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A couple years ago, this dude down the street from me bought a house. He and his family moved in and began their life. He seemed like a handy guy, building bicycles out of his basement. In addition, he started fixing the outside, transforming the once defunct exterior space into an amazingly cute bungalow.

Each day on the way to my office, I’d admire his handiwork, aspiring to have a house that looked so polished and approachable on the outside.

As the years progressed, his business picked up as I often saw him camped out at all hours in his basement constructing bicycles. Not only did I want to meet this dude, I wanted to do business with him. If he was capable of transforming his house into a thing of beauty, certainly the craftsmanship of his bikes were amazing.

Coincidentally, my daughter was in need of a bike. As spring arrived, I prepped to visit my neighbor. However, as I approached the house, I noticed a stark absence from the residence. The minivan was replaced by a dump truck, the stroller had given way to a crane. The hum of the family I had watched for years was replaced by the cadence of an organized blue collar workforce.

What the hell?

Days later, with my curiosity eating me, I slow rolled by his house.

They were literally lifting the house up off the ground. Apparently, the foundation had been failing for years, and it was now time to replace it.

Months have passed, summer in this seaside town is in full swing, yet the family and the man I had admired for years were no where to be found. Apparently, they moved away for the summer, waiting for the figurative and literal dust to settle.

Everything about the house I had admired; the hand detail on the railings, the custom siding, the manicured lawn, were now all a heap of dust and destruction. However, no matter how much this man cosmetically fixed the outside, the glaring issue of a failing foundation finally caught up to him, his family and his business.

His lively hood completely displaced because he ignored the fundamental flaw of his residence.

Looking back, it’s hard to see if he would have still purchased the house given its failing structure, or if he would have forgone the initial cosmetic fixes in lieu of the less sexy internal construction.

Either way, this chap I had admired from afar is now out a significant amount of money and my confidence in his craft is now crushed.

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The other day I partook in a great American pastime. Playing baseball? Eating apple pie? Going to WalMart?

Fuck no. I went car shopping.

Car dealerships have come a long way since the dank, dimly lit showrooms of years past.

Today, you can walk into a an area that looks more like a museum bistro than a car store. Massive flat panel TV, floor to ceiling windows, COFFEE, even a toy room to deposit the children. On the surface, who the hell wouldn’t want to spend the better part of a Saturday afternoon on a cushy leather couch, eating popcorn, watching a Family Ties rerun?

However, there comes a point (somewhere between the 2nd hour and Lloyd running back to the manager’s office to run some figures) where you realize where you are. You aren’t at that museum, sipping a latte watching your children get smarter. You are drinking mediocre, at best, coffee, watching someone die on CNN while your son belts your daughter over the head with a germ infested broken plastic tractor. Oh, and you are at a mother effin car dealership in the middle of a gorgeous Saturday afternoon.

The longer you wait for what you want, the more inclined to develop a deep loathing for not only your intended purchase, but also for the location where that purchase is located.

2 hours later, I now hate this car dealership, I hate the salesman, I hate cars and I am starting to develop an unhealthy hatred for CNN.

All because I had to wait for what I wanted.

Unfortunately, the same happens with information presented on your website. The landing page is awesome; Pretty graphics, warm tones and carefully thought out content. However, as you search deeper, clicking down through the site, the more frustrated you become. The landing page heightens your interest, yet the more excited you become and the more questions you have, the more you become disappointed in your findings. Content fails when it’s unable to keep up with the pace of its audience.

I almost feel bad for that car dealership. After 2 hours I walked out. They simply took too long to get me what I needed. I know the exact car I want, and I know I can find it somewhere else. The next dealership might not have the fancy couch or the big tv. But if they have a chair for me to sit down and can get me what I need in a timely manner, they’ll have my business.

“I need 3 pages on the rise and fall of the Roman Empire”

“Give me 5 pages on the Underground Railroad”

“Well, just for that, make it 10 pages on owls” (this really did happen after mistakenly asking Sister Judith “who?”)

In addition, to sitting up straight, keeping our hands to ourselves and forming a single file, we have been historically taught to communicate based on length. How many late nights in high school did you spend stretching your 2 page thought to 3 pages?  The preponderance of length now negatively affects the way we professionally communicate.

Recently, I was blog coaching a group of amazing professionals. Their ideas were off the chain. Yet, the first question I was asked, was how long should it be. Suddenly, I’m quoting the professor I loathed: “as long as it needs to be to get your point across.”

Meh. I hated that line.

Therein lies the professional conundrum of bloated content created daily based solely on the dated mantra that bigger is better. If Floyd the business analyst wrote a 545 page spec, then surely he has been working hard and the project is abundantly significant.

Or is it?

Some of the most impressive projects I have seen, particularly in agile development, stem from 1 page specifications detailing the workload for the current sprint.

I have a mental catalog of dozens of instances where the less written, the more effective the project.

But you know what? I’m going to shut the hell up.

After all, I got my point across.

Here is the final blog post on today’s #wcconf sessions. Again, this is a rapid fire/real time reaction to the speaker(s). My thoughts in ().

  • (People coming in, I have remained in the same seat for two days. I am going to miss it. In fact, my unhealthy attraction for the Gleacher Center has reached epic proportions)
  • (I want Jeff Eaton’s glasses. I may steal them off him during his presentation)
  • (Karen is already going to swear. I’m giddy. )
  • 11th hour shit storm problem, we have ALL experienced this
  • We are smart people, yet will still run into this issues.
  • The Day 2 problem starts on Day 1.
  • (love when presenters reference other presenters in the same conference, it makes it seem like they are paying attention to each other. )
  • Oh no! Karen went live with the existing content *cue lightening bolts* “Systemic failure”
  • We knew the content sucked, but we couldn’t do anything about it. (internally dancing in my seat)
  • 7000pages + 45 people + 6 weeks + 5400 = (um…ouch)
  • Work with the worst content and the least complaint content providers
  • Usability testing with content providers, not just end users.
  • (this is a fucking good presentation)
  • (interested to see how hard core project managers think of content strategy)
  • Any time you work on content it is later than you wanted to.
  • Black Boxing content is a systemic problem
  • (Convincing non 11th hour shit storm of content creation is a bitch)
  • Web strategy is not to new navigation options, it is to create more information for people to find.
  • Not enough to persuade, you need to do it.
  • Old Process diagrams…(hee hee good for a laugh)
  • Demand to see real content in in designs so you can see the missing pieces
  • Bring your own project plan and sync up activities
  • (you know when you go to a show and bands just seem to single handedly kick ass, pushing the others toward more awesomeness? That is happening with today’s presenters. Blown. Away)
  • (really cool the way Jeff is showing the back end of a site and how easy it is to add content on the fly)
  • Drupal has a rep of being really flexible, but hard to manage content.
  • Joomla somewhere in the middle ground
  • WordPress, ridiculously easy for content
  • shift focus away from features and towards task flow
  • abject failure to apply user process design to CMSs
  • (running over the time limit and NO ONE wants to leave. Fucking awesome)
  • When presenting new designs you have to present the CMS input as well.
  • CMS can do it, but will it do it well???
  • stress test with the most possible content
  • Content migration takes longer than you think
  • Good planet takes planning and time
  • No one goes to admire their templates, they are there for your content
  • people who design the site need a good experience too.
  • OUT!

Once again, these are free flowing thoughts that have not been edited, but will be a real time flow of my interpretation of Rachel’s points. (my comments in these thingys)

  • (People filing in, btw lunch kicked ass. I think I want to marry the Gleacher Center)
  • (No idea when @halvorson’s birthday is, but someone better get her one of those Backstreet Boys headset microphone things)
  • Computers are still dumb
  • Semantic web is about solving these areas of complexity
  • machines do things well that people do poorly
  • but they fail sometimes with ambiguous issues
  • Identity + Definition + Structure …
  • There are non semantic ways to describe structure. eg microformats, machine tags, new web standards
  • IDs take something abstract and make it concrete (mathing is hard! still bitter from my stupidity about last night’s bill.)
  • (Wait. There is a service called FREEBASE? Lindsay Lohan is psyched!)
  • Incidents of anti social behavioral meter (holy CRAP there is a term for everything) @lucidplot says it’s fairly political in the UK. Not surprisingly he calls it “rubbish”)
  • (maybe you don’t need to know all about the semantic web, but you at least need to be able to give it a hug and embrace it)(((hugz))
  • (was there life before slideshare?)
  • (here’s a conference idea: Scribes for conference speeches, 1 scribe per speech, scribes compete and are chosen and allow single point of real time tracking for conferences. I’m rambling. )
  • (I think I paid $18 for my margarita last night. One margarita. )
  • Machine Assisted tagging – streamlines the approach for tagging e.g. Tagaroo
  • Content Strategists are need to figure out how to roll out these tools – Related Content Services, Semantic Ad Targeting etc
  • Although at its infancy, the semantic web is real and we need to better understand it.

Alright, next up Joe, here’s my free flowing interpretation.

  • Gleacher Center here at the University of Chicago has the production families of an NFL Stadium, I keep waiting for skycam
  • Get Content – Get Costomers (his book)
  • Junta 42 is the eharmony for content marketing
  • 1 goal for this session is getting just 1 “aha” moment
  • (sensing a little inferiority complex from the Cleveland peeps)
  • Barak had a very good simple effective message
  • Hillary didn’t have something to get excited about
  • (interaction between Joe and Kristina is priceless)
  • Higher purpose, what is the higher purpose of what we are providing to our customers.
  • Purpose has to be clear and has a point of view.
  • Purpose and content can be interchangeable.
  • Love or hate, having a point of view is key.
  • How can we differentiate if we are all talking about the same thing? (oft asked question)
  • What does your content stand for?
  • (points for using, “this is how we roll”)
  • Create your own category
  • Where are your customers?
  • not cheap, just a different kind of expensive
  • (If we put Brogan fans on side and non fans on the other, who wins the tug o war)
  • (sucks that the word process makes people’s eyes roll)
  • create employee rock stars (slippery slope, but he plays it well)
  • Have the employees take a stand when using their social media strategies, otherwise they are going to go do it on their own.
  • indium.com
  • more you blog, the more business you get, simple as that
  • Be a content ambassador
  • First internal advocate, then external
  • Any content you put on your website is a content promise to your customers
  • websitegrader.com
  • Read the rest of this entry »

Free flowing thoughts on Jeff’s talk. (my thoughts in here)

  • Gotta be careful not to over state our case – We are in a little bit of a hype cycle.
  • Content Strategists are strange ducks – no two are alike (this is GOOD and kinda bad perhaps)
  • Day 2 problem – working for launch day, but forsakes the day 2 problem (gimme god damn,  now what do we do?)
  • CS has a lot to do with organizational dynamics
  • you need a management consultant DNA (retainer!)
  • (you want to know why CS will succeed? Because the baseline speakers are effing good, Jeff included)
  • Content inventory needs to be as exhaustive as you can – you have to spider the site (eww) Site Orbiter (sp?)
  • Enormous professional development opportunity for us
  • Shelly Bowen has a good methodology.
  • There is no one methodology – which is good because we need to adapt.
  • Process is nothing w/out the people
  • Product is content, platform is the publishing and people is the organization
  • Scatter/Gather dedicated Razorfish content strategy blog
  • Not about “My methodology is right and yours is wrong” (internal friction will suppress all the hard work we have achieved so far)
  • (personal note: check out the google knol)
  • You are always working on content – Jeff, per Margot Bloomstein
  • Content inventory can be good insurance. not a one off, ad hoc exercise
  • Competitive Analysis: CSers need to know more about this.
  • (It’s amazing the similarities between CS and journalism, don’t cringe, journalism knew what they were doing, they just didn’t adapt)
  • (he used the Content Strateeegery line, *fawn*)
  • Metadata Schema (insert collective eye roll) Necessary evil
  • Metadata proliferates relationships for different pieces of content (my interpretation of his point)
  • Copydeck – user facing content
  • Plumbing – content specification
  • (so sick of hearing everyone is a writer, you know what visual designer, I can draw stick figures too)
  • Grow phase – day 2 – all about post launch. Editorial calendar (yay!)
  • rethink what editorial calendar can do with content production in mind
  • There will be a basecamp for editorial calendars (hope)
  • Style guides, who owns it and make the style guide more dynamic. Where rubber meets road for governance.
  • One glaring asterisks for methodologies – there is no real end (but self governance can solve this?)
  • CS is residence – (cliffhanger for next year)
  • (Buzzword alert!) “Organizational hygiene”
  • Give a strategy for style guides, and put it in an editorial calendar
  • dabbledb.com

Free form diatribe on Kristina’s afternoon workshop.

  • (technical difficulties)
  • (she already has the room at her fingertips)
  • the discussion of content is a very organic process that involves all of us to participate  (and she will steal our ideas)
  • pseudo empowerment to site editors.
  • putting the onus on us. We need to help drive the content strategy discussion.
  • Too often we react to content, it’s a critical biz asset
  • need cs to develop message hierarchy
  • CMS cannot define and refine workflow
  • Governance outlines helps you get funded
  • Content Development falls down when people don’t track what content they are creating.
  • Ask the who what why where when how and cut your content in half
  • Quicken example – sell boxes mint – see myself everywhere.
  • Out there, nobody cares. Make content strategy relevant to the business.
  • Structure = IA
  • CS/IA kinda two sides of the same coin
  • We are lacking case studies big time
  • (Kissing hands, shaking babies. I think I got that right.)
  • content is spread all around, not just on your website.
  • Rolling inventory – inventory that never ends. (yay!)
  • Identify where you can have the biggest impact with the least amount of money and go with it.
  • In need of a spidering tool (look to Norway)
  • You can manually audit up to about 2000 pages.
  • Project charter is part of the content delivery – biz objectives
  • (Break time! 10 minutes people, hustle hustle!)
  • Not every project needs content strategy
  • Don’t shove it down people’s throats. Play your cards carefully.
  • Ecosystem – the environment the where the system live.
  • context, content, users – IA framework
  • Content strategy needs user research.
  • competitor site audits are tricky because it isn’t about keeping up with the jones, but more about discovering your niche.
  • As a strategist you need to listen and let them keep them talking
  • Pain points (we need to do a better job at promoting these to the right audience)
  • Sign off is very important.
  • Doc needs to be easy to use, makes informed decisions, facilitates smart decision making, docs action plan, troubleshoots implementation. Be sustainable.
  • Your one second is driven by visuals, graphics, load, etc. call to action
  • page template vs page table. Page table is not lorim ipsum
  • Gap analysis is a key component of CS
  • workflow can help eek out inefficiencies
  • some websites have become poor business properties
  • empowerment needs to happen or else we are just followers.
  • We so even remotely done. Yes, we’ve been doing this for years, but just now generating buzz.

First workshop of the day with Seth Early. Free form live blog entry of his thoughts (bullets) and mine (in parenthesis)

  • Search is not magic – (praise allah!)
  • Organizational psychologist vs taxonomist
  • (General consensus among the group to better understand the mental mind)
  • You cannot remove all mechanisms for organization, you need to know how content is formed.
  • Great point on how you need to know where your financial information comes from just like you need to know how your content is formed. For example, you don’t want to know how much money you have, you want to know where your money came and went.
  • User research is much cheaper if you do it at the onset.
  • (I totally need more cream for this coffee)
  • Things change faster in the business world than they do in the technical world (really? because I think it’s a pretty neck in neck race)
  • Some content is unambiguous (IA)
  • Some content has various meaning and nuance (semantic)
  • System for organizing information (parent child/relationship) – Taxonomy
  • Is mr potato a action vegetable figure? Discuss (this begets the semantic conversation)
  • Goal of Taxonomy an organized, agreed upon mechanism for naming (preferred term)
  • Taxonomy is a common language for business (gimme god damn, YES!)
  • Cannot get the attention of the organization (common/maddening pain point)
  • People think search is like a utility that you just plug in and it works. (I can see some great infographics being formed around this point)
  • We have to think of search as an experience.
  • Search is about metadata whether we have it or not
  • If content is structured it is easier to derive metadata.
  • Search is messy (hmmm, I have heard the same thing about content)
  • People search in very ambiguous terms, but want very specific results.
  • Search is a conversation, when a question is asked, there are follow up back questions, the need for disambiguation.
  • (Feeling wicked smaht that I have a good example for disambiguation.)
  • News stories are inherently structured (who what why where what) (Waiting for the journalist to stand up and shout “Recognize!”)
  • (Just noticed I still have yellow spots on my hand from this weekend’s unfortunate exploding spray paint incident.)
  • Organizations do not think about the lifecycle of their content. Reuse/archive/disposal
  • Social tagging – folksonomy Structured tagging – taxonomy
  • break
  • email is notoriously unstructured
  • Content object model – map of the structure of a document
  • content metadata allows for reuse.
  • UX is at the intersection of taxonomies, metadata and content objects.
  • when you tag content, you have such a better idea of what the user is doing (my interpretation)
  • (I drink an unconscionable amount of water.)
  • I look at taxonomy as an extension of metadata.
  • still confused as to who governs the taxonomy.
  • Google one box – still configuration once you get under the hood
  • You can use your taxonomy to define your trigger, provider, etc
  • You are not going to get the same internal/external experience – Argument for why you don’t simply just “Get the google”
  • Mapping synonyms – taxononmy
  • (Biggest takeaway from the workshop so far is my ability to type taxonomy wicked fast.)
  • a thesaurus is a specialized taxonomy
  • ontology is a collection of taxonomy
  • Goals of taxonomy – improve ux
  • (Disagree with the assertion that not all information can’t be intuitive.  Organized properly I believe it can.)
  • Taxonomy is not the same as navigation (hammered home)
  • (totally want this list of doc types) Analyst report, assessment, benchmarks, best practice, brochures, campaign, case studies, competition, config guide, contract, customer reference, data sheet, event, faq, guides, license agreements, migration, presentations, press releases, price lists, quick ref guide, white papers (whew…I got it)
  • (Current line for lunch menu: halved sammiches: 2/1 Lobster rolls: 61/1)
  • Navigational Taxonomy? (officially lost)
  • Facet is a top level category in the taxonomy
  • Categorizing content- statistical/linguistic vs rules-based
  • All content is not equal
  • Folksonomy does not inherently help. More an internal mechanism than an external help.
  • Lunch!

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