The Digital Liability

During my time in the creative services and web technology industries, a point of frustration has been that a lot of potentially productive energy is squandered as practitioners argue about whether a solution is one or more of the following:

  • Web Content Management (WCM) or
  • Digital Asset Management (DAM) or
  • Enterprise Content Management (ECM) or
  • Learning Content Management (LCM) or
  • Some Other Acronym (SOA)

So that we may bypass such distractions, let me say the following:

    • All digital assets are content; however…
    • Not all content can be considered an asset.
    • Content must provide organizational value to be considered digital asset.

That being said, my question is what makes a digital liability?

There are many attributes about a content item that can diminish its value. These are a few that come to mind:

  • Digital master is of insufficient resolution, improper color space, or inadequate frame rate (for video).
  • Content is improperly described by metadata.
  • Multiple replicas (or approximations) of a content item are stored many different locations. This can include copies nested in files system directories or stored in offline media.
  • Organizational technologies or processes don’t provide adequate reuse/repurposing opportunities.
  • Inconsistent modifications among language derivatives of content items.
  • Files where renditions, or proxies become detached from their source files
  • Inadequate archival policy.
  • Compound content (from Quark, HTML, InDesign, etc.) that is ‘unaware’ of the locations of its supporting files such as photos and illustrations.

In short, if your content can’t be found, used, transformed, or shared then it is a digital liability.

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Recently, I was walking my dog when I heard the squeal of tires from a car that I couldn’t see. I assumed it was at the stoplight at the bottom of hill that was out of my view.

Moments later, I saw a 70s-era  muscle car,  barreling in the opposite direction, climbing the hill. He seemed to be going  at least 60 mph, and still accelerating, on a residential street where speed limit is 25. 

Expecting to see a teen behind the wheel, I was surprised that it was a  man who  was likely well into his 30s, or older.

I held my arms out, with palms up, and glared at him while shouting  “WHAT THE FUCK?!?” He returned the glare and shook his head and did not attempt to slow down.

About two minutes later, I approached an  intersection and  looked over my shoulder to see if there were any cars trying to turn right.  I noticed  a car traveling at the same speed I was walking.  I stopped and motioned for the driver to go ahead and turn.

My pulse quickened when I realized it was the car that had been racing  up the hill. The car stopped bedside where I stood. My immediate conclusion was that he’d returned with retaliation in mind.

I wondered what he was bringing to the confrontation. A baseball bat? Other people in the car? A pistol?  

All I’d brought was a dog and bag full of poo. Still, I liked my chances.

I  turned and looked at the driver, and the passenger seats. He was the only one in the car, so I fixed my gaze on him and braced for an escalation. 

He began to speak. I wasn’t prepared for the volume level. He said in a quiet voice, “Hey, I’m sorry.”


He continued “I was driving like a total ass, you were right to be mad. I was testing some repairs that I’d made, but that’s no excuse for speeding like that on this street. I promise to be more careful.”

 I was keyed-up for a  fracas and was dealt a quiet apology. I was totally unprepared for that. And the “I promise to be more careful,” made me feel like a TV sitcom dad listening to an admission of guilt from one of  the Brady Bunch kids. 

For one of the few times in my life I was stunned nearly  to the point of silence. The only words I could muster were, “Thanks for the apology.  Have a good evening. And be careful.”


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My Favorite Things

It was a wickedly cold morning just like this when I walked a few blocks from my Ravenswood apartment, and was fortunate that there was a 145 bus, idling in the lot, awaiting its departure time. I don’t remember what was ahead for me at work that day, but my job at the time rather tedious–making truck parts fliers for an ad agency–so it wasn’t that different than the day before.

The driver saw me shivering outside and was kind enough to let me in before his run though it was technically against CTA policy.

As I sat down he pointed his index figure toward my face and  offered this sinister warning: “You can stay on this bus as long as you don’t tell anybody what you’re about to see or hear.” Then “You got that?”

I nodded then put proceeded to unfold my copy of The Chicago Tribune.

With that he pulled a hard plastic case from the floor to his lap. When he opened the case and started to assemble its components, I saw the glistening of the metallic shaft he had in his hand.

I screamed with every fiber of my being, “My God! He has…. a FLUTE!!!!”

Then he glanced over his shoulder and  placed his piece near his lips and played “Take Five” and then “My Favorite Things.”

My winter morning commutes are rarely that appealing nowadays. Now they begin with scraping ice from the windows of an automobile, and many days digging out my driveway  after being plowed in.

There’s never a walk through the brisk cold, with some chance encounters with neighbors, or strangers, or a bit of window-shopping. Those things all put a spring in my step, at least until I began the bone-dissolving work of staring at line-art renderings of spark plugs, oil filters, and mud flaps.

Though on that particular morning, the unexpected jazz performance set the tone for my entire day. It wasn’t just the music, it was the serendipity. I wish there were a way that I could plan serendipitous events. They would certainly  involve more flutes and fewer cars.

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Bad Dog!

One Friday night my dog, Pete, started whimpering.

“I am not making you pudding!” I’d had a long day, and it was nearly 11:00 pm.

He persisted so I went to the pantry and pulled out the vanilla pudding mix. He cried again until I went back and grabbed the butterscotch pack. I went to the refrigerator and saw that we were out of milk.

I said “Sorry Pete, I can’t make the pudding…ah!!! Don’t look at me like that!! D & W is closed, I am NOT driving all the way to Meijer!”

Closeup Picture of Dog's face white fur with brown spots

Puppy Dog Eyes

He lifted his leg on the couch so I handed him the keys to my Accord. He put out his paw again. “I don’t have any money! You’re going to have use my Visa card.”

I waited for a few minutes, but decided to go to bed. I woke up at 4:30 am and went downstairs and looked all over for Pete, but I couldn’t find him. I looked outside and the car was still gone.

Frantic, I called the police. “Well… he’s about 2 feet tall. Uh, brown eyes. White hair, with brown spots, his tail is…Excuse me? Yes, he has a tail…uh, never mind I’ll find him myself.”

Lori and I got in to the Civic and drove a grid pattern over Kent County for hours and hours.  At about 10:00 pm that night we found the car crashed into a light pole downtown. There was an empty six pack of Michelob Ultra’s in the back seat. I was furious.

With Pete’s picture in hand, we questioned the merchants and patrons downtown for any leads in finding him. After a few hours we spoke to a bartender who had seen him. “Yeah, he was here. He bought drinks for everybody all night. He ran up a $650 bill then tipped me $150 dollars. Then he left with a woman who dances at the, uh… gentleman’s club around the corner.”

He pointed us toward the club and we headed in. We found Pete, passed out, at a table, near the stage, where a woman was dancing around a pole. A drool-sopped Visa bill was on the table was under Pete’s jaw. I lifted Pete’s head and saw the total-another $400, nearly $150 for lap dances. I screamed. He was jolted awake.

“Pete! Bad dog!!! How could you do this?!? We’ve been worried sick about you! We thought you’d been hurt. How many times have I said no beer in the car?!? You wrecked my car and I know the insurance company won’t pay for a car that was totaled by a drunk beagle-mutt. Then, you go out and spend $1,000 on drinks for strangers!. And $150 for lap dances….you don’t even have a lap! This is terrible, you’ve never done anything like this before!”

“I’ve never had the money before” he said.


(Full disclosure: the punchline is not mine. I’ve heard several versions this type of joke. I heard a version on a radio show (circa 2000) and I looked into it a bit, but have not determined its origin, though I know that Soupy Sales did a version of the joke on one of his TV series.)

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