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Monday, July 02, 2007

DAM London 2007

Last week, I attended the Digital Asset Management (DAM) Conference, hosted by Henry Stewart Events at the Radisson SAS Portman Hotel, near Marble Arch. The DAM Conferences are held throughout the year, with events also in New York, Amsterdam, and Paris.

And what IS Digital Asset Management? A participant asked a conference panel this question in the last 15 minutes of a Q&A session. The moderator replied: "I'm sorry we only have 15 minutes." The attendees laughed with that extra self-congratulatory edge of an inside joke received.

The current definition at Wikipedia is as simple and concise as any: "DIGITAL ASSET MANAGEMENT consists of tasks and decisions surrounding ingesting, annotating, cataloguing, storage and retrieval of digital assets, such as digital photographs, animations, videos and music."

It's worth noting that the term "Digital Asset Management" is actually on the wane, and is being replaced by "Media Asset Management". The thinking seems to be that since virtually all information can be stored digitally, the word "Digital" is no more a helpful descriptor than the word "electric" would be to describe a lightbulb. All lightbulbs use electricity; all image, sound and text media can be reduced to a file on a hard drive.

All those years ago, at the turn of the century, media companies looked forward to a dazzling future in which a single DAM system would usher a piece of content through the entire enterprise, from conception to production to exhibition to archiving to repurposing. Any individual - with the proper permissions - could track and retrieve any image, any audio file, any video from anywhere at anytime.

It was the consensus in more than one panel I attended at the DAM Conference that this ideal has essentially been abandoned. Enterprises are resigned to having multiple - and sometimes not even compatible - DAM / MAM systems operating. And, in fact, that is perfectly fine.

We love our technology. It seems to be human nature to want to acquire the one system that does everything with one press of one button. But, as we well know, when such a thing occurs, we get antsy about having to press that one button, and we look forward to the day when there will be a great leap forward in which all button pressing is eliminated. And should that day come, well, then we will look forward to the time when we do not have to even be present at all, etc. We're never happy, are we?

In practical terms, the use of multiple systems - by all reports - works well in media companies across Britain. In fact, I would argue that a single blanket solution for all data storage issues, is too much putting of all eggs in one basket. A modest diversity among the solutions your company selects to store its media at different points along the chain is probably sensible and may be more forgiving of errors made at different points along the way. One problem with a universal solution is that it can also lead to problems which are equally universal.

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