Changes at DAM News
We have been making a few changes here at DAM News which I wanted to make our readers aware of. Firstly, my co-contributor, Russell Charles McVeigh is now the editor and will assume responsibility for all day-to-day operations.
The weekly news round-up, events and job listings will continue as usual. Further, we are still accepting articles from external contributors (subject to them meeting our editorial guidelines). Currently, I remain the proprietor and publisher of DAM News – although that too may change. I am also winding down my DAM consulting business, Daydream and no longer getting involved with large-scale Enterprise DAM and Digital Asset Supply Chain implementation projects.
So what are the reasons for all this? The first is health-related. With impeccable timing, shortly before the Covid pandemic got going in early 2020, I was diagnosed with a form of Chronic Kidney Disease called IgA Nephropathy. The doctors refer to my condition as ‘a common rare disease’ (an oxymoron which the medical profession seem uniquely capable of devising). What the outcome will be, whether I will need dialysis or transplants etc. at some point is impossible to predict. Similarly, no one knows why I have acquired it in the first place (although I can count myself lucky it was not until later in life, unlike those who get it in childhood). There is a good possibility that drugs might become available to treat the condition, but no one knows when, nor if they will actually work.
Faced with this existential threat which might potentially short change me of my three-score and ten, some difficult decisions have needed to be made. I have worked in the DAM field for 28 years now and my considered opinion is that it hasn’t lived up to its promise. The opportunity offered by the increased demand for DAM which has been in-play for at least 20 years or so has essentially been squandered by the current cohort of actors in the DAM industry. I would, unfortunately, have to consider myself among their number, despite my best efforts.
This market has been a demonstration of what happens when you get a niche tech sector suffering from a poverty of new ideas, combined with a febrile concoction of group-think, cliques, cabals, under-investment (or poor capital allocation decisions when money was made available) combined with an ever-present fear that the whole artifice could come crashing down at any moment.
To borrow one my Father’s colourful expressions, both the DAM industry and its self-appointed leadership are, in my opinion, NFG. I now want to go and do something else more productive and interesting with whatever time I have remaining.
Before I do so, however, I want to take a final opportunity to analyse how I see things shaping up for the DAM market, both good and bad.
Unquestionably, the driving force behind the growth of DAM in the last 20-30 years has been the exponential growth of archived digital assets. The recent introduction of Generative AI (GenAI), however, potentially disrupts this factor. In the future, there may not be the same reliance on archived material if it is possible to generate what you require from a text prompt instead. It is true that GenAI won’t be a suitable source for all content. There are still significant numbers of digital assets which are likely to be impossible to generate via algorithms alone, but even so, this technology will undeniably have an impact and it will be a progressively more influential one.
The option to search archives and sift through results will be far less appealing than the ability to generate what (in supply chain management terms) might be called ‘Just in Time’ content. This is what GenAI promises and why it poses a threat to DAM. With that said, there are mitigating factors and they are being underestimated, at present.
There is currently a huge amount of irrational over-exuberance when it comes to AI. When I discussed the GenAI subject last year, I postulated that there would be greater demand for photo re-touching skills. The crafting of prompts to drive AI will become a key skill and this is being recognised already. In many cases, however, repeatedly trying to devise inventive prompts to coax out what you require will take longer and might be less effective than simply finding someone with the necessary production skills to manually make the adjustments instead.
The same principles will apply whatever the medium, whether it is visual imagery, narrative text, music, computer code, 3D graphics and so on. This is the Achilles Heel of GenAI and I think it will remain one for a long time. I mentioned this effect on a few Linked discussions I have got involved in recently, an approximate analogy would be something like the children’s story about the three wishes.
If GenAI repeats previous AI patterns, the initial excitement will diminish when it gets applied to more complex real-world tasks. This is when flaws emerge and compromises have to be made. These will necessitate time being spent on manual adjustments and the benefits from GenAI start to become increasingly marginal.
The ‘intelligence’ in GenAI is largely derived from data which has been supplied by human beings, often without their permission (which is another legal risk not being fully appreciated right now). Further, the algorithms are quite significantly inefficient at present – and the problem appears to be getting worse, not better. This post by Jennifer Prendki illustrates this point:
“… when the model doesn’t deliver, ML scientists like to make it more complicated. That’s because the way we do AI right now is not “modelling” at all – it’s just information encoding. Forget if we don’t understand how, or even why they work. Forget we have no way to identify biases. As Timnit Gebru would say, we’re building the perfect stochastic parrots… Call me an idealist, but I think AI researchers have a lot to learn from physicists and scientists in general. As far as I am concerned, I believe we still have a lot more work to do for AI to become truly intelligent.” [Read More]
The computational cost (processing power) required to keep feeding these inefficient algorithms is likely to become an increasing problem. Earlier this year, I had a discussion on LinkedIn about this quote by Sundar Pichai (CEO of Google): “Today, the scale of the largest AI computations is doubling every six months, far outpacing Moore’s Law”. I don’t believe in Moore’s law and see it as (at best) an observation made at a point in time rather than a ‘law’. Nonetheless, you don’t need to be an expert in AI technology to see the potential problem on the horizon.
This is an ‘immovable object meets an unstoppable force’ type of scenario. AI might represent the unstoppable force, but the immovable object is finite processing power being insufficient to support the ambitions of AI/ML algorithms which prioritise visible results over efficient design.
What we are seeing now might be a temporary high point in AI and there could well be a period of sideways movement, or even a decline. I took the recently publicised open letter signed by a number of dignitaries to pause AI development as a signal that AI may well have reached a temporary plateau. These are indicators of people buying the hype wholesale and not applying critical judgement, nor carefully analysing the facts.
Temporary roadblocks in the progress of AI are potentially positive for low-innovation tech sectors like Digital Asset Management since it means the decline in the use of archived content could be slower and far more gradual than it first appears. This gives the DAM market longer to get its house in-order when it comes to genuine innovation (with or without AI).
Whether DAM software developers, systems architects and product managers will be able to re-imagine a credible reason for their products to continue to exist outside the conventional archived content remit where they have historically been based remains to be seen. Simply plugging into other technologies will not be sufficient, however. Ultimately, you can’t run a successful tech business and outsource innovation to third parties who are indifferent to your success or failure. I believe that how the industry handles this transitional period will define whether or not it survives.
So where does that leave us with DAM News? I’ve been the propreitor of this title since 2014 (and contributing since 2012). It provided a way for me to stay in-touch with multiple industry contacts, a platform to present my ideas and also generated a steady stream of consulting sales leads. In the early stages, the latter partly subsidised the cost of maintaining DAM News and building resources like the glossary, vendor directory, and open specification etc. The premium reports, subscriptions and advertising revenue has increased in the interim period, but it has never been fully exploited because there was not really a need to do so.
For tool vendors, consultants or others who operate in the DAM sector it could present an opportunity to gain access to a ready-made audience of thousands of people who are closely involved with the industry (on both the buy and sell sides). There is also a substantial body of authoritative content dating back to 2009. As far as I am aware, DAM News is the longest running DAM-specific trade news publication.
I am open to sale and/or sponsorship of DAM News by anyone who thinks it might offer them some value. My co-contributor will remain indefinitely to manage the editorial operations for as long as is required. If you are interested, contact me: ralph dot windsor at daydream.co.uk and we can talk through the details.
In terms of what I plan to do with myself hereafter, writing (albeit probably less about DAM) will likely be something I continue with. As mentioned, I am not open to helping anyone out with their DAM or Digital Asset Supply Chain implementations, however, I am still interested in talking to vendors. In particular, tool vendors and smaller firms; or to be more accurate, vendors who don’t feel the need to pretend to be much bigger than they really are, since in reality none of them are particularly large.
I have had some interesting discussions recently and a few more open-minded firms have understood the points I have been making for a number of years about value chains and how to more effectively utilise AI for DAM. It would be good to continue these and help them to develop something both useful and innovative. It’s been far too long for very little to happen in this market.
Since this may well be my last ever post for DAM News, I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has contributed to my knowledge about this subject over the last 28 years. Although I have often presented a somewhat jaded and cynical perspective on the industry, it is because I genuinely wanted to see it realise its full potential and not settle for the kind of complacent, self-congratulatory navel-gazing which it is (sadly) well known for. If there are regrets, it is that I did not pursue this objective far more aggressively than I have done. This is now a task for others to undertake, however and I wish them every success in that endeavour.Share this Article: