Thoughts on automation vs. editorial

Look at almost any website today and you’ll see a level of automation at play. Perhaps as simple as a Dreamweaver template, or as sophisticated as the BBC News publishing system, but there will almost certainly be something happening without pure hand coding and individual attention. Skill in web programming now often lies in allowing content to be added in a way that links it with other appropriate content, while maintaining some kind of editorial integrity. Blogs are an interesting example of the technology taking hold of a genre. Is it the case that the most recent post on a blog is necessarily the one the author would really like to promote?

Many sites combine automation with editorial control, either by integrating the ability to rate content or the order of content, or providing different interfaces that add that editorial integrity. For example, a database driven site, with categories, but a hand coded homepage, pointing at the most relevant items.

Automation is becoming more and more clever, as ways to manage meta data associated with content is thought through. This allows us to start thinking about linking our content to content on other sites, based on topics rather than explicit choices to link to particular content.

I read a blog recently (sorry, can’t remember where) that didn’t include any links in the text, based on the presumption that you could search Google for any referenced articles, or at least an article similar to the one cited. The concession the blog made was to give lots of clues about the site cited, which made the entry more fulfilling, as you could establish bias etc. without having to chase off and look at other links.

So, what brought this to mind today? I’ve been thinking about moblogging and wondering about integrating it into this site. While I’d love to, it raises all sorts of issues for me about the frustrations I have with Movable Type and Gallery. Gallery is horribly unsatisfactory – it uses nasty templates and doesn’t allow for proper meta data. But it does allow editorialising on the pictures homepage, so I can select lead images, order my galleries, and present them to you in the way that I want. Ideally, I’d have a system that allowed me to collect pictures together, but also let people navigate by date and topic. This is the sort of idea you can see on Flickr, but again, not quite enough editorialising, and I’ve got something against putting my stuff on other people’s sites (for no good reason). So, I’m still thinking about it…