Elizabeth Keathley discusses Digital Asset Management
Here are the questions asked:
- How are you involved with Digital Asset Management?
- You recently authoring a new book called Digital Asset Management: Content Architectures, Project Management, and Creating Order out of Media Chaos. Explain why you decided to write this and why people should read it.
- What are the biggest challenges and successes with Digital Asset Management?
- What advice would you like to share with DAM Professionals and people aspiring to become DAM Professionals?
Henrik de Gyor: [0:00] This is Another DAM Podcast about Digital Asset Management. I’m Henrik de Gyor. Today, I’m speaking with Elizabeth Keathley. Elizabeth, how are you?
Elizabeth Keathley: [0:09] I’m well. How are you?
Henrik: [0:12] Great. Elizabeth, how are you involved with Digital Asset Management?
Elizabeth: [0:17] Wow. [laughs] I’m involved a lot with Digital Asset Management. I’m on the board of the DAM Foundation. I’m currently head of the education committee. I’m also an author. I have a book that just came out.
[0:31] Didn’t you see that on Amazon? Gosh, I write a lot about Digital Asset Management, and I own Atlanta Metadata Authority which helps people with staffing for Digital Asset Management, and I also go in and do a lot of arrangement and description of large sets for people.
[0:47] When you work in Digital Asset Management for a while, you get to this point where you grow the skill set or you can start manipulating thousands or even tens of thousands of assets at a time instead of touching individual ones. Although, you’re still going to do that from time to time anyway.
[1:04] I help people with their metadata modeling and flip everything into CSV sheets usually and help them with their controlled vocabulary and making everything standard and maybe some digital preservation concerns and, evening out their library so they can find things basically which is really just called metadata management. Some people call it metadata cleanup. In the old days, we used to call it library cataloging. Now, we just call it Digital Asset Management work mostly, I guess.
Henrik: [1:36] You recently authored a new book called Digital Asset Management: Content Architectures, Project Management, and Creating Order out of Media Chaos.
Elizabeth: [1:45] Yes, I did and you were the technical editor on that book, Henrik.
Henrik: [1:49] I was.
Elizabeth: [1:50] Yes, I was so glad to have somebody who gets it there and make me mind my Ps and Qs as we went through. I’m really glad the book is out. If people are thinking about buying it, I highly recommend trying to get hold of the PDF copy. I think that’s the best copy because it’s in color and all the links are active.
[2:08] I’m making the audio copy. It’s an abridged audio version, free on my website. If you go to atlantametadata.com, you can get the abridged audio version and the reason it’s abridged is that the book and its other forms has all these charts and graphs and illustrations and photos, but of course in the audio book, you don’t get those and that is also part of why I made it free, because there is a substantial amount of the content missing in the audio version, but I wanted to do an audio version anyway because I remember when I was student I wanted to read these kind of books and I didn’t have the money, so I thought, “I kind of want to learn how to do podcasting and this kind of thing anyway, so a free audiobook version of my own work is a good way to start.”
Henrik: [2:52] Can you explain why you decided to write this book, and why people should read it?
Elizabeth: [2:56] I decided to write the book because for the past couple of years, I’ve been writing some articles for the Journal of Digital Media Management and working for the DAM Foundation. I realized that I have a lot of knowledge that people were interested in, and I really like writing about Digital Asset Management. I actually enjoy that process as masochistic as that may seem.
Elizabeth: [3:16] Some people find it really painful but I kind of enjoy it, because when I sit down to write about Digital Asset Management, it makes me think about the things that I know in a different way and it forces me to express sort of the tenants of the practice of the systems that we work on in a way that I ordinarily wouldn’t do for myself. Honestly, it helps me remember things more.
[3:40] I have had the experience, and I don’t know if you’ve had this Henrik, where I would be working on a DAM and I would go back to do a task that I had done before, maybe altering a metadata model or getting beyond the code base of something. I couldn’t remember how to do it, and so I would email one of my workers and ask them, “Hey, could you just remind me how we do this?” They would forward me back the instructions I had written them a couple of years earlier on how to do that task. It’s just because if you don’t do it everyday, you forget the steps and that kind of thing.
[4:17] The book is very general. It doesn’t go with any specific systems because I think that the evolution of DAM systems is moving so fast that any book on that would be quickly dated. It’s more of a overview of what DAM systems are and how they work and how you can set one up and this sort of common issues. I want to get it all down in print form before I forget it, because we’re always learning new things and working on different things. I think it’s fun.
Henrik: [4:43] What are the biggest challenges and successes with Digital Asset Management?
Elizabeth: [4:48] Gosh. What are the biggest challenges and successes? I think the biggest challenges with Digital Asset Management are simply change management. In particular, I think that the way that we do hiring and promotion and human resource, in general right now, is really broken across corporate America.
[5:07] We have these human resource officers, and I tried to address this a little bit when I did the DAM Foundation Salary Survey, but I address it more in the book. We have these human resource officers and they want to put people in a category. They want to say either you’re a tech worker or you’re a marketing worker or you work in creative services or you work in print. Digital Asset Management is all of these things and more.
[5:32] We see this weird problem where people spend all these money on these solutions and they don’t necessarily get adopted across organizations because there’s this division of labor and this categorization of labor that in a lot ways is very artificial.
[5:47] The other thing that we see is that quite often, people who maybe are younger or coming at this as their first career or maybe even their third career, the job has been typed one way or the other and they can’t get there because it’s perceived to be wrong rung on the ladder, either too low or too high. That’s just ridiculous [laughs] . We can do the work and you’re good at the work. You should be allowed to have that position.
[6:11] This is something we are just going to continue to struggle with. There’s a lot of societal shifts going on with that now. I really like this Zappos model. Have you heard about this?
Henrik: [6:19] Yes.
Elizabeth: [6:20] Where there’s no hierarchy?
Henrik: [6:22] Mm‑hmm.
Elizabeth: [6:23] Can I tell you why I think it’s brilliant?
Henrik: [6:24] Please.
Elizabeth: [6:25] I think it’s brilliant because what I saw during my time in corporate America is that you have people who are maybe at the end of their career and they want to dial it back. They want to dial the responsibilities back. A lot of times, you see people saying, “Oh, they’re just sitting out their time or whatever.”
[6:41] Unfortunately, they’re sitting out their time in the management position and that can really mess everybody else up. What they should really be allowed to do is retain that seniority because they are valuable to the company for being there, but they shouldn’t be in a position of power but at the same that shouldn’t be viewed as a demotion.
[7:01] We want to keep those people in the workplace. They’re very valuable. There’s no reason they can’t continue to contribute, but why are we insisting that these people are senior management? At the same time, you might have people lower down the scale who don’t have a lot of project management skills because they’re new to the workforce or maybe because they’re younger, they’re starting a family.
[7:22] There’s all these different reasons why you might be given more responsibility, or less responsibility, but that doesn’t necessarily fit with the title of associate or new comer or middle manager. You need to be able to take up steps up and down in responsibility in relation to what’s going on at your stage of life and not view that as having you take a hit, or for my generation of women who tend to be super educated, they shouldn’t have to drop out of the workforce at any point. They should just be able to dial it back for a little while.
[7:55] I think the Zappos model really allows for that. I think it’s going to allow for much more intergenerational harmony. Also, it’s going to compensate for the fact that we have this weird thing that’s happened for everybody who’s younger has all the educational credentials because they’ve had to get them with the baby boomers who are still in the workforce. It’s very weird right now. I think with that Zappos model is kind of brilliant. I hope it works and I hope it gets adopted, but I’m not holding my breath either. What do you think of it?
Henrik: [8:25] It’s an interesting idea of having people being able to try new things, which is a struggle younger people, who are more junior in their career. Also, more senior people, to your point, going back down to basics, which I’ve seen many people try to do towards their retirement is they want to go back down the basics and not be remembered as ‘the boss’.
Elizabeth: [8:47] If you have some 27‑year‑old who’s really got a good idea and just lighting it on fire and wants to work those 50‑hour weeks and manage a product, let him. I don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t harness that energy. Rather than say, “You need to slow down because you’re not going to be a manager for another 10 years and you just need to wait.”
Henrik: [9:13] That’s primarily one of the reasons why the younger generation may leave a job.
Elizabeth: [9:19] Because they’re not getting the chances that they want to take.
Henrik: [9:22] Because the growth is isn’t there.
Elizabeth: [9:25] Yeah. I love the Zappos model. I hope that moves on. I guess the biggest challenges that I see in Digital Asset Management are just that human resource thing, and the biggest successes that I see, oh, my gosh, really, in the field of photography. Period. I’ve seen a lot of people that have able to start their businesses because they get Digital Asset Management in a way that no one else does.
[9:49] I saw this earlier in my life in the ’90s. There were a lot of people my age who just got the Internet early on in a way that other people didn’t and were able to make a good living out of it while being self‑employed. I see that a lot with Digital Asset Management, too, and it makes me really happy.
Henrik: [10:07] I’ve noticed that the creation of photography doesn’t pay as much as the management of photography?
Elizabeth: [10:14] Absolutely. When you have these kids now who’ve grown up with digital photography, which means they’ve always gotten instant feedback on lighting and composition, they never have a wait for a film to get developed, to learn what makes a good photograph. If they have the capacity to understand visual composition and light, they’re going to instinctively get it just by having a phone.
[10:36] The creation of great photography is less technical as it used to be. The value of that has dropped, but the management of photography, you’re right, that’s a rare skill. If you can do that, you could have your own business and you can travel the world and do what you want to do.
[10:51] I actually did a talk at Henry Stewart, New York in 2013 last year called ‘DAM in the Post‑Modern Workplace’, and I don’t remember if you saw that or not, I knew you were there.
Henrik: [11:02] I did.
Elizabeth: [11:03] I’m re‑releasing that as a video sometime in the next couple of weeks. I don’t know if anybody is going to watch it. It’s going to be weird because it’s going to be me talking over like a bunch of film clips and stuff, but I’m going to put it out there on YouTube because I really enjoyed giving that talk, and I think the people who got it got it and people who didn’t didn’t. I’m hoping it’ll get a wider audience. The people who need to pay attention to that will.
Henrik: [11:26] What advice would you like to share with DAM professionals and people aspiring to become DAM professionals?
Elizabeth: [11:32] Never stop reading. Read the Journal of Digital Media Management, listen to this blog, read the transcripts of your blog, which by the way, there’s a ton of quotes from your book in my book. Keep learning. It is moving so fast that if you stop for minute [laughs] or maybe not a minute, if you stop for 6 months or 12 months, you would not know what was going in Digital Asset Management.
[12:00] It’s moving so fast. If you don’t pay attention, you’re going to get left behind. The great way to make money on the Internet, of course, is to try to stay just a little bit ahead of what conventional practices are so that you know how to do the things that maybe other people don’t and then they can pay you to do them.
Henrik: [12:20] Thanks, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth: [12:22] Thanks, Henrik.
Henrik: [12:23] For more on this and other Digital Asset Management topics, just log on to AnotherDAMblog.com. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to email me at AnotherDAMblog@gmail.com