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Another DAM Podcast interview with NYC DAM Meetup Organizers on Digital Asset Management

 

Transcript:

Henrik de Gyor:  [0:00] This is Another DAM podcast about Digital Asset Management. I’m Henrik de Gyor. Today I’m speaking with Chad Beer and Michael Hollitscher about NYC DAM, the New York Digital Asset Managers Meetup group. The world’s largest Meetup group about Digital Asset Management.

[0:18] Chad, you’re the founder of this Meetup. Tell us how it all started.

Chad Beer:  [0:23] I was working as a DAM manager in 2009. I was looking to move onto the next challenge, the next job. I needed to deepen my education about DAM. I needed to network and to get to know more people in DAM. I had gone to conferences and wasn’t finding the connections I wanted to find.

[0:47] I wasn’t connecting with people who were talking real nuts and bolts about their jobs and how they do it. I got connected to Meetup through a friend in an unrelated industry. I had gone to some other types of software Meetups and was amazed that there were no DAM Meetups.

[1:04] Out of frustration and out of wanting to get people to tell me about DAM, I thought, “I’m going to start a Meetup.” I saw Mike speak at a Henry Stewart conference. I liked his presentation. I liked how his thinking worked.

[1:18] I approached him after his talk and asked if I set up a Meetup about DAM, would he think that it’d be something that he would want to be involved in. He was very positive about the idea.

[1:27] That was the first piece of encouragement that I received that was outside of my own head. I just went online and started up the group.

[1:34] The first meeting we had was me, Mike, one other member, my boss and my boss’ boss. It was a tiny group. Mainly my bosses came because they wanted to see what the hell I was doing, using up a conference room in the evening, and also to wish me well.

[1:50] We started with a first meeting of five members. We talked about what the Meetup should be about. It was a very broad, kickoff Meetup.

[2:01] I love that Mike was there from the start, from before day one, really. Then, we just started winging it and setting up topics that we would find interesting. We were doing the presentations ourselves at first. It didn’t take long.

[2:15] As soon as we found somebody with some expertise and who was willing to talk, we started getting people who had shown up at the group to talk at the next one, and the next one, and the next one.

[2:23] It grew from there.

Henrik: Mike?

Michael Hollitscher:  [2:26] It’s funny because thinking about it, there was space for us to fit into in the beginning. We joked that going to Digital Asset Management conferences were the one or two times a year that you didn’t feel totally alone.

[2:43] You could actually network with people, really interface and compare notes with the people who are doing this job, which five years ago was something more of an obscure trade to be involved in.

[2:59] Now I think it’s become something that’s becoming more and more ubiquitous every day in terms of how to manage digital content. We were able to fill a niche that a lot of people didn’t even know was needed.

[3:14] What Chad was talking about, in terms of how we just winged it, it was a Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland “Let’s put on a show” thing. We did it a little guerilla style, hosting it at places of work that we worked at.

[3:29] The people we were involved with, seemed like it was a perfectly fine thing to do. We slowly built up our membership, trying to think of interesting topics.

[3:39] In the end, the thing that’s driven us forward and gotten us to the point of our relative popularity now is that we really wanted to talk about the things that are necessary, that were really critical to us in our daily work days.

[3:58] We wanted to make sure that people who were showing up were fully engaged and really understood the key issues that we were dealing with at the time. It’s pretty amazing to think that it’s gone on for five years at this point, that so much has changed in the landscape from a point where DAM was, like I said, at that point, emerging from a backwater to a critical part of doing business every day.

Chad:  [4:23] I had no global perspective when I started it, at all. I agree with Mike that we totally filled a niche that was not only ready to be filled, but there was an audience for it. We didn’t know this.

[4:35] I knew I was interested. I knew Mike was interested. I knew we had a common sensibility about metadata management. [laughs] So I knew we were aligned on a strategic level. That was it.

[4:46] We were very lucky, in a way. It was our timing and also our location. It’s possible for us to do this Meetup and have it as robust and ongoing as it is, because we’re in New York [City]. There’s a critical mass of not only people but professions that need DAM, so there’s a critical mass of DAM people in a small geographical area.

[5:09] We opened it up at what happened to be the right time in the practice’s maturity. If we had done it five years earlier, there wouldn’t have been enough people to talk about it or the issues wouldn’t have been codified enough to bring in an audience.

[5:25] I don’t think we would have known what the universal questions and problems were. There was a lot of luck and happenstance, timing and logistics, location.

Michael:  [5:33] Yeah and really sticking with it. It came from the fact that Chad and I both wanted some answers, or at least to have a discussion amongst our peers to figure out “How are you doing it? How are you actually getting this work done?” or “What are the hacks you have to do, not only from a technological standpoint but from a human standpoint of getting this kind of work done?”

[6:01] I think that’s the big thing. The emergent thought that has come out of the Meetups ‑‑ and Henrik, I know you’re a big proponent of this, too ‑‑ we always focus on the technology, but the longer you do this, the technology is the least interesting part of it after a while.

[6:18] It’s really, “How do you engage the human beings who have to use this technology?”

[6:24] One of the real things that we’ve brought to the table in general DAM discussion in the world is that you really have to talk about the people. You have to talk about how you enable people. The uniqueness of your organization has to really work with your end‑users and your stakeholders.

Chad:  [6:48] We did want to engage on those levels. In my mind at the time, the conferences weren’t very strong on those fronts.

[6:55] They’ve gotten a lot better. They’ve come down from preaching lofty best practices that aren’t really applicable to the day‑to‑day, and come down from vendor demos and things like that to more emphasis on use cases and more nitty‑gritty news you can use.

[7:10] That was not available much when we started this out, so we needed to talk to Mike’s point, not just about the human level of the work that we do and the hacks people do, but also nuts and bolts about how you get from point A to point B, how other professionals have done that.

[7:28] Also, not only did we want to facilitate presentations, we wanted to facilitate community and some interactions, some easy networking. The word “community” is really overused, but that’s what we were going for.

[7:43] Conferences only go so far with that, because they come at a pretty hefty cost. It costs a lot to go to a conference. We knew there were a bunch of people from small companies or independent contractors and certainly students or recent grads who were never going to go to conferences, that we’d never meet and interact with.

[8:03] The Meetup was a way to bring all those people together to missed people who also go to conferences. We felt that we were able to open doors up to a whole area of the DAM industry that couldn’t really get into the conferences, because they didn’t have the funding.

[8:18] That’s been a really valuable piece of it. Also, Mike brings up a really good point. This sticking with it was really critical. We’ve been doing it for five years.

[8:29] Mike and I have both been through job changes, and at some point or multiple points, we both hit a wall, where the demands of job or home life have been a lot to take on, and didn’t have the bandwidth to keep coming up with Meetup ideas.

[8:44] We were really glad that we had each other to bounce ideas off of and hand the baton back and forth to.

[8:49] This is where you come in, Henrik. When you joined us two years ago now, you added not only more bandwidth, but a new perspective, new contacts, a new perspective on the industry that not only helped us to keep going but helped enrich the content that we bring to the presentations every month.

[9:12] Can I ask you a question? Could you tell us about what it was like for you when you joined the Meetup, or how you decided you wanted to join the Meetup?

Henrik:  [9:19] I also had a job transition. I had a lot of time to spend in New York, thankfully. I’m a Virginia resident, so I commute to New York [City]…

[9:30] [laughter]

Henrik:  [9:32] …on a regular basis. I was thrilled to be engaged with a very thriving, literally, a community of Digital Asset Management professionals like yourselves and all the members. I only wanted to see that grow.

[9:45] As a content producer for my blog and podcasts, I know that content is king and if you produce good content, especially in person, people will come, especially if there’s networking involved before and after. We do that with the Meetups too.

[9:59] I wanted to hone that, focus on things that we hadn’t focused on and look at all the different topics that are out there. There’s plenty and there’s only more to come.

[10:09] You started this on July 20th, 2009, and we’re coming up to a milestone. We’ll be announcing our fifth anniversary at a very special place.

[10:19] I was really excited to come up with topics as often as I could, and the speakers whenever I could with your help, to get the community engaged and different parts of the community as far as who’s using it and how they’re using it, not just the technology.

[10:35] Obviously, the people, that comes first, then also the processes and information that are involved to one degree or another.

Chad:  [10:45] Probably the best thing I ever did after starting the Meetup was not trying to do it alone. I was never under the illusion that I could do it alone, or that that would be a good idea. This whole thing has been a real lesson to me in the value of collaboration. The more heads at the helm, the better.

[11:04] It helps, of course, that we are all like‑minded to a great degree. We all knew that about each other before we got involved. The Meetup is as strong as it is and still going because of everybody being involved ‑‑ not just us, all the members, too ‑‑ who also feed us some great ideas.

[11:21] Looking ahead, I would love it if there was more community involvement in at least getting ideas flowing and identifying people who could speak. I would love it to be a real soapbox for a lot of people in the DAM community.

Henrik:  [11:34] Getting more people engaged, whether it’s the organizers of the events, such as us, or the people who are hosting these events, because we’re always looking for great locations that can host 50 plus people. That’s typically how many we have on a regular basis.

[11:49] At the time of this recording, we have 680 members plus. We’ve doubled it from over a year ago, which is pretty amazing.

Chad:  [11:57] Speaking of locations, that brings up another economic issue. It’s the cost of locations. We’ve been challenged to find good locations because we have managed to keep our Meetup group vendor‑neutral.

[12:12] When we’ve been fortunate enough to get some sponsorship, mainly to fund video and the post video recording of some of the Meetups, the sponsors have been very hands‑off, just asking that we promote them with logos and credit, etc.

[12:27] Keeping some financial independence from any outside influence has been a limiting factor in that we have no budget for a lot of places that we could otherwise afford, but it’s also maintained a degree of integrity for our Meetup, and allowed us to steer our own ship.

[12:43] We can have whatever speakers we want, and we don’t have to worry about any conflict‑of‑interest from an economic perspective. I think that’s been huge.

Henrik:  [12:52] I agree.

Chad:  [12:53] I can’t believe it’s already five years.

Michael:  [12:55] We were so young once.

Henrik:  [12:58] I agree. [laughs]

Chad:  [13:01] We’ve all gone through job changes since getting involved in the Meetup. It’s funny. The Meetup evolves. We’re evolving as DAM professionals, and the industry’s evolving out from under and all around us at the same time.

Michael:  [13:12] It seemed like it was easier to do the first two years. I was in grad school. I was working a full time job, and also we were doing generally a Meetup a month at that point. I look back now, and I don’t know how I managed that.

[13:27] [laughter]

Chad:  [13:30] Same here.

Michael:  [13:31] It’s a greater challenge now. I’m challenged more in my work now. There’s more topics that we could cover. There’s probably more things to think about, but it’s not just about DAM anymore. It is about the whole content lifecycle. That’s maybe the more exciting stuff.

[13:54] Maybe where topics will evolve is more towards where DAM is an aspect of what we’re talking about. It’s really about the creative process. It’s about the process on the Web, about content determination, content access and analytics, all these sort of things where it’s like DAM is sitting at the bottom and feeding out.

[14:15] It’s really a question of how it ties into a lot of much larger issues. That’s what I’m interested in talking about. It’s just a question of how we put it all together.

Henrik:  [14:26] There’s going to be tons of that, as far as conversations and Meetups in the near future about that.

Michael:  [14:31] That’s what we have to figure out. [laughs] For those of you listening in, that’s something that us three have to sit down and figure out. What are we going to talk about?

[14:42] As Chad mentioned, that also comes from our user group too and some of the great people that we have who are de facto advisors at this point, or thought leaders who help influence our thinking, as well.

Chad:  [14:58] Not only has our work‑life situations become more complex, but the industry has gotten more complex. Our questions are more complex. When we started out, our questions about DAM were very simple.

[15:10] Now we’re thinking on a more complex level, fed by the work challenges that we’ve seen, but also the Meetups that we’ve seen other people present.

[15:23] I feel like the game’s gotten more complex. Reiterating Mike’s point, it’s no longer enough to just have one simple talk about metadata schemes, as one person did. That will be valuable, but man, there are so many more pressing issues now about file acceleration and system integrations. It’s a much more complicated world now. That makes the Meetups a little harder to plan, because you want to meet that raised bar.

Henrik:  [15:51] We raise the bar ourselves within the group by being one of the groups that video record all our panel discussions. We got sponsorship for that as we mentioned earlier, and they’re available on YouTube for free. Just search on YouTube for NYC DAM, and you’ll find them.

[16:07] NYC DAM is based in Manhattan. We meet in Manhattan, specifically. You can find the Meetup on http://meetup.com/NYCdigitalassetmanagers. We invite you to join if you have interest in Digital Asset Management.

Chad:  [16:22] Come and give us ideas. Share ideas, and share questions with us, because that’s where the next presentations come from.

Michael:  [16:28] Also, thanks for all your support. Because if nobody shows up, we can’t do it.

Henrik:  [16:33] It’s all about the numbers.

Chad:  [16:34] Exactly. That’s the community. It’s not us. We just provide a soapbox, but if nobody’s there to listen to whoever’s on it, then there’s no point.

Henrik:  [16:42] Thanks, guys.

Michael:  [16:43] Thank you.

Chad:  [16:44] Thank you.

Henrik:  [16:44] For more on Digital Asset Management, log on to anotherdamblog.com. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to email me at anotherdamblog@gmail.com. Thanks again.

 


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Another DAM Podcast interview with Michael Hollitscher on Digital Asset Management

Michael Hollitscher discusses Digital Asset Management

 

 

Here are the questions asked:

  • How are you involved with Digital Asset Management?
  • Do you find yourself often closely linked with both the creative and technical side of your business?
  • You recently started a meetup group called NYC Digital Asset Managers. This has been quite successful in its first year. When did you first start this group?
  • What advice would you like to share with DAM Professionals and even people aspiring to become DAM Professionals?

Transcript:

Henrik de Gyor: [0:01] This is Another DAM Podcast about Digital Asset
Management. I’m Henrik de Gyor. Today, I’m talking with Mike Hollitscher. Mike,
how are you?
Michael Hollitscher: [0:08] Good. How’s it going?
Henrik: [0:11] Good. How are you involved with Digital Asset Management?
Michael: [0:16] I am the manager of Digital Asset Management for a digital marketing
agency called Digitas. When I first started here, we were an independent
company, national in scope. In the past two or three years, we were purchased
by Publicis Groupe. We’ve become part of the global digital arm of, I think, the
third largest media and advertising company in the world now. [0:58] My job basically
revolves around trying to ingest and organize all of the digital assets that
we are creating and receiving from our clients.
[1:09] In addition to that, I’m also involved in a bunch of other technology issues,
just trying to see where we’re going for the future.
Henrik: [1:20] Do you find yourself often closely linked with both the creative
and the technical side of your business?
Michael: [1:25] Oh, absolutely. In the end, I end up being the liaison between
those two. Not only just creative, also our marketing people, our delivery
people, our creative…Really, when you get right down to it, DAM is much more
of a marketing tool than, I think, a creative tool. [1:48] I end up having to speak
both languages, the core group’s language and also, to a certain degree, IT. I’m
not an IT person. I’m still confused as an IT person all the time, but, basically, I
interface between those two groups quite a bit.
[2:08] That’s kind of where it comes in that I’m trying more to see where we’re
going and where the pain points are in our Digital Asset Management strategy
and just our content strategies at this point.
Henrik: [2:26] You recently started a meetup group called NYC Digital Asset
Managers. This has been quite successful in its first year. When did you first start
this group?
Michael: [2:35] I can’t really claim ownership of, say, starting the group. That
was really on Chad. Chad and I actually met at a Henry Stewart conference at
Davis. I believe it was two years ago now, and it’s interesting how it springs out
of, I think, a lot of people’s experiences going to Henry Stewart and various
DAM conferences over the last six or seven years. [3:03] I was actually presenting
on some of the strategies we’ve used to tag photo libraries, or other sort of
assets, with XMP metadata, and how we were looking to…Basically, our nuts and
bolts process, and then pushing it out, and where we’re going for the future.
Afterwards, Chad came up to me, and he was really excited because he was
basically doing the exact same stuff that I was.
[3:32] It just so turned out that we share a Digital Asset Management platform.
We use the same vendor. We also share an integrator. We had a great conversation,
and one of the things that’s always been interesting about going to DAM
conferences since…The first one I went to was probably in 2003 or 2004.
[3:54] It was just that back then, you were always working in this sort of vacuum,
and you’re flying blind a lot of times. Maybe you had an integrator, maybe you
didn’t. You talked to your vendor, but there wasn’t a good amount of standards,
and there weren’t really a lot of people to talk to. At that point, Henry Stewart
was the one time a year you could actually go somewhere and talk to people,
and not feel like you were absolutely, totally alone.
[4:31] We had shot emails back and forth, and Chad was interested in setting up
a meetup group, he mentioned. He said he started one, and he asked if I would
help out, and I was able to provide a few different ideas, and a few different
resources to really start it to get it going. After a while, I was basically billed as a
co-organizer.
[4:49] We’ve basically just been bouncing ideas back and forth to each other,
and coming up with good people to bring in, to present.
[4:59] I think it goes back to what I was saying about how it was six or seven
years ago, that it’s like…I think what we’re really providing is an opportunity for
people to come in and just actually have a chance to talk to other people in
their realm, in their field, because, in general, when you’re doing Digital Asset
Management, you’re the only guy there.
[5:24] Maybe you have some contacts with other people in your office, but there
really aren’t any other people who are sharing your experience.
[5:34] There’s just so much to pull in and there are so many different directions
you can go with it. It’s a very holistic career where you are looking at the entire
process of how your company is doing their work. Most people don’t. Your average
worker at a job is just like…They’re focused on their small part of the puzzle.
[6:02] I would say, without sounding maudlin, it can get a little lonely at certain
points where it’s like, “Who can I call upon? Where can I learn how to deal with
video assets better? How to set up a taxonomy? Who’s doing stuff that’s really
exciting and cool?”
[6:22] That’s really what we’re trying to provide, sort of a knowledge base. But
also because I’m finishing up a master’s at Pratt in library and information sciences,
one of the things I’ve been trying to do is a lot of outreach to other LIS
programs in our area.
[6:45] We’ve been getting a pretty fair amount of students coming in who, in
a field that is becoming vastly more digital. They can really start getting their
feet wet and get an idea of where everything’s going, whether this is a good
career choice.
[6:53] A lot of times, those are who the best ideas come from. We’re very egalitarian.
We’re looking…If you’re a member, you can present because we have a
lot of experts but we also have a lot of people, even if they’re just starting out.
They’ve come up with fantastic ideas or they have great internships. We’re looking
for knowledge from everybody in that way.
Henrik: [7:19] What advice would you share with other DAM professionals and
even people aspiring to become a DAM professional?
Michael: [7:26] That’s a good question because…It’s interesting how the whole
field, the space has changed because, again, if you’re going back to the early
part of the last decade, you could go around and ask 15 different people who
are managing a DAM how they ended up in that job. It was really like a company
bought a system and they looked around the room and looked at one
guy or one girl and said, “That person’s running it.” [7:58] Invariably, they came
from some print field, usually production or something like that. There are a
lot of people, like myself who were just thrown into the breach and they just
had to learn all the different aspects of how to make this happen, how to do it
on the fly.
[8:23] I’m cheering for the home team here, but I think having a library science
degree is a fantastic way to do it. It’s a great way to get a grounding in it but I
think it’s kind of a specific type of person, in a lot of ways, too.
[8:38] In the end, what we’re talking about is classification. Classification is,
again, another really holistic concept and it’s a very basic concept because it’s
like when…It’s so inherent in our human experience because the one thing all
humans do when they look at something…After they look at something, they
classify it. They put it in a particular box or a particular category.
[9:05] It’s really taking an organization’s assets and trying to…Not only to classify
it but also to figure out how they move and what are the best states for them to
move from. It’s a bunch of different complimentary, somewhat what’s the term
I’m looking for sometimes competing skill sets.
[9:29] Being able to be very granular but have that holistic sort of overarching,
big picture view at the same time. Having a lot of focus but also having to be
incredibly gregarious and willing to be very social and just always trying to find
a way to develop stuff in a new, different way. You have to be very patient and
very impatient at the same time.
[9:57] I would say it’s an interesting field to get into if you want to be the hub of
everything. If you have a lot of ideas about content and where the web is going
and where digital content is going, as well.
[10:19] I was reading a really interesting “Wired” article on the train coming in
about how we’re moving into more of an application model again, in terms of
the Internet with apps, with mobile. Everything is becoming little pieces rather
than the free, wide open web anymore.
[10:45] One of the things that got me thinking…This kind of goes back to the
whole of Jonathan Zittrain throughout the…We’re really going back into a
stage in computing that’s based around appliances again. That’s where DAM
fits in beautifully as, really, the content delivery device for all these different
applications.
[11:12] At the same time, what it really comes down to…You just have to be a very
good communicator, I think. Somebody who’s really willing to just roll up their
sleeves and try and iron out a problem that you’ll probably never completely
iron out because everything moves too quickly.
[11:34] You just really have to be willing to build as many bridges as possible and
love technology, but also hate it a little bit, too, in order to find where technology
stops and where culture starts and how to fix those culture issues, as well. I
think you’re building bridges not only through technology, but also through just
getting people to talk to each other.
[12:04] In the end, you’re more a personality type than you are somebody who
has a specific set of skills at the beginning of it.
Henrik: [12:15] That’s fair. Thank you, Mike.
Michael: [12:16] No problem.
Henrik: [12:18] For more on Digital Asset Management, log on to
anotherdamblog.com. Thanks again.

 


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