2012 in articles and blog entries

Apologies if you’ve only joined me under this canopy to shelter from the deluge of year/end of year rundowns, reviews, and lists, but I have something of a tradition to maintain. For the fourth year running I’ve chosen a selection of articles and blog entries penned over the last twelve months which have had the most impact on me personally and professionally.

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Content lessons from our distant past

The same way you cannot just overthrow an old system of government and traditions without first looking at how many of those traditions defined their people and kept them in check, you shouldn’t be in such a huge rush to disregard and haul out that rotten, slow, and one-dimensional CMS without finding out the reasons why, from the people that use it day in day out, how it came to be so.

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Web content in perpetual motion

How, in this modern world of furious digital content production and management, can we encourage and harness this inherent drive to create and analyse? You can’t go far wrong by bringing a sense of order and perpetual motion to proceedings. Following a continuous process of analysis, preparation, creation, and governance offers us an ideal way of producing consistently lean, user-focused, and bottom-line-affecting content for the web.

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In retrospect

I believe a retrospective approach should be taken with your archived web content. Someone, somewhere (you perhaps?) took the ultimate decision to remove that flash element or replace that call to action. Why? Maybe you saw it as no longer relevant or useful for your audience, maybe its timely nature meant it always had a limited exposure time, or perhaps it just was your PHP developer’s ugly die() function error message that was removed with little mercy?

Whatever the reason(s) behind its removal, start to ask yourself, and others who were involved in its creation and upkeep, some questions. What impact (if any) did it make? What did it contribute to the overall business goals? What did it help you achieve? How was it used by your audience? Was it the catalyst for more of this type of content? Was it ultimately a success or a failure?

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Decommissioning a doomed website

At the end of its own operational life, usually spanning several decades, a nuclear power plant will begin an equally lengthy process of decontamination, dismantling, and waste management.

Such are the dangers of handling and removing radioactive waste this procedure, called decommissioning, aims to minimise the risks by following a set of strict regulations that ensures public health and safety as well as the protection of the environment. Only when all traces of radioactive material have been removed will the public restrictions placed upon the facility and its surrounding area be lifted.

Though not a physical structure – and with a slightly less chance of damaging your long-term health – I believe that by following a rough set of stages a website can also be shut down effectively and with the user in mind throughout.

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The conveyor belt

Delivering content straight to the inboxes of customers who, at some stage, have shown an interest in our services is a prospect that can so often prove too tempting to pass up. But like the musician who releases a fantastic first album when most of their tracks were penned years ago – back when they were a lovesick teenager at college – we may have enough great content in the well to fill up three months worth of newsletters, but what about the next quarter?

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The content strategy advocate

Trying to bang the web content strategy drum from within an organisation is not without its ups and downs – rather like a game of snakes and ladders. There will be occasions when you believe the message has sunk in. But all it can take is a loss of key personnel, momentum, or courage to send you tumbling back down again.

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Breaking more than just news

When it’s your own website, blog or social media profile you can usually take as long as you need to publish something. Not always healthy but by and large the pressure (externally anyway) is off. It’s when you’re tasked with publishing content for an organisation with a far larger online reach and responsibility that the pressure is cranked up a notch or twelve and those self-doubting questions receive more airtime within the confines of your brain.

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