Take My DAM Away



I got an email today from my pal, Andrew Mannone. I’ve known Andrew for years. I consider him to be one of the world’s most talented and creative DAM admins.

In today’s email, he said that he and his coworkers at America’s Test Kitchen (creators of recipes that make me fat) were taking the day to clean their offices. While cleaning, they were listening to 80s music. And while listening, Berlin’s Take My Breath Away came on. He thought of me, so he sent me the email. In turn, I got to thinking about that song (which I never liked) and I couldn’t help myself.

Andrew, this version is for you, my friend. Sing it freely as you walk the halls of ATK. May it bring you strength when you need it most.

Installing every update in this stupid database.
All the endless the errors; features oh so out of place.
Turning and returning to support queues every time;
Never gets much better; ruins all my days and nights.

Take my DAM away…

Watching, I keep waiting, still anticipating work.
Never hesitating, overlooking all the quirks.
Turning and returning to support queues every time;
Watching in slow motion; stupid progress bar won’t climb.

Take my DAM away…

Through the user group I begged you;
Bugs won’t go away.
When the upload crashed I called you,
And yearned to hear you say:
Only one more day; the fix is on its way.

Take my DAM away… 

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 »

Is Dropbox a Digital Asset Management Game-changer?

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.

New DAM White Papers Website

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.

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.)

Goodbye Ben

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