Another DAM podcast interview with Joe Bachana

Listen to Another DAM podcast interview with Joe Bachana

Here are the questions asked:

  • How are you involved with Digital Asset Management?
  • How do open source Digital Asset Management (DAM) solutions stack up today?
  • What advice would you like to share with DAM Professionals and people aspiring to become DAM Professionals?

Full Transcript:

Henrik de Gyor: [0:02] This is Another DAM Podcast about Digital Asset
Management. I’m Henrik de Gyor. Today I’m speaking with Joe Bachana. Joe,
how are you?
Joe Bachana: [0:11] Great. Hi.
Henrik: [0:12] Joe, how are you involved with Digital Asset Management?
Joe: [0:16] Personally, I’ve been implementing Digital Asset Management since
about 1997. My first project with DAM was when I was working with a company
called Image, Inc. I was implementing a product called Phrasea, which was a
French-based solution. I had way back then experienced implementing products
like MediaBank. North Plains TeleScope I had implemented at a number
of locations around that time, as well. [0:42] I founded DPCI, which is a technology
company that implements content solutions. I founded that in ‘99. We’ve
been doing Digital Asset Management projects ever since with a wide variety of
Digital Asset Management products for a whole variety of use cases, as well.
Henrik: [0:58] How do open source Digital Asset Management or DAM solutions
stack up today?
Joe: [1:04] We have to look at them in a few different ways. The first is the
business of open source DAM. The second, you would have to look at the legal
underpinnings of those solutions. The third would be the technology. Some
people say, “Let’s take a look at the technology real quickly first,” but I think
that’s a mistake. [1:22] One of the reasons why we look at the business is that
the open source DAM projects are very different from the open source Web
content management solutions out there. The CMSs such as WordPress, Drupal,
Joomla, or Plone are principally anywhere between a very large collection of
contributors globally to those projects to maybe a little more modest contributor
[1:48] Generally, it’s anywhere between a few hundred people and thousands
and thousands of people contributing to the innovations of these open source
projects, so they’ve taken firm foothold into the rubric or fabric of not only
our country but globally, the way Web content management innovations are
[2:06] In the case of Digital Asset Management, not as much. You do have solutions
that have been created out of Europe, out of the UK, and here in the
United States that there are a couple of folks that are working on it that are
friends or colleagues, or you’ll have companies that are behind the products
with their own resources. The solutions themselves haven’t necessarily taken
root as global initiatives.
[2:35] That doesn’t mean it’s not going that way. You’re starting to see more of
what happened 10 to 12 years ago in the CMS world starting to happen in the
DAM world. The reason why it’s not going to happen as rapidly is, to me, Digital
Asset Management is a little bit like the plumbing in your and my walls. It’s nice
when it’s working, but it’s not the sexiest thing in the world.
[2:57] The thing that everybody cares about is how nice does your house look.
It’s like the CMS. The CMS is the presentation of your content as well as the
ways in which you develop your content the workflows and so forth. Obviously,
no CMS is created equal.
Joe: [3:13] With respect to DAM, companies principally use Digital Asset
Management systems for archive and retrieval of their assets. That’s a simplified
notion of what DAM should do. Both you and I both know there’s a
huge number of reasons people implement DAM, ranging from selling content
through storefronts to integrating DAMs with CMSs, CRMs, or ERPs
and so forth.
[3:38] In the case of media companies where they’re selling their content,
whether it’s through rich media like video or live streaming, these things obviously
are the core of their business. It’s not just about archival. It’s about real
work in progress and delivering that content across multiple channels.
[3:57] The pace of innovation in the open source world from a business standpoint
is certainly not as rapid yet. It’s not as sexy.
[4:06] There’s one project that we’re involved with for a media company. They’re
headquartered here in New York City. They had been veterans of a couple of
different proprietary platforms. They had spent millions on a couple of different
solutions. They made a determination that they were going to try an open
source implementation. They are doing a good amount of work to having us do
some cool customizations for them to add on top of the open source solution.
[4:34] The question always is…What we like to do in open source is, we like to
contribute back to the community, however small or big it is. Hence, we oftentimes
will go to that customer and say, “As a precursor to our signing on,
do you have any objections to us contributing these solutions out in an open
source way?”
[4:53] That gets to the business aspect of it. The other part of the business
aspect of it is operationalizing DAM. For companies that have had experience
with proprietary vendors, some of the vendors have 24/7 support. Some of
them, not so much.
The DAM vendors can be smaller companies in some cases, so they don’t necessarily
have the resources. When you have a president of a company answering
the phone at 11: [5:07] 00 at night to support you, that’s generally not a good
sign, although some of the presidents of these DAM companies are absolute
geniuses. It’s always a pleasure to talk to some of them. But it isn’t a scalable
model. Operationalizing maintenance and support, it’s something that some
of the proprietary vendors don’t do that well. But if you look at it in the CMS
world, when you think about the kind of services you can get out of an Acquia
and Drupal, which is commercial support.
[5:44] There are other alternatives on that side, as well. Those types of things
aren’t necessarily fully hammered out yet in the open source world. Because
businesses behind the open source DAM projects are sometimes not matured
yet. They may be smaller groups. So that’s going to change over time. The
second point was this notion of the legalistic implications of open source. Not all
open source is created equal or licensed equally.
[6:11] You’ve got different licensing schemes out there. A very common one is
the GNU GPL. You hear about that one a lot in the web CMS world. In DAM,
quite a number of them take advantage of the lesser GPL, LGPL, which has
some limitations. These things people have to really reflect on, when they’re
getting involved. Do they want to do an open source implementations where
there may be some restrictions.
Joe: [6:37] I also look at these products… Does the company who is creating
it, are they paying lip service to open source? But then you start to think, “Do
they have all their documentation out there online? Can you readily download
and install that product?” If you’re really open source, you’ve got to behave like
open source, which to me means freely downloadable and installing, and freely
available documentation.
[7:01] Then it’s your prerogative to decide whether you want to purchase services
from a company or whichever individual. The legalistic application of it
is quite important when people are reflecting on open source. Now we get to
the technical. This is the one everybody really concentrates on first. People ask
me, “Don’t even look at the products if you can’t first look and see what the
business and the legal implications are of the solution you’re about to go forward
[7:29] The open source DAMs are approaching, in general, the work group functionalities
of products out there, in the marketplace. If you look at solutions like
Resource Space or Enter Media, Rezuna as well. There are a couple more, I’m
not trying to plug these products, simply giving it as examples that these solutions
are starting to meet the needs of work group Digital Asset Management,
which would be considered, for me, the ability to import, either individually or
batch, a whole variety of digital asset types.
[8:08] And on ingestion, to be able to automate the creation of thumbnails and
previews and even evoke certain recipes for conversion of the assets. If you,
upload a PSD or any PS file, then you can set up recipes for conversion to JPEG s
at certain widths and depths. The ability to also capture metadata information.
Things aren’t all created equally, but the ability to capture XMP metadata, for
example, is something that is available in several of these products.
[8:38] In one case, we actually did some customizations where we have some
preprocessing of assets within Adobe Bridge for a customer. Then the assets
are going into their open source DAM. It’s a phenomenal thing, because they’re
batch modifying with some extended XMP metadata, with their own panel
within their Adobe Creative Suite products. And then that information is getting
ingested into those open source DAMs.
[9:06] These kinds of basic functionalities are available. It’s really exciting, because
they’re there. We’ve actually implemented quite a number of these kinds
of projects. They’re working. For a year or two years, they’re in business, in
use. The other thing that I find really exciting is that the whole promise of open
source, to me, is you don’t have to say, “Mother, may I?” The whole idea of
innovate and ingenuity in software, the open source software world is the ability
to just step up and say, “I want to create something of value that’s available or
that I need for the context I need it.”
Joe: [9:45] Without saying, “Hey, may I please do that?” And then somebody
saying, “Yeah sure. But pay $20,000 for an SDK and sign this agreement that
you won’t do this or that.” With open source, you can do it. A couple of the
open source products have robust web services and published APIs that, essentially,
allow you to do anything you want, ranging from connecting the DAM
to a produce tike Drupal or WordPress, or connecting it to your CRM, if that’s
what you needed, and so on. That, to me, is the most exciting aspect. In one
case, we did a project down in Atlanta for a company where they had this huge
infrastructure. They needed to just automate the production of real estate
guide books.
Joe: [10:31] So we have this integration of, in that case it was a product called
Enter Media, with believe it or not, a whole Microsoft infrastructure. Integrated
with Adobe Live Cycle, integrated with Data Plan Journal Designer. And integrated,
I’ll add, with the InDesign server. So the whole infrastructure is automating
the pagination of these real estate books, straight from sales folks just
entering the data on the individual homes that are going to be offered.
[11:02] This content is being used to create both the web listings, as well as the
print catalog books or guide books that are being done in multiple states. It’s
saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in their production processes. The DAM
is an underlying technology within the architecture. It works flawlessly and it’s
open source. They save themselves… If you think about the amount of money
they spent on the other infrastructure. [laughs]
[11:28] They spent a fraction of their budget on the actual DAM implementation.
There’s a lot you can do with open source DAM solutions as underlying architectural
decisions for larger projects. And for very modest use cases around
archival and retrieval of assets you absolutely can use those types of solutions in
your business.
Henrik: [11:54] What advice would you like to share with DAM professionals and
people aspiring to become DAM professionals?
Joe: [11:59] That’s a great question and I appreciate it, Henrik. A lot of folks
come into this industry… I should add, I’ve been doing this type of thing for
26 years now. I’m not going to count my tech jobs while I was in college,
which principally were around content technologies. But 26 years ago, content
technologies were a whole different animal. To me, there’s a lot of folks that
enter the market and they want to be DAM professionals and they want to get
jobs doing this. [12:28] My concern has been folks coming out there and never
having laid their hands on a single product, without having done a single implementation.
There’s a lot of information that goes on and a lot of folks that are…
There’s no certification for becoming a DAM professional or a DAM analyst or
consultant. Yet people go out there and help folks with RPs and so forth, and
they’ve never done a DAM project.
[12:54] To me, if you’re right out of college, first of all, there’s some colleges
which actually have some programs, like RI T, the print management school.
They have a course in Digital Asset Management. It is modest. But they give
people a chance to understand how to configure. What are the important use
cases trying to be solved in DAM? Getting hands-on experience with DAM is
really important. Even if you never will touch the technology in your career and
you want to be a pundit or someone who’s just a thought leader, you’ve got to
be able to touch them and understand what these types of products, this class
of products, do.
[13:33] What problems do they solve? That’s just me. Other people would probably
emphatically disagree. But I don’t think, going back to the plumber motif
that I said earlier or concept, you can speak with authority about plumbing
if you’ve never laid in the pipes an understand what the heck goes on there.
I certainly don’t understand what’s happening behind the walls. That’s one
thing. The second is, the best, to me, really exciting folks out there are the folks
who’ve gone to library science school.
[14:05] They really fundamentally understand what information science or information
architecture is. How do you define a taxonomy? What is an ontology?
How do you create controlled vocabularies? What’s that process? Sometimes
folks that were in data modeling are very good at that, as well. They’re very
thoughtful. A lot of times we go in as professionals and over engineer the
model, the information architecture of a platform.
[14:35] That becomes onerous for the folks who are trying to capture that metadata
and track it. There has to be a reasonableness that goes on, which again,
goes back to point number one. Which is, try to become a practitioner. But,
understanding that these are human systems, that’s the third thing. Again, we
talk about first laying your hands on these types of things, second is understand
how taxonomy is laid out. If you have money to go to library science school or, if
not, pick up some books on it.
[15:04] There’s some great resources out there for that. The third thing is understanding
the use cases or the work flows. Because the DAM systems don’t necessary
do work flow really well. But every single person or any company that’s
creating, managing, enriching and delivering assets has implicit work flows.
Some that are simple. Some that are very complex. Until you really understand
what those are, you’re going to be hampered.
Joe: [15:34] I’m talking about not just people starting out in their career, but folks
that are 10, 15, 20 years in, that are delivering Digital Asset Management implementations.
A lot of times they don’t pay attention to the ways people interact
with assets through the life cycle. Different asset or content types have different
work flows. The way you’re creating an interactive object is going to be different
from some sort of an image file or video file and so forth.
[16:02] Those have different ways of being manipulated through a whole class of
employee types or user types. So understanding those is really important. Once
you get those you’re going to be more sensitive to the way people work. The
fourth thing is, understand how to listen and understand how people currently
work, meeting them half way. Just coming in and implementing a DAM and
saying, “This is the way it works,” isn’t good enough.
[16:32] To be able to understand how an organization needs to work is important.
To hopefully deliver a DAM solution that supports that work and bolsters
and improves it, as opposed to makes people change the way they work, which
invariably, as you and I both know, doesn’t work. People rebel. You get into all
kinds of change management issues where folks just fight the DAM implementation.
I want to just end on this note, that a good way to inform your career
in DAM is that everybody high fives themselves when the DAM installation is
[17:09] But the way you test the success of a DAM solution is two to three years
out. How many people are using it? How many assets are there? Is it supporting
the business? Has duplication of assets been minimized or eliminated? Are there
issues with finding assets that were thrown in two years before, that are important?
That’s the way you test. You always have to think forward in this business.
Think about the results you’re going to be creating, two to three years in.
Henrik: [17:38] Thanks, Joe.
Joe: [17:40] Cool.
Henrik: [17:41] For more on this and other Digital Asset Management topics,
log onto Another DAM Podcast is available on AudioBoo,
iTunes and the Tech Podcast Network. If you have any comments or
questions, please feel free to email me at
Thanks again.