"Web Publishing for Everyone"
"Now anyone can update a website without knowing HTML," says Macromedia, in introducing the latest addition to its Studio FX Suite (Dreamweaver, Fireworks, Flash, etc), Contribute.
The spread of the web has created a division of labor into two types of web-workers:
Contribute caters to both groups. It enables content people to update websites without messing around with website structure and code. Built-in version control and a check-out system keep things in sync and reduce the risk of one author's work overwriting another's. The Web pros get to control who does what -- and protect the integrity of their sites.
The content provider browses to the page she wants to change and clicks "Edit." Then she may enter new text, insert an image, or drag in a Word document. The system administrator may grant more extensive permissions, e.g. to add new pages.
I've used Dreamweaver to put together webpages and manage websites for several years. It is, well, a dream to use. Contribute's interface is similar to Dreamweaver's minus 90% of the buttons. Less is more. (I wish Microsoft would do the same for Word.)
I predict that Contribute is going to be a big success. Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication, and Contribute makes creating webpages no more difficult than word processing.
Macromedia is emphasizing delegating content creation to the subject-matter experts. Contribute contains everything the content creater needs and sells for only $99, a quarter of the cost of Dreamweaver. This price will drop as competitors mimic Macromedia's strategy.
In time, the benefit of speeding the flow of timely information by making just-in-time changes will kick in. In the old pre-intranet days, organizational policies changed at the rate it took to move paper physically from one place to another. Paper-intensive organizations such as banks were inevitably working from out-of-date manuals. The advent of networks made it possible beat the paper chase by updating one online document to share with all. The time-delay was formatting the document for the web.
Products like Contribute put web publishing in the hands of decision-makers and cut the time from decision to dissemination to zero. (This is a orime reason I've been touting blogs as knowledge management tools.)
Free-market economist Milton Friedman has said that in addition to "the invisible hand" helping steer things in the right direction, we must watch out for "the invisible foot." Rumors are flying that Microsoft will purchase Macromedia. Lordy, I hope not.
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