAM systems fail because the purchasing organization’s expectations weren’t in line with reality, or in line with the reality of the DAM they chose.

Read “Are You Ready for Digital Asset Management?” »


Creating Digital Asset Management Training Videos

Digital Asset Management Guru, Bonica Ayala

Bonica Ayala, a woman who knows how to train and inspire DAM users, and at least one DAM author too.

Bonica Ayala is a digital asset management professional who first became known to me when I read her #GuruTalk interview with DAM Guru Program. I was impressed with much of what she said, so I decided to dig a little deeper into the DAM work she had done for Boston Architectural College.

I found the site where her system, the Boston Architectural College IMS Library, is presented to users. Note that I say presented as opposed to merely explained. In short, I have never seen a better example of how to make a DAM system available to users. Bonica has covered all the bases:

  • Easy, accessible help email address — Bonica encourages users to contact her whenever they need help, and she makes it easy to do so by providing a dedicated email address.
  • Live training — Some users prefer to sit back and be taught, making live training a valued offering. But the value is not just for the students: When you train someone in person, you can experience their education. This enables you, as the educator, to fine tune your presentation and perhaps even your DAM system.
  • Documentation that describes the IMS Library — Resisting the temptation to just provide links to her DAM vendor’s user documents, Bonica documented use of the IMS Library. This enables her to explain digital asset management from the perspective of her users’ needs, rather than from generic concepts provide by DAM vendors.
  • Video tutorials that show how to do specific tasks — Bonica created a library of short video tutorials that not only enabled me to understand within minutes how her system worked, they inspired me to contact her and ask if I could tell her story here.

Bonica Ayala comes to a discussion about digital asset management with an abundance of two things: energy and perspective. Her enthusiasm for the art and science of DAM is directly connected to user success, which is always the best motivator, in my opinion. Bonica isn’t obsessed with technology or theoretical approaches to digital asset management. Instead, her focus is on how things should work and how she can make things work for users today.

Watch Bonica’s video about downloading digital assets from the IMS Library.

In truth, I left the IMS Library page feeling a little ashamed that I hadn’t ever taken the time to create such a video library. Bonica even admits she had no idea how to do this when she started; she had only access to the same Internet that the rest of us have. “I have no time for that” has always been my ready excuse. “I can’t do everything” is another favorite.

But Bonica did find the time and she did do it all. On top of that, this is a person who had not been involved with digital asset management for a significant amount of time. This is a person who saw what needed to get done to properly encourage use of her system and, rather than make excuses, she got it done.

Bonica was gracious enough to answer some questions I had. I hope her answers inspire the rest of us—myself included—to start creating more video tutorials for DAM.


At what point did you realize that you would need to provide training materials for your users?

I incorporated the concept of a user support page with training materials for our users from the very beginning. The user support page is an extension of our live user training, and its benefits are manifold: it is a powerful resource for user education and help, available 24/7, but it also provides an interface for internal communication and continual ‘marketing’ to promote the system and encourage user adoption. The success of the DAM depends on our users, and for me, that means ensuring all users understand what the DAM is, why they need it, and of course, how to use it from Day One.

Why did you decide to provide video-based training?

In addition to video-based tutorials, I also provide text-based training and live, online training sessions where I share my screen and interact with trainees. However, I decided to create video tutorials for a few reasons. For one, I’ve been using online videos to learn how to do things—everything!—for years. It’s fast, convenient and empowering. If there’s a video out there on the best way to tie your shoes, I definitely needed to provide customized videos on my DAM system.

I feel like users are more likely to watch a video than read documentation, no matter how visually appealing it is. Carol Thomas-Knipes touched on this briefly in the “Be a DAM Superhero” webinar. Feedback from my beta testers also indicated this, so this is why I focused my energy on creating videos. The videos not only support the end users, they also support the system, providing another way to steward the system forward. I wanted to give people context and a foundation—a place to start that would convey my vision of the DAM in a simple, straightforward manner.

How did you determine which topics were required?

I roughly determined topics to cover during the design phase, as I mapped out the upstream/downstream relationships. I decided to implement the DAM in small phases, bringing on both key influencers and select motivated groups whose user feedback helped fine tune the system to a stable point. Once we reached that point, I began working on a detailed outline of the user support page, the videos I wanted to feature, and the amount of detail I would cover.

I wanted to create video tutorials that basically work from the bottom up. I wanted someone new to the system to be able to pick it up quickly, and also provide topics that our advanced users could use. The videos currently listed on the user support page are just the beginning. I planned to phase in additional videos down the road for both front-end users and eventually back-end users and managers.

How did you go about creating these video tutorials?

I had to become a video tutorial creator. We didn’t have the budget to outsource video production, so I took on the project. These video tutorials were born out of a collaborative effort between several personas of myself—script writer, voice actor, editor and producer. It was a challenge for “Team Me,” but it was worth it in the end because I really do enjoy learning, creating and helping people.

Before I could get started, I needed to decide on a video editing software. I ultimately went with Camtasia by Techsmith. Camtasia is a lightweight software specifically designed for creating video tutorials. It did exactly what I needed it to do.

Before I started creating, I watched other tutorials, noting what worked, what didn’t, and why. Then I just jumped in. There was definitely a learning curve, and I now realize that I pretty much did the first videos the hardest way possible. But I quickly settled into a process that worked for me. Coming from an artistic background, I knew I just needed to get started and the process would work itself out.

This is what I found worked for me:

Step 1: Write a solid script. I used the text from the documentation I created for my user manuals as a guideline to get me started. I recommend doing a couple of run-throughs first because you tend to miss the most obvious steps when you’re writing.

Step 2: Record the audio. Read your script—don’t go rogue. Take your time and don’t worry about the ums, coughs or mess-ups. But do annunciate! I can’t stress that enough. Audio makes or breaks your videos. Users expect them to look good but it is equally if not more important that they can understand you. I tend to talk fast and mumble so, before each recording, I would warm up by placing a cork in my mouth and saying each vowel until I felt ready to go. It’s a tip I learned from a friend who gives vocal lessons.

Step 3: Edit the audio. Now’s the time to take out those pesky “uh, hmm, coughs,” etc.

Step 4: Record the visuals.

Step 5: Lay in the visuals.

Step 6: Add motion, transitions and additional text. All these tools are available in Camtasia.

Step 7: Sit back, watch, and learn! Take notes and make additional edits if necessary. You want to keep your videos concise and as short as possible.

Step 8: Export and share with select users for feedback.

Did you create and release them all at once or over time?

I provided an initial release to select users for feedback, but they were eventually released all at once on the user support page, prior to the roll-out of the DAM across the organization.

If you had it to do over again, is there anything you would do differently?

If I had to do it over again, I would clone myself, and schedule in more time for video production.

Watch Bonica’s video tutorials here »

Lost in the DAM

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.)

Be a DAM Superhero!

Be a DAM Superhero!

Andrew Mannone (America’s Test Kitchen) and Carol Thomas-Knipes (LogicSource) discuss what it takes to manage a DAM solo.

Ideally, when you deploy your DAM initiative, you have a team of people helping you: tech folks, information pros, editors, etc. But for some DAM managers, “Google” is the only team they get. For these people, I have two new resources.

First off, DAM News has published an article I wrote about being a DAM Superhero. If you’ve already read DAM Survival Guide, you’ll be familiar with what I recommend here.

Then, to get the opinions of two DAM Giants, please join me for “Be a DAM Superhero!” the webinar on 05 June. Joining me will be Andrew Mannone of America’s Test Kitchen, and Carol Thomas-Knipes of LogicSource. These two people offer perhaps the best the best balance of experience, understanding and (fun!) personality that you will find in this industry. Signup is free.

I hope you find both resources valuable.

The Metadata Lifecycle for Digital Content

Readers of DAM Survival Guide will recognize the concept of classifying metadata values in terms of a timeline that reflects and governs the content. I’m a big fan of this approach, in part, because I think it helps us focus on the content instead of the file. I wrote a bit more in depth about this in this CMSWire article, which was just published today.

Has anyone started using this approach, or will you consider it? You can read The Metadata Lifecycle for Digital Content now.

DAM’s Missing Context of Discussion

I wrote an article that was published last week on CMSWire. In the meantime, DAMNews has written up an article about my article. As happy as I was that CMSWire asked me to write a monthly column, it really means so much to me to have such a reputable DAM news source take notice. Thank you very much, DAMNews!

Please head on over to the best source of digital asset management news to read what they said. You can follow their link to the CMSWire article.

I hope you enjoy it!

Taxonomy vs. Controlled Vocabulary

With the recent announcement of “DAM and the Tao of Taxonomy,” which is the next webinar I’ll be hosting, I’ve been getting questions about my take on the differences between taxonomies and controlled vocabularies. I’ll offer below the most basic distinction I can muster, but for much more detailed information from a true authority on this subject, please join me for “DAM and the Tao of Taxonomy” on August 29, 2012. My guest will be David Riecks of David has won a US Library of Congress “Pioneer of Digital Preservation” award and he’s also a judge for Createasphere’s annual DAMMY Awards.

I’ve been impressed by David’s knowledge and DAM common sense since the first time I spoke with him years ago. There’s no way you won’t come away from this webinar without learning. We love David.

Okay, let me put Taxonomy vs. Controlled Vocabulary in simple terms: When I think of taxonomy, I think of structure, organization and hierarchical “place.” In other words, if my digital asset was a physical object, my “taxonomy” would describe where I might store that object. Example:

  • Home
    • Kitchen
      • Pantry
      • Junk drawer (we all have one, right?)
      • Refrigerator
    • Bedroom
      • Closet
      • Under the bed
      • Secret location that’s none of your business and you’ll never find it
  • Work
    • My office
      • File cabinet
      • Bookshelf
    • Conference room
      • Storage cabinet
      • Center of the big shiny table

The taxonomy of my life’s structure would help me decide where the object belongs. For example, there is no entry in the hierarchy for “Airplane,” and that’s because DAM Survival Guide needs to sell a few more copies before that will be added.

Keep in mind that in the digital world, an “object” can fit in many different locations, so we assign it everywhere it fits. The point to our chosen taxonomy is that there is a pre-defined structure that we use consistently across our organizations or industries. After all, one person’s “secret location that’s none of your business and you’ll never find it,” might be another person’s “place I should have hid better from the kids.”

By this time you might have correctly guessed that my “controlled vocabulary” is the list of keywords I use to describe the objects of my life. (Taxonomy is where they go; keywords are what they are.) A “controlled vocabulary” is just some technological way of limiting your keyword choices to only those previously approved for use. This way, your metadata editors and users don’t have to guess whether you were thinking of an “airplane,” “aircraft,” “jet” or “big flying thing.”

When used together, taxonomies and controlled vocabularies enable you to design a killer, well-organized DAM that will be so much easier to use and maintain.

Keep in mind, this is how I see the differences. Others use taxonomy structure no differently than they do keywords.

Join David and me for the “DAM and the Tao of Taxonomy” webinar and find how why my explanation above only scratches the surface of possibilities for these methodologies and technologies.

Watching a DAM Car Crash

By David Diamond

Digital asset management policy's red light

Digital asset management software is only one piece of a properly planned DAM initiative, and it’s nowhere near the most important piece. Sure, DAM software is what most people new to DAM ask about first, but that’s only because the aspect of DAM that’s really most important doesn’t have a marketing department.

I’m talking here about digital asset management policy.

It’s all well and good to configure your DAM software to do what it’s told, but if your DAM software could talk (and point), it would point to those DAM users of yours and it would ask, “What about them? Aren’t you going to tell them what to do too?”

Telling DAM software how to do things is called configuration; telling DAM users how to do things is called policy.

To better understand the purpose and value of DAM policy, imagine you’re approaching a busy intersection at rush hour. The traffic light has just turned from green to yellow. Knowing that red comes next, you slow down and prepare to stop. (I know what you’re thinking, but you’re actually supposed to slow down when the light turns yellow.)

Conversely, if the light is green as you approach the intersection, you think nothing of driving on through, confident that drivers in the crossing lanes will sit tight until they get their own green light.

Wow, that’s a pretty powerful light. You have no idea how it works, yet you trust it with your life. And I’m willing to bet that if you approached that same intersection in the middle of the night when there were no other cars around, you’d still slow and stop if the light turned red.

In truth, nothing forces us to stop at red lights. So why do we bother?

I think about this when I’m watching some movie in which a killer has just left the scene of his crime in what’s usually a brown Chevy Impala. Rage in his eyes and blood still fresh on his hands, he approaches a red light and—what?—he stops the car! I find this odd. On the one hand, the man just took a life. On the other hand, he’s honoring a red light at an intersection. What’s even odder is that we find this to be totally natural.

We honor red lights only because we fully understand and appreciate the policy behind them and, of course, the consequences of not abiding by that policy. Ignore the light and you could end up in traffic court or a casket. It’s a policy that limits us, but it seems reasonable to us, so we tolerate it.

Your DAM software actually has a lot in common with a traffic light: Neither can serve its purpose of reducing chaos without policy to back it up.

But do your users approach your DAM as they would a traffic light? Do they know what “red” means? Do they know what comes after yellow, or what to do if the lights start flashing red, or go off entirely?

If they don’t, then you have a policy problem.

And if you think lack of DAM policy won’t cause problems down the road, so to speak, ask your town to remove that traffic light for a day and watch what happens.

Learn more about DAM best practices in the digital asset management book DAM Survival Guide (