Being a Widen DAMster: An interview with Corey Chimko, Global DAM Administrator at Cornell University Photography
1. How long have you been a Widen user?
About a year and a half. We launched our DAM system in January of 2012.
2. How often do you use the Media Collective?
Every day (except weekends - ha!). I’m on it all day every day.
3. In what area(s) of your organization is Widen’s DAM system being used?
The photo department primarily, but also users in every college and school that is affiliated with Cornell. Our primary users are the University’s top-level marketing department, then each college and school also has their own smaller marketing department.
Just about anyone connected to Cornell uses it; alumni, staff, students, faculty. Many log in primarily for photo research while others simply browse the collections rather than it being part of their workflow. Non-Cornell designers and news/internet media people also use our system. There are a lot of different groups.
4. For what kinds of activities are you using it?
The primary use is the photography archive, although we don’t think of it as archival tool, but rather as a place to do photo research for marketing purposes. The news and marketing departments use it to locate images for the Cornell website, on-campus publications, and the Cornell Chronicle.
It’s also used to deliver photos to our clients. When a photographer does a shoot, we upload the images to the Widen DAM system, deliver to the client, and then the images remain in the DAM solution in perpetuity. After the specific use for which the images are shot has passed, the images become available to the entire Cornell community.
External media and clients can order high resolution images directly through the DAM solution. We also use it to drive traffic to our e-commerce site, where we sell prints of events like awards ceremonies, graduation, reunion, and so forth. The Widen Media Collective is our most visible site, so we use it to drive traffic.
I personally upload and deliver assets with the DAM system. In terms of metadata, about 80% is entered offline in Bridge and then mapped during import to the Media Collective. We take full advantage of the metadata mapping feature.
5. How do your users use the Collective?
They download the photos we shoot and send to them, or use it for their own research and project-specific workflows. They use it to request high resolution images for print or optimized versions of images for their websites. They see it as a repository of all of the images that we have shot for them over the years. They can also upload and manage their own collections that don’t come from Cornell’s photography department.
If a client is working on a project, staff can collaborate by creating a collection and sharing it with their colleagues.
We frequently work with external designers and publishers by giving them a login so they can work with their Cornell clients' collections. Optimized images can be sent to public media such as the New York Times or Fox News.
6. What is the most useful thing the Media Collective does for you?
The upload speed is key. I would say that the biggest problem with any system we have used in the past was that it couldn't cope with the volume of content we have and the speed at which it needs to be delivered. Widen does it like a charm; it’s amazing how fast it is for us.
The metadata mapping feature also saves us a tremendous amount of time. It’s faster to input our metadata in Bridge; importing it rather than re-entering it or entering it within the DAM is far faster.
7. What are your favorite apps on your smart phone?
Words with Friends, Tumblr, Kindle, Evernote, Pinball Arcade, Lumosity. Oh and Cooliris, which is a VERY cool photo app.
8. Which tech websites or blogs do you follow?
Nothing fanatically, but I do follow the Widen blog and the LinkedIn Widen page, and sometimes browse wired.com or ZDNet. Whatever is big in the news gets fed my way.
9. What do you think is the most important thing other users should know about using a digital asset management system?
The number one thing is to know your users and understand what their needs and workflows are. I’ve come across many good digital asset managers who are diligent about organization and metadata, but they don’t understand how to tailor search to the way their users are searching, or how to make functionality transparent for people who may not be tech savvy. Functionality that, as an internet user, you might assume they know how to do: browsing a category tree for example, or using an advanced search. Many users will do one very broad search and, if they don’t find exactly what they’re looking for right away, they assume that it’s not there.
When you understand the way in which your users think - they may be using terminology or folksonomies unknown to you - you can then incorporate that into your system. I think users vastly underestimate both the usefulness and the complexity of DAM systems, so user education is very important, but also perhaps one of the most difficult challenges that a digital asset manager faces.