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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The evolving system

While I’d consider myself a keen and committed dismantler and occasional repairer, I’m no natural builder of things. What I mean is that I often lack the skills and knowledge to build something beyond prefabrication. But I believe the assembly of a prefabricated system that works as intended is a more creative operation than pulling something to pieces. While the latter schooled me in the art of classification and labelling the former taught me an even greater lesson: that it’s not the separate component parts that matter, but the evolving system as a whole.

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‘Partners’ diagram: my workings out

Because my diagrams are almost always born out of a desire to solve a problem or align certain things in my own mind I’m more than aware that a diagram such as ‘Partners for the content strategist’ is unlikely to sit comfortably with everyone. So, to help you understand why I came to certain conclusions and shed a little light on my process, I thought I’d show you my workings out.

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Diagram: Partners for the content strategist

When every facet, subset, and silo is boiled down the task of understanding how an organisation can be effective with their content is, in essence, what content strategy is all about: everything we do is driven and measured by it.

Working out why and how an organisation’s content needs to change cannot be achieved without three key considerations: the status and potential of the content itself, the platform that supports its delivery, and the people involved in its creation. The potentially dizzying amount of skills and responsibilities this requires means the content strategist must seek out all the available knowledge within an organisation, capture it, and use it effectively. Clear communication, a respect for each other’s skills and time, and a shared common goal can help forge the working partnerships that make such changes possible.

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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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That fine art of restoration

We all have a tendency to discard and dismiss things just because they’re seen as old and failing.

I’ve always greatly admired those with the skills, patience, and devotion required to restore objects to their once-glorious state. Take that rickety old chair left by your Great Aunt with tears in its cushions, blemishes on its veneer, and a woodworm-ridden leg that suggests to anyone who approaches with the intentions of sitting down that they risk ending up in crumpled heap. If only someone would be prepared to source the correct materials, discard anything that was beyond repair, and apply their knowledge of the materials, tools, and age to produce replacement pieces that match anything produced in its heyday.

In short: that there chair can be saved.

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