5 Responses to Features and Functions that my Digital Asset Management System (DAM) should have

  1. Per Karlsson August 11, 2014 at 12:52 #

    I had a comment on a forum that I think is so interesting that I would like to share it here:

    I have one quibble. For item #7 (keywords/captions) you say:

    “A note on hierarchical keywords: I do not need the DAM to handle hierarchical keywords. Hierarchical keywords, or a “controlled vocabulary”, can be a good tool in some situations to find good keywords. But hierarchical keywords / a controlled vocabulary is too rigid a structure for it to be applicable when keywording images in a DAM.”

    I’m not sure what you mean by this statement. A controlled vocabulary is not the same as hierarchical keywords. As I understand it, a controlled vocabulary is a managed list (or lists) of regular keywords, whereas (a set of) hierarchical keywords is a specific type of controlled vocabulary that lets you define relationships between keywords.

    These tools are implemented separately in Expression Media/Media Pro and both are essential to my use of the software (I actually still use Expression Media).

    I have found hierarchical keywords to be especially useful because of their memorized structure. If you’re cataloguing wildlife (named according to a strict scientific/taxonomic structure that can consist of a dozen keywords), hierarchical keywords can save hours of time when applied to future images.

    These are precisely the features I expect from a DAM.

    Here’s my answer:

    Yes, I agree, hierarchical keywords (HK) and a controlled vocabulary (CV) is not the same thing.

    And yes, I can understand that many people would find either or both a HK and CV very useful. I can also understand that for some it would be a critical component of a DAM.

    However, not for me, not for the way I work.

    I tried for some time to use David Rieck’s Controlled Vocabulary (http://www.controlledvocabulary.com/) and have also occasionally tried using HK. But I always found it to be too rigid.

    On the other hand I have used it as “inspiration”, but in a more flexible way, to help feed my own keyword lists.

    I think that i CV would be most relevant in a “closed” environment, within an organisation. But when you are working with “publicly” available stock the “controlled” part is too limiting. Instead you have to be imaginative. You have instead to try and think of “what possible search terms could people use and be happy to find this picture?”

    And HK is obviously useful when you work with e.g. botanical subjects with a clear hierarchy. But I generally don’t

    But then again, if I found a good DAM that had a CV or HK perhaps I would find a good way to use them. (BTW that is actually a feature that my current DAM, Portfolio, does NOT have.)

    • Chris Rakoczy April 2, 2015 at 17:02 #

      It’s my understanding that Controlled Vocabularies refer to *content* while Hierachies refer to *structure*.

      I am currently cleaning up a 3600+ word flat, messy, disorganized keyword list for my new employer. We have healthcare-specific keywords that would not likely appear in a generic CV dataset like that by David Rieck. In effect, I’m building my own CV based on the vocab we actually need. That only addresses the content, however.

      The structure is also important. I leverage Hierarchical Keywords to organize the vocab I am building into logical genus-specis type order, and also to apply multiple relevant parent keywords. For example, knowing where a photo was made is useful, so I have rooms and departments inside buildings inside facilities inside cities. I can apply Cityville > ABC Campus > North Building > XYZ Department simply by applying the most child keyword.

      In that way, I find that CV and MK are not the same, CV and MK are not mutually exclusive, and in fact CV and MK work hand-in-hand to make keywording more efficient and more robust.

  2. Per Karlsson August 11, 2014 at 13:59 #

    Here’s another very interesting comment that I take the liberty to copy from a thread on the excellent Media Pro user-to-user forum (http://goo.gl/bfL0ss)

    Interesting indeed. I follow all the dam tools and it will be very interesting how you compare them.

    I also have a few notes. Right now I can’t reply in detail but some short ones: you have the company as your first criterium. I think this is meaningless. We’ve seen enough of the big companies dropping their tools without notice. This includes Adobe, Microsoft, Apple (recently), extensis (recently), canto (recently), Corel (recently), and more. Maybe a valid aspect in this area is how long a product is in the market. Anything else is “air”.

    Also, your criteria are based on existing features here. For example; how you describe the portfolio “categories” is not what I would call virtual galleries, though you could use it for that purpose.

    Your ideas about embedding metadata are outdated and more based on the limitations of Portfolio.

    Export to CSV etc; your argument is that export and import is a requirement to be “the only way to guarantee independence” is also outdated. How you describe it for Portfolio this does make sense for you to get your data in your new DAM, but once working with other dams you shouldn’t need its import. There are more, and more efficient, ways to achieve the same.

    Your search requirement is based on portfolio. While I agree with the requirement, I disagree with that outdated dialog to achieve this.

    Multiple catalogues and searching over them are a result of the limitations of Portfolio. Is that still 2Gb? Any modern dam can store up to terabytes in a single database. Searching over multiple databases, at least to me, seems like you shouldn’t have separated them in the first place. But I do understand that if a dam only supports 2GB databases that this is a requirement.

    It’s not my intention to criticize your approach, but I want to illustrate that some requirements are not always relevant or my be open for different interpretations. Good luck with your comparisons. And don’t forget; the devil is always in the details with these tools and getting to the details takes lots of time. And they change with every update of the software.

    You are absolutely right, my comments are based on my habit of working with Portfolio. Inevitably. In time, after changing, the way I work may very well change.

    I don’t agree with your comment on “company”. It is a matter of taking an informed decision. But I still think it is important to know a bit about who’s behind it. Is it a big company, famous for its poor customer support and bullying? Is it a small one-man shop? It is impossible to predict the future but it is better to know something about the current situation.

    Also, I am not saying that I want a new DAM to do exactly what Portfolio does, I am just trying to find ways of performing the tasks that I need to do in a DAM. Inevitably I use terminology from Portfolio since that is my current tool. For example the “virtual galleries” is a tool that significantly speeds up my keywording. (If Portfolio’s “categories” were intended in another way is beside the point. What is important is what it allows me to do.)

    I don’t see why “Export to CSV etc; your argument is that export and import is a requirement to be “the only way to guarantee independence” is also outdated.”. Unless you rely 100% on embedded metadata, or on sidecar files I don’t see how it can be outdated.

    Also, it is an important tool for me to provide data to Alamy. I don’t see how I could do that in any other way. I’d be happy to learn!

    Your other points on limitations in Portfolio and that it is outdated (it certainly is!) may or may not also be relevant for other DAM. Remains to be seen.

    I definitely agree with your conclusion, the devil is in the details. It is not sufficient to look at specs or have a quick run-through of the SW. You have to go through all the workflow process in detail and see how it works for you!

    I’d be curious to know what you suggest today as DAM!

  3. Ashia October 15, 2014 at 23:45 #

    Question #1: I would be interested to hear whether you or anyone else has considered Filemaker Pro 13. It is a generic database software that can be customized for a variety of purposes. I am trying to transfer files from Portfolio 8.5 to another database system and it is proving to be quite painful. So far I have been able to export the Portfolio data and import it into Filemaker, but the images don’t transfer, so that is really not very helpful! I am quite distressed that Extensis pulled the plug. It seems like *some* company out there should want to scoop up those customers who just want an easy-to-use stand-alone (not cloud-based!) DAM…
    Question #2: With the various DAM solutions you are exploring, I am wondering about the ease of transfer from Portfolio. Any thoughts/experience regarding this?
    Thanks in advance for your helpful post!!!


  1. I am looking for a good DAM: Digital Asset Management software | BKWine Photography | - August 10, 2014

    […] Here is a follow-up post where I look more in detail at DAM requirements. […]

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