In what is becoming something of an annual indulgence, I’ve put together another list of articles and blog entries which have caused me to crackle and fizz with equal parts excitement, intrigue, and amusement. Take a bow one and all.
“The days of the web as all-purpose media emulator are numbered. Apps on mobile are gaining traction; the web browser, despite great and ongoing effort, will not become the universal platform for everything ever. Apps provide niche experiences. People apparently like niche experiences enough to pay for them. This is serious.”
The summary comprised of exactly 140 characters: When the web’s fundamental question is Why wasn’t I consulted?, we must create a service experience around the product, whatever it may be.
“Web sites need both context and content strategy because there is a world of difference between “attention” and “engagement.” Getting people to the site and getting attention is step one of the process. Engagement is what creates meaning for users and is ultimately what leads to metrics that matter: ROI, return visits, brand trust, potential word of mouth, etc.”
The summary that just about passes for one: An excellent 5-part series explaining some of the ideas and principles behind tailoring content to different user situations and behaviours.
“If you were thrown off a boat into a lake, you would figure out how to swim. For the pioneers of content strategy, this was certainly the case. We reasoned out the processes and deliverables based on what we needed to accomplish by the end of the project. It’s still that way, for much of the practice. It has to be. You need to respond to existing situations, and work within the infrastructures and plans in place. It’s basic consulting practice: understand the current state, anticipate the future state, find the gap, and figure out how to fill it.”
The summary that always reads the small print: Though varied in form and purpose by a project’s individual requirements, there’s a lot we can learn by studying the deliverables of others.
“A genuine product strategy for a content offering must consider the business model, remembering always that content is expensive. Free, paid or otherwise on the one hand, and the possibilities of licensing and syndicating content on the other, a complete content strategy must take a position and rationale on the business case of its recommendations.”
The summary that believes it’s better to be heard and not seen: Jeff tells us that when the content strategy is the business strategy, it requires an approach that envelopes the whole infrastructure.
“In the traditional business model, consumers vote with their dollars. If they like something, they buy it. If not, they don’t. In the orbital content model, users vote with their content. If an app offers something interesting, they’ll share their content with it. If not, they won’t. Because the content is in orbit around the users, they directly determine who has access to it. Applications will no longer ask for our credentials to other services; instead, they will ask you directly to lend them the content they want to make useful.”
The summary that can only be read under a microscope: Cameron explains how bookmarking content at the element level, rather than whole web pages, can foster closer connections with an audience.
If the internet gave free back rubs, people would complain when it stopped because its thumbs were sore
“In 1986, when I was 15, a 12in single cost roughly £2.99 – the equivalent of just over £6 today. And unless you were loaded, you didn’t just buy records willy-nilly. You chose carefully and coveted what you had. … I’m not claiming five quid a month [for a Spotify subscription] is insignificant: it’s more than many can afford. But in this case it’s bloody cheap for what it gets you.”
The summary that could never been used as an acceptance speech: When Spotify imposed further restrictions on its free usage, Charlie noted some rather unfortunate human traits that such changes arouse.
“On the web, consumer purchasing is not the only economy. Attention is the resource so many artists and businesses are competing for, or, more to the point since social media exploded, approval. That’s why a positive review on Amazon or TripAdvisor or Checkatrade means so much to the author, hotel, or tradesperson. There are people whose livelihoods literally depend on your rating.”
The summary that sold its last Oxford comma to buy food: Gabriel’s right. Lurkers like me should put aside those niggling doubts and let others know when we’ve enjoyed or benefited from a service.
“I don’t know anywhere near everything there is to know about content strategy but here is something I do know: it takes a lot of confidence to say those words out loud, to a client, in a meeting. The difficulty is that content strategy is so big and covers so many aspects that I think we will have to get better at saying it. Before long we might increasingly need to band together in small mercenary tribes to cover the range of skills within CS, especially for larger projects.”
The summary that has always wanted to ride a roller coaster: Does that feeling of being left behind leave you knotted? Never fear, you’re not alone in trying to catch a runaway train on a pump trolley.
Damon Green, via TwitLonger, July
“If news reporters and cameras are only there to be used by politicians as recording devices for their scripted soundbites, at best that is a professional discourtesy. At worst, if we are not allowed to explore and examine a politician’s views, then politicians cease to be accountable in the most obvious way. So the fact that the unedited interview has found its way onto YouTube in all its absurdity, to be laughed at along with all the clips of cats falling off sofas, is perfectly proper.”
The summary that weighs the same on the surface of Mars: British politician offers interviewer glimpse of a nightmarish dystopian future ruled by robots with a limited supply of phrases. Observe.
“Remember: we are not hired for our knowledge in the domain. We are hired for our ability to communicate that knowledge in a way that’s both usable and useful for that domain’s audiences. And we do this by relying on our relationships, not by diving into a project all guns a’blazin’, all the answers predetermined and worked out.”
The summary that even the old woman who lived in a shoe found room for: Often, it’s better to know where to look and who to consult for knowledge, for it rests easy in the hands of the passionate individual.
“It’d be easy to leave [responsive design] to designers and developers. But content strategists and others who care about content still have a big job to do in making responsive design possible. After all, it’s rather hard to know how each element associated with a piece of content should respond to changes in display unless you know what that piece of content is intended to do.”
The summary that could be carved onto a pencil tip: A design approach that optimises the web for different users and devices is fascinating. There’s much to do to aid its widespread adoption.
“When we learn, we move from sound to word, sentence to paragraph. Linguistic units are literally the building blocks of our engagement with the world. And there’s no reason why the increasingly modular nature of web content should diminish our understanding—rather, it may have the capacity to increase it, prompting us to make inferences and create stories ourselves, rather than passively engaging with static texts.”
The summary that was once a flea circus ringmaster: Elizabeth and Randall show us why storytelling elements are necessary to build content frameworks that flow with a user’s imagination.
“We can no longer think of publishing as a broadcast medium. It isn’t, not anymore. The web requires that we listen and converse as much as (if not more than) we ship. In fact, we cannot assume that publishing of any kind is a distinct activity from belonging to a community. Part of the job of a publisher today is to facilitate discussion—and that means being a part of it. It means that we publish for people, not to them.”
The summary that could be carried by a miniature gold llama: I dare you not to emerge from the other side of Mandy’s masterpiece inspired, uplifted, and thankful that you work on the web for a living.
Some honourable mentions
- Review: Infinity Blade—J. Nicholas Geist, Kill Screen Daily, Pre 2011*
- A Simpler Page—Craig Mod, A List Apart Magazine, January
- Series: Tags are magic—Martin Belam and Peter Martin, guardian.co.uk, January
- The Value of Content, Part 2: Nobody’s Perfect—Melissa Rach, Brain Traffic blog, June
- Information Infrastructure as a Process—Dorian Taylor, doriantaylor.com, June**
- Visualizing Paths Through the Web—Dorian Taylor, doriantaylor.com, July**
- The Things We Make and Do—Erin Kissane, Brain Traffic blog, July
- The End of Client Services—Khoi Vinh, Subtraction.com, July
- Web Governance: Becoming an Agent of Change—Jonathan Kahn, A List Apart Magazine, August
- Consuming Content vs. Loving Language—Sara Wachter-Boettcher, EndlesslyContent.com, September
- The web professional’s choice: linchpin or cog—Jonathan Kahn, lucid plot, October
- The poetics of interfaces—Elizabeth McGuane, mapped blog, October
*too epic to exclude
- Presentation: ‘How did we all get here?’
- 52 weeks 52 eBooks