Metadata CMS

It always excites me to see some of the amazing ideas coming out to make providing reliable information easier.

I've just read an article at Boxes and Arrows about Building a Metadata-Based Website (thanks to Simon Willison's Blogmarks).

The article is an interesting look at an alternative to conventional CMS systems by building the presentation based on the data itself, contrary to the usual method of displaying what looks best. The philosophy is that links between pages gets built up based on relationships, rather than on what the situation when the page is written.

Personally, I love this idea.

Last year I did some work on a small project for a hardware store allowing clients to build up custom PCs based on relationships between the devices - Motherboard selected had a 8x AGP slot so only relevant AGP video cards were displayed, a SATA HDD relied on either a SATA PCI card or a motherboard with SATA, etc. Although the project fell through, from a design perspective the notion of a data-driven application was awesome to work on. There's a certain elegance to a system built up in a semi-organic fashion from basic rules acting on known relationships.

Unfortunately, as the article discusses, this solution is overkill for all but the largest of enterprises - without a bulk of interrelated data, the huge setup costs just don't make sense. Unfortunately, this means that my chances on getting to work on a real system such as this is probably limited (in the short term anyway).

Part of the reason why I think I like this idea so much is because of how powerful it can be - not only does all of the related information come from one authoritative source, but it can be used for public or internal use, allows for the simplified construction of organic threads between nodes of information, and is able to expand the information known about a single node with every addition of information.

One of the well known tactics to keeping clients is to keep them informed. What better way than by effectively building an automated Wikipedia of everything your business can offer?