DAM Guru Program In Depth – Part 1

On February, 21 of 2013, digital asset management software vendor Picturepark unveiled DAM Guru Program to a curious yet skeptical Digital Asset Management industry. Now a year old, with more than 400 signups and a growth rate of more than one new member per day, DAM Guru Program has become solidly entrenched in the DAM landscape—like it or not.

In this three-part series, we’ll take a deep look at the DAM-vendor sponsored community program that proclaims itself to be “the largest database of digital asset management expertise on earth.”

In this first article, we’ll review the original purpose of DAM Guru Program and we’ll get an update on the program’s current status. In Part 2, we’ll see how the program leverages its membership database to provide educational content to the community, and we’ll see what’s coming next in that regard. In Part 3, we’ll cover the controversy surrounding this vendor-managed community resource, and we’ll find out what DAM Guru Program members think.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have been a DAM Guru Program member since May, 2013.

Meet DAM Guru Program

DAM Guru Program describes itself as a free community service that connects digital asset management professionals to others who need their help. The program offers several services to its members, including member-matching, whereby “guru” members are connected to “newbie” members; #GuruCall tweets, which the program sends as a means of recruiting specific expertise from the DAM community; weekly DAM Guru Program member profiles that showcase the experience and advice of guru members; and an ongoing digital asset management job fair that features experience profiles for participating members.

I spoke with DAM Guru Program creator and Picturepark marketing director, David Diamond, and Ben Smidt, a former Picturepark employee who continues to manage the program’s daily operations.

Diamond says he considers DAM Guru Program to be “the most important thing” he’s created in his 17 years in the DAM industry. That’s high praise from the man who wrote DAM Survival Guide and was awarded the 2013 Createasphere “DAMMY of the Year” for educational contributions to the industry, which included DAM Guru Program.

He starts our conversation by revealing the program’s current membership demographics.

“We have received more than 400 applications since the program was launched. We have nearly twice as many ‘guru’ members as we do ‘newbies,’ and we have about 20 employers or agencies that use the program to find DAM professionals for hire.”

The membership of DAM Guru Program is diverse. Among the program’s “newbies” are people who were completely ignorant of Digital Asset Management before joining the program. In some cases, they were charged with finding a DAM for an employer, despite having no previous DAM experience themselves. On the opposite side of the spectrum are the “gurus,” some of whom have been designing and using DAM systems for 20 years or more—basically since the DAM industry began. DAM Guru Program also welcomes library science professionals, which it connects with people looking for help with taxonomy and metadata schema design.

Smidt was given operational control over the program at launch because he had no involvement in Picturepark’s sales process and, as a former DAM user himself, he understood the potential the program offered.

“DAM knowledge is like a currency you acquire over time,” Smidt explained. “DAM Guru Program has become like an ATM [cash machine] for this DAM currency that is available to anyone, anytime, at no charge. I loved that idea at the start, and I still love it today.”

DAM Guru Program is funded entirely by Picturepark—there is no charge to members for any service.

What Makes a Guru a Guru?

DAM Guru Program does not test or otherwise validate the experience claims made by gurus, which has caused concern for some industry insiders who would rather know what officially makes a guru a guru. Instead, the program relies on feedback from newbies to “police” the integrity of a given guru.

This works most of the time, according to Ben Smidt.

“I’ve had a few newbies report that gurus tried to sell them DAM systems right from the start,” he confirms.

According to Smidt, it is program policy to question an accused guru about his or her motives, remind the guru that the program is not about lead generation, and explain that if another report comes in, the guru’s membership will be terminated.

Neither Smidt nor Diamond would say whether any gurus have been terminated to date.

Some have suggested that the program should send followup surveys to newbies after they’ve been connected with gurus, but Diamond doesn’t like the idea.

“We are connecting human beings; we are not selling hotdogs,” he says. “We ask newbies to report violators and I think we should keep it at that. I don’t want us going all ‘NSA’ on our gurus. I think that would be disrespectful.”

Smidt agrees that validating guru integrity is a shared responsibility between newbie members and program managers. He reminds newbies to report abuses, but he has been honing his own skills too.

“I’ve gotten pretty good at being able to spot salespeople disguised as gurus,” Smidt says. “You can tell pretty easily when someone has joined the program for the wrong reasons just by asking a few follow up questions. Legitimate DAM expertise is hard to fake.”

Somewhat surprising is that Picturepark encourages the experienced employees of other DAM vendors to become gurus. Diamond says the only requirement for guru membership is genuine DAM experience and the understanding and agreement that DAM Guru Program is not a sales tool. As long as Picturepark competitors are willing to play by those rules, he says, the program welcomes them.

Diamond, who is himself not a member of the program, would not disclose the names or titles of employees from other DAM vendors or consultancies who were. But he was willing to name-drop some companies whose employees had applied: OpenText, BrandWizard, Earley & Associates, Celum, Canto, IBM, HP, Oracle, North Plains, Widen and, of course, Picturepark.

Other program members come from such notable organizations as Merck, Chrysler, Harley-Davidson, The Orlando Magic, The Chase Group, Nordstrom, Electronic Arts, Ethan Allen, Symantec, Red Cross, CVS, Starz Entertainment, Harlequin, MD Anderson Cancer Center, The Lincoln Center, The American Cancer Society; and educational institutions that include Rutgers University, Marquette University, Ithaca College, Cornell University and The University of Alberta.

Smidt notes that because the majority of members use personal email addresses, it’s not possible to know where everyone is from.

A few DAM industry superstars are among the ranks too, including David Riecks (ControlledVocabulary.com), Heather Hedden (The Accidental Taxonomist), Dan McGraw (Seven Dials Media), Ralph Windsor (DAM News/Daydream UK) and Carol Thomas-Knipes (LogicSource).

In the next article, we’ll see some of the ways the program showcases its members today, and how it plans to expand those services in the future.


For more information about DAM Guru Program or to join, visit the program’s website at http://DAMGuru.com.

The view The DAM Guru Program In Depth Part 2, click here.

The view The DAM Guru Program In Depth Part 3, click here.


About the Author
Mary Yurkovic is a recognized Digital Asset Management (DAM) advocate and community builder. Her experience in defining, assessing, implementing and managing DAM solutions, for enterprise companies, sets her apart. Her collaborative approach and balanced focus on business needs, workflow process and DAM technologies, enables her to blueprint comprehensive solutions addressing all aspects of a DAM deployment. Ms. Yurkovic has proven success in analyzing client media workflow requirements and recommending relevant DAM solutions.

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