Robert J. Boeri

Robert J. Boeri is a senior consultant at Guident Technologies in Herndon, VA and a long-term contributing editor for EContent and EMedia magazines. He has over 30 years experience as a publishing and content management systems professional. Boeri has been fortunate to witness emerging trends in computer hardware and software, influence those trends, evaluate them as a journalist, and apply them with "boots on the ground" in both private and public sector enterprises. A recurring theme in these assignments has been a lifecycle approach to business requirements, system selection and deployment, with a focus on effective consulting and enthusiastic user acceptance. Boeri is a long-term member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, a professional member of The Association for Information and Image Management, and a senior member of the Society for Technical Communication.  After hours, he maintains his website and two blogs: "Content Curmudgeon" and "LivingWithoutOil." He holds an undergraduate degree from Lowell Technological Institute and an MBA from Babson College.

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Articles by Robert J. Boeri

We are all overwhelmed with the variety, velocity, and volume of information. It is becoming increasingly difficult to figure out where the information we want is. In one of my cloud systems? Outlook? A folder? Findability can seldom be helped by search alone. Metadata and taxonomies are key to boosting findability. However, if "metadata" makes eyes roll, "taxonomy" can be a snoozer ... until you understand how important both are to boosting findability and making your content stand out and be found. This is true whether you're standing up a CMS or an intranet inside the firewall or if you're competing for eyeballs on the web. Developing a structure for navigating, finding, and understanding content-and the related descriptions in that taxonomy-is difficult and can be a surprisingly contentious process.
Column/Info Insider - December 2014 Issue, Posted Dec 16, 2014
Let's assume you have an English-language, web-based business, including downloadable documents. To expand, you have to reach out to non-English-speaking customers. You must translate and transform your content for non-English speakers. When you get into the details, you realize this is complicated: Numbers may need different formatting, print and web layouts will likely need to be adjusted, cultural differences can be a mine field, specialized technical terms require deep expertise, and myriad other issues. You quickly realize that localization is a lot of work, and you may have to repeat it for each target language or culture.
Column/Info Insider - November 2014 Issue, Posted Nov 18, 2014
I admit it: I'm in the demographic that still likes print newspapers and magazines. And I'm in good company. Jeffrey Bezos, who bought The Washington Post and related newspapers, said in an interview with The Post last year that if he had both the print and tablet editions in front of him, he'd pick the print version, "an elegant product that has evolved over decades."
Column/Info Insider - June 2014 Issue, Posted Jun 17, 2014
This is the third in a series of columns assessing the readiness of text and social analytics to play a productive role in enterprise solutions. In this column, I assess approaches to acquire analytics applications when dealing with a common institutional barrier: the chief information officer (CIO).
Column/Info Insider - December 2013 Issue, Posted Dec 10, 2013
I have previously reviewed basic business practices required to anticipate and manage inevitable social media crises affecting brands. Even the best business practices can only mitigate social public relations (PR) disasters. And it is expensive, and of dubious value, to do as the Department of State is reported recently to have done: spend $630,000 on Facebook likes. That's probably, at best, a one-off solution.
Column/Info Insider - November 2013 Issue, Posted Nov 19, 2013
You can't escape social media. That's where your clients are, and social media leverages your marketing resources a thousandfold. However, social media is a two-edged sword. When it works in your favor, it is extraordinarily cost-effective; however, when events turn against you, its effects can be devastating. Think about the video of BP's oil spill and the blogosphere, or more recently, lululemon athletica becoming the butt of jokes (sorry) for its yoga pants fiasco. Bad news travels fast on the digital grapevine. Social media also contributes to an overwhelming amount of information, loosely called Big Data, which must be part of your planning. How do you prepare for such PR disasters so that your good name doesn't suffer irreparable damage? What is the role of technology? Are there any common-sense techniques often overlooked that can make or break your preparations?
Column/Info Insider - July/August 2013 Issue, Posted Aug 13, 2013
In the mid 1990s, I bought an Iomega Zip drive boasting 100MB of storage. It was the size of a small pancake. The other popular offline storage medium, a 3.5" diskette, held 1.44MB. Each Zip drive packed the equivalent of almost 70 diskettes. Who would ever need more than a few Zip drives?
Column/Info Insider - April 2013 Issue, Posted Apr 09, 2013
You say you don't have any personal Big Data? Not worried about cloud storage? Think again. Private data, including passwords, are breached almost every month. WikiLeaks is the poster child for loss of massive amounts of classified information, all due to poor oversight of personal external drives. Most recently the case of Mat Honan, a Wired magazine journalist, comes to mind. Privacy breaches and lost data aren't always due to personal carelessness, although that is often a contributing factor.
Column/Info Insider - December 2012 Issue, Posted Dec 06, 2012
You see references to "Big Data" everywhere. Even on the personal side, we all share a common sense of information overload. We don't (can't) back up all our information-personal, business, shared, and social-since it is stored in so many places. We often can't find critical pieces of information. And that's just our own. Expand the scope to massive corporate data sets, and the problem becomes mind-numbing. We also know that we aren't getting all the value that's available in this data storm. Not getting sufficient value from that information may be the biggest problem of all.
Column/Info Insider - November 2012 Issue, Posted Nov 13, 2012
I get about a hundred press announcements and story pitches a day. I give each one a glance and make a quick save or delete decision. One caught my eye recently: "Drupal, Open Source, and Jobs." As I was reaching for the DEL key, I hesitated. Jobs and employment are in the news daily. The subject line was tantalizing and led to some interesting conversations with senior executives who provide Drupal services: Ron Huber, president of Achieve Internet, and Ben Finklea, CEO of the Drupal SEO company Volacci Corp. I wondered, could open source software (OSS) really help turn around the economy or enrich your career?
Column/Info Insider - July/August 2012 Issue, Posted Jul 17, 2012
Paper books are, by nature, static things and so, for the most part, are digital versions of these books. The Oxford English Dictionary reinforces this notion. It defines an ebook as "an electronic version of a printed book," suggesting that these ebooks are little more than replicas of their digital counterparts. When you hear the term "ebook," you probably think of the iPad, Kindle, or perhaps PDF documents. You may think of a static file that is just like a printed book except that you need some kind of digital reading device. That is about to change, as digital documents in general, are being swept up in the collaborative behaviors of social media.
Column/Info Insider - April 2012 Issue, Posted Apr 10, 2012
As someone who favors open standards and open source, I think HTML5 may become an attractive alternative to Flash. After all, the World Wide Web is built on open standards. What really caught my eye though was an Adobe press release issued on Aug. 1: Adobe announced an "Early Preview of New HTML5 Web Motion and Interaction Design Tool" called Adobe Edge. Adobe Edge is a new motion and interaction design tool that lets creative pros build animated web content using web standards such as HTML, JavaScript, and CSS.
Column/Info Insider - December 2011 Issue, Posted Dec 20, 2011
I assessed two competing digital paper products in the early '90s: Adobe Carousel (later renamed Acrobat) and Envoy. I settled on Acrobat, based on Adobe's deep expertise in print via PostScript. The idea of a timeless, reliable digital file format remains appealing today, especially when that format is ubiquitous, easy to create, search, and use (not to mention an ISO standard). Creating a PDF file from a properly styled word processing document, such as Microsoft Word, OpenOffice, or WordPerfect, gives you both print fidelity and automatic hyperlinking. You can be sure of a rendition faithful to the print version. Moreover, users on Windows, Mac, and UNIX platforms will see and use it the same way.
Column/Info Insider - November 2011 Issue, Posted Nov 08, 2011
There is no standard IT definition of "cloud"-the National Institute of Standards and Technology is working on that as I write. Still, there is no question that we're entering a new age of cloud computing. The benefits of cloud storage and computing are many: e.g., lower cost than in-house storage, reduced stress on internal IT resources, efficiency, and guaranteed availability. Just like a sudden change in the weather, cloud storage and computing will be disruptive. It is one thing, however, to trust your MP3 files to a consumer cloud service. It is quite another to entrust your whole business information architecture.
Column/Info Insider - July/August 2011 Issue, Posted Aug 15, 2011
I couldn't function without it, but email is becoming dysfunctional and showing its age. In 1998, I had two email accounts, one business (using Microsoft Outlook) and one personal, available only via dial-up service. As time passed, the quantity of my email accounts grew, as did the type of email servers and email providers. Times have changed, and not for the better.
Column/Info Insider - April 2011 Issue, Posted Apr 25, 2011
It is a worthwhile exercise to review what I thought were trends in the technologies and tools that I follow and to examine my predictions over the past year. It improves my assessment of important technologies and can refine my forecasting approach. This past year I emphasized three trends: the potential benefits of XML as expressed in the eXtended Business Reporting Language (XBRL); a legal issue combining digital documents (Microsoft Word) and XML—i4i's suit against Microsoft's alleged patent infringement in Microsoft Office Word; and the importance of a new product category, e-readers.
Column/Info Insider - December 2010 Issue, Posted Nov 22, 2010
As of this writing, it's impossible to escape daily news about the British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Amid all this news, there is one term we haven't yet heard that will have a large role in this saga as it plays out: e-discovery, which refers to the pretrial action in a lawsuit where parties can request or compel digital documents as evidence.
Column/Info Insider - October 2010 Issue, Posted Oct 19, 2010
Like many of you, I read voraciously. My nightstand is always overflowing, and I'm running out of bookshelf space. Meanwhile, the cost of print publications continues to grow. So how do you cope? One approach is to use an e-reader, but which one?
Column/Info Insider - July/August 2010 Issue, Posted Jul 23, 2010
Once in a while, I get asked what I call a "Flat Earth" question: "Prove to me the earth isn't flat." Then, I stumble to find good answers. So it was in a recent taxonomy modeling session, when a line-of-business participant asked me: "Why do we need folders anyway?"
Column/Info Insider - March 2010 Issue, Posted Mar 15, 2010
In my annual review of XML, two events or trends stand out: First is the Aug. 23 injunction by U.S. District Judge Leonard Davis of East Texas against Microsoft (MS) selling Word products "that have the capability of opening a .XML, .DOCX, or .DOCM file (‘an XML file') containing custom XML." Secondly, there is eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) and tools emerging to leverage it.
Column/Info Insider - December 2009 Issue, Posted Nov 24, 2009
We all recognize the twin trends of exponentially growing electronic content and more litigiousness. The landmark 2006 Federal Rules of Civil Procedures Rule 26 and its updates make all electronic stored information (ESI) subject to legal discovery, and ESI continues its unbridled growth. Yet cost controls are tighter these days than they were a decade ago, so we increasingly react to problems rather than nip them in the bud. If you already have an enterprise search system (or, more likely, several targeted search systems), do you really need anything else to respond to a civil suit requesting information stored anywhere in the enterprise?
Column/Info Insider - October 2009 Issue, Posted Oct 08, 2009
I'm still searching for e-readers … but I'm getting close. Last year in my column "It Ain't Easy Being Green," I noted the problems newspapers face and the benefits of "going green." Since then, subscription costs have continued to rise and newspapers now need their own bailouts.
Column/Info Insider - July/August 2009 Issue, Posted Jul 29, 2009
In April, when this column is printed, Americans will be engaged in the annual ritual of calculating and paying state and federal taxes. Although tax activity is most intense in April, we all pay taxes daily in many forms, such as sales tax. Just as taxes have always been with us, so too have taxonomies. Like dealing with taxes, taxonomy management is an evolving process that never ends. There are many definitions of "taxonomy," but I view them as merely the various ways we categorize and manage groups of things so we can find them, whether they're dishes in a cupboard or scrolls in the ancient library of Alexandria.
Column/Info Insider - May 2009 Issue, Posted May 11, 2009
Mergers and acquisitions are all too common, as are company reorganizations. SharePoint is an increasingly popular repository option. The increasingly common end result: More and more enterprises have important content in at least two incompatible content management systems, and most users cannot access all the systems. Even if you know what's on the "other" system, getting there is usually a hassle.
Column/Info Insider - March 2009 Issue, Posted Mar 02, 2009
As anyone with kids—or a good memory—knows, when you cross the "double digits" birthday threshold, it's a big deal. This year, XML crossed this threshold on Feb. 10, and this got me thinking about questions that I might ask this 10-year-old in order to gain perspective on its past and future. I know I'm late, but XML is nothing if not flexible. It assured me that even a belated party is better than none.
Column/Info Insider - December 2008 Issue, Posted Dec 01, 2008
I knew that price wouldn't last, but I became hooked and since then I've renewed every 2 years, including the digital edition. However, this year's bill gave me a case of sticker shock at nearly 30 times the original teaser price. I've already switched several of my other print publications to digital, and I suspect pricing is going to strongly encourage more digital switching.
Column/Info Insider - October 2008 Issue, Posted Sep 29, 2008
The vast majority of the clutter on local and network drives may contain records, but most are drafts or orphans that nobody recognizes and nobody dares to remove.
Column/Info Insider - May 2008 Issue, Posted Apr 23, 2008
The Pulp and Paper Products Council reported recently that more than 900,000 tons of newsprint were produced in June. In the U.S., 55 million newspapers are sold each day. That’s a lot of trees to cut down, process, print, and deliver, with lots of fossil fuels consumed in the process. What is the alternative—move everything to the web? Broadband isn’t always available (certainly on the DC Metro), so this would limit content access. Web delivery isn’t completely eco-friendly either. Estimates of our total national energy bill devoted to information technology range up to 14%. Unlike your laptop or refrigerator, web servers must run continuously.
Column/Info Insider - March 2008 Issue, Posted Mar 11, 2008
What a difference a year makes. Since my column in last year’s EC100 issue, content applications of all types have been showing their 2.0 stripes, increasingly blurring the boundaries between web and print, and where their content resides. As “Web 2.0” has become part of our vocabulary, Content 2.0 parallels are blurring web-based and non-web-based content.
Column/Info Insider - December 2007 Issue, Posted Nov 15, 2007
The long awaited use of XML in office suites has arrived. OpenOffice was the first to migrate to XML, StarOffice 8 provides an extra layer of support for OpenOffice, Corel WordPerfect was an early XML adopter and will soon import/export to other XML office suites, and Microsoft Office 2007 is built on XML. OK, the future has arrived. Now what?
Column/Info Insider - October 2007 Issue, Posted Oct 09, 2007
Internationally, the talk about moving to ODF is widespread. Meanwhile, Google and others are offering web-based alternatives. Corel WordPerfect is offering both an online office suite and promises to work interchangeably with Microsoft and ODF office suites. What’s going on here? Massive confusion and change, and this is just the beginning.
Column/Info Insider - July/August 2007 Issue, Posted Jul 24, 2007
As a teenager in northern New Hampshire, I worked after school and on weekends in a small country store. I calculated retail prices, stamped them onto cans, then stocked the shelves. I also worked the checkout register, carefully entering each item’s price into the register. This was before the use of UPC bar codes—indeed, before the ubiquitous use of microprocessors.
Column/Info Insider - May 2007 Issue, Posted May 01, 2007
Like its web counterpart, Content 2.0 is emerging in rapid fits and starts. There will be an evolution of electronic formats (and extinctions) via marketplace natural selection. Fundamental structural change is occurring in office documents, containers of 80% of all information. This happened first with ODF in OpenOffice and StarOffice 8, and now through OpenXML in Microsoft’s Office 2007.
Column/Info Insider - March 2007 Issue, Posted Mar 06, 2007
As we started 2006, I saw the “Clash of the Titans” metaphor as a way to view the struggle to dominate our content tools: Google and Microsoft were the titans, locked in mortal combat.
Column/Info Insider - December 2006 Issue, Posted Nov 30, 2006
Most of us—even we pack rats—must deal with the practical limits of magnetic and physical storage space. Like it or not, we have to be selective about what we keep and what we delete. While on the corporate side, the threat of litigation might provide incentive to toss stuff as soon as possible to avoid preserving content that could be the target of discovery in a lawsuit, there are also requirements that some things be maintained.
Column/Info Insider - October 2006 Issue, Posted Oct 03, 2006
A subtle shift is occurring in the way we value and manage our office content—those files that constitute 80% of the investments we all make in our mainstream office work: text documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. Today there are tremendous legal pressures to ensure that we abide by various mandated schedules to keep documents as long as the law requires (but no longer). On the flip side, practices are emerging to selectively destroy many of our documents that we need not keep at all. Destruction provides a measure of protection from widely cast subpoena nets.
Column/Info Insider - July/August 2006 Issue, Posted Jul 31, 2006
Up to the mid-’90s, managing content was easy. Records managers cataloged documents, locked them up, and when their retention period expired, destroyed them. The main threats were fire and water. Today, content comes in thousands of electronic formats, including email. Content’s central importance is attracting a new threat: patent litigators, the modern Willie Suttons, because—as Willie famously said about robbing banks—that’s where the money is.
Column/Info Insider - May 2006 Issue, Posted May 09, 2006
Vendors always compete for your computing desktop. Some competition takes a whimsical form, like “Flying Toaster” screen savers. Some competition is strategic: operating systems, browsers, Internet services, and more recently, desktop search. Another big battle is brewing for your desktop. This time, it is about content—specifically, office documents: word processing, presentation, and spreadsheet files. The titans this time are Microsoft and Google, with assistance primarily from Sun and OpenOffice, and with lots of lesser players also getting into the act. Office products account for a large portion of Microsoft’s profits, so I believe this will be a Battle Royale.
Column/Info Insider - March 2006 Issue, Posted Mar 10, 2006
It seems like an eternity since the initial promises of XML, and many have faded from memory. Remember any? Pay the considerable cost of using XML to structure your documents, and they would pay you back by providing ways to convert, reuse, reassemble, or analyze them. Invest in structure now; get dividends soon. It’s been a long wait, but interacting with documents may be just around the corner.
Column/Info Insider - December 2005 Issue, Posted Nov 16, 2005
I’m not humming a tune about Google, but that company rocks, and its engine is very popular. On the content side, Adobe can claim universal acceptance of Acrobat and its built-in search. Most large firms have made long-term commitments to a single enterprise CMS from the likes of Documentum or FileNet, or to a single database vendor like Oracle. Each such commitment is also an indirect commitment to that vendor’s search system.
Column/Info Insider - October 2005 Issue, Posted Sep 28, 2005
From the start, Adobe fine-tuned Acrobat with releases every 18 months or so. Most releases offered stunning new features, often with a modified interface, and an increasingly heavier client footprint that took correspondingly larger amounts of storage and time to load. Some versions seemed perfunctory; others offered significant new capabilities. Acrobat 7 falls into the latter camp. After letting the new 7.0 release settle down with the inevitable service upgrade, what is really new about Acrobat 7.01? More important, given Adobe’s acquisition of Macromedia, is it time to fundamentally reconsider your use of Adobe and Acrobat?
Column/Info Insider - July/August 2005 Issue, Posted Aug 17, 2005
Maybe it’s because I have always had more stuff on my PCs than most of my peers, and as such, I have trouble finding things, that I was a very early adopter of desktop search. I really loved a $99 product called QuickFind from a small company named Softscape. I found it so useful that I wrote a review of it in 1998. QuickFind indexed and found all major files you created on your PC. In those days, “networking” meant “dial-up,” and my home PC was essentially standalone. PC viruses were almost unheard of. You found worms only in your garden and Trojan horses were the stuff of Greek mythology.
Column/Info Insider - May 2005 Issue, Posted May 09, 2005
I am one of many who rode the XML content roller coaster up: high hopes for the use of SMIL in multimedia; SVG for graphics; create-once and reuse many times for everything from office documents to highly-disciplined technical documentation. And down: Microsoft ignored SMIL and SVG; few office workers ever mastered using MS Word styles that could provide additional document structure. What hope was there for the discipline and promise of XML?
Column/Info Insider - March 2005 Issue, Posted Mar 29, 2005
While the word may cause eyes to roll, organizations may find that taxonomy also causes blood to boil.
Column/Info Insider - December 2004 Issue, Posted Nov 29, 2004
Among the chores people hate most is filling out forms—paper or electronic—and vendors have struggled to make usable eforms for years. Three recent attempts show promise.
Column/Info Insider - October 2004 Issue, Posted Sep 15, 2004
You may have invested a great deal in site design and maintenance yet still have a silent majority of frustrated Web visitors. Help might help.
Column/Info Insider - July/August 2004 Issue, Posted Aug 04, 2004
Several times this year I’ve read proclamations from journalists and consultants that 2004 will be “The Year of Search.” Didn’t search already arrive?
Column/Info Insider - May 2004 Issue, Posted May 01, 2004
Without trying to convince you that monitoring every XML-related occurrence is good for you, I will explain why I monitor the W3C and other sites. Perhaps you’ll see how stewards of econtent might also find it useful and even develop a taste for it.
Column/Info Insider - March 2004 Issue, Posted Mar 01, 2004
2003 has been the “year of content,” and 2004 promises even more excitement. By content I mean a “book-like collection of related information objects;” “book-like” because nearly all content carries some of the attributes of books.
Column/Info Insider - December 2003 Issue, Posted Dec 12, 2003
For nearly 10 years, Adobe Acrobat’s Portable Document Format (PDF) has remained the undisputed standard for visually-faithful electronic renditions of print documents. With such momentum, what more could Adobe do? Not rest on its laurels.
Column/Info Insider - November 2003 Issue, Posted Nov 19, 2003
If you work with STM publishing, sooner or later you’ll need to produce mathematical expressions, which seems simple until you try to bridge the gap between authors and production.
Column/Info Insider - August/September 2003 Issue, Posted Sep 16, 2003
What happened in the past five years to divert XML from its original use, and how does this affect plans for your content today?
Column/Info Insider - July 2003 Issue, Posted Jul 20, 2003
You know a concept has gone mainstream when you find that related products are frequently out of stock at your local discount warehouse. For me, that epiphany was prompted by—as unlikely as it may seem—paper shredders.
Column/Info Insider - May 2003 Issue, Posted May 01, 2003
Let’s look at taxonomies, categorization, product creep, and XML as further differentiators in selecting a single search solution for knowledge management.
Column/Info Insider - March 2003 Issue, Posted Mar 01, 2003
Knowledge Management is one of those terms that periodically goes in and out of favor. Whatever name you give it though, consistently capturing and reusing intellectual assets within an organization that values information-sharing is a critical
Column/Info Insider - January 2003 Issue, Posted Jan 01, 2003
News/News Feature - July 2002 Issue, Posted Jul 01, 2002
News/News Feature - May 2002 Issue, Posted May 01, 2002