Tim's Weblog
Tim Strehle’s links and thoughts on Web apps, software development and Digital Asset Management, since 2002.

Digital Asset Management.com: DAM Champ: Tim Strehle

This article was written by Laurel Norris and published on the Digital Asset Management.com site (owned by DAM vendor Widen) on September 19, 2015, under the URL http://digitalassetmanagement.com/blog/dam-champ-tim-strehle/. Because that site’s blog posts are not available anymore, I’m publishing a copy on my blog.

If you are active in the DAM community on Twitter, you’ve probably crossed paths with Tim Strehle, who runs the media site Planet DAM, on Twitter as @PlanetDAM. What you may not realize is the Strehle is a full-time web developer at Digital Collections, a DAM provider in Hamburg, Germany and has a degree in information science.

This unique combination of skills and experience allows Strehle to see DAM from all angles: system development, asset organization, and industry promotion.

Follow Planet DAM for updates or see Strehle’s personal Twitter and LinkedIn accounts.

DAM champ: Someone who supports finding, setting up, or maintaining a digital asset management system (DAM). There is a big variety in DAM champions, who come from positions in production, creative, management, IT, and marketing.

What got you interested in digital asset management?

In 1994 I did an internship at a magazine publisher’s press archives, one of Europe’s largest archives back in the day.

Their database of millions of scanned newspaper clippings had no fulltext search functionality at the time, so articles without proper descriptions were lost forever. Librarians rotated weekly between indexing new articles and performing searches for journalists. They had their own faceted thesaurus and held weekly meetings on how to keep their metadata consistent.

This was where I fell in love with DAM and metadata. And I got interested in building information systems, so I delved into data modeling and database programming.

How does your background in info science influence your work as a DAM system developer?

My colleagues know what a thesaurus is, but I help them understand the more esoteric questions librarians occasionally ask. I also take care that we adhere to established or evolving metadata standards, and do a bit of company-internal advocacy when our customers’ information pros request features that seem overly pedantic or complex to my colleagues. But most importantly, my love for data structures and metadata made me focus on a solid and flexible data model for our DAM systems. This includes the Topic Maps engine I sneaked into our product while no-one was looking.

As a developer, what do you think are the most important things for people to keep in mind when they implement a DAM system?

As you can imagine, I’ve seen a lot of things go wrong in my 18 years as a DAM developer. So I have a bit of advice to give…

  1. Be prepared to invest a lot of time. When shopping for DAM software, test everything you need the product to do. Interoperability with other software is harder to test, but existing customers can demonstrate it to you. Don’t skip any feature taking it for granted, and ask all the dumb questions you can think of.
  2. During and after implementation, make sure to have a well-prepared project manager on your end who knows your data structures, usage patterns and requirements and who is involved in all the communication between your organization and the DAM vendor. Communication problems, ill-prepared projects and guesswork are poisonous. The people involved are the biggest success factor.

What advice would you give new or future “DAMchamps”, who know their organization needs a way to organize and manage assets, and needs to justify the investment to their boss?

Tough question. Most of our customers are media companies who are well aware that it’ll cost them reputation and money if they fail to track asset usage and rights properly.

If your organization faces the same problem, you’ve already made the case for DAM because you can’t do rights management with a file share approach. But whichever way you’ve won this argument, start small and solve real business problems as soon as possible to build up trust.

What is the best thing about DAM?

Two things:

  1. First, the creative works we’re dealing with in our DAM systems. It’s so much more rewarding than working with dull data and numbers. Huge effort, talent and creativity has gone into creating these photos, videos and articles, and a well-run DAM system sheds the light on them, covertly removing the barriers between the content and the people working with it. Great management (of any kind) is invisible most of the time.
  2. The second thing is the DAM community on the Web. You’re an awesome group of welcoming people, willing to share and educate and debate for the benefit of the whole industry, not just your employer. Thanks so much to all of you!

Information science and marketing technology are two different fields, and they are merging in digital asset management and the rise of digital archives. What do you think the two fields can learn from each other?

Marketing is obsessed with making a measurable short-term impact, and closely tied to business objectives. That’s something we information managers can learn from; I’m afraid we may be missing some short-term opportunities to help the business while we’re sitting in our ivory tower, building the next great system. On the other hand, I’m sure the rise of “content marketing” will teach marketers a lot about metadata.

Do you recommend any resources for people new to DAM?

There’s tons of DAM articles on the Web, but to learn the basics, read a book first. You’ll find a list of good DAM books in David Diamond’s Getting Started article. Get some practice by playing around with one of the DAM systems that offer a free trial, and make sure to get in touch with people experienced in DAM (via DAM Guru Program or a DAM Meetup). A short internship could be the perfect start.

Then, start reading DAM articles: Don’t miss anything written by David Diamond, Deb Fanslow, Demian Hess and Ralph Windsor, who keep pushing the DAM industry forward and are fun to read. Follow Another DAM Podcast, DAM Guru, DAM News and Digital Asset Management.com. And to those suffering from FOMO (the “fear of missing out”), welcome to my Planet DAM! ed note: see Deb Fanslow’s DAM Champ profile here.