Monthly Archives: September 2010

“A Day in the Life of a Content Strategist”

I went to a fantastic meetup last night called “A Day in the Life of a Content Strategist”. The discussion ranged from the place of content strategy in an organization to the value of asking dumb questions. The lovely panelists were CC Holland from Cisco, Kris Corzine from eBay, and John Alderman from Razorfish. The panel was moderated by Frank Marquardt from Barbarian Group (you can read his write-up on the Barbarian Group blog).

The panel for "A Day in the Life of a Content Strategist" meetup. From left to right: CC Holland, Kris Corzine, and John Alderman.

The discussions about the mobile web and the artifacts of content strategy in particular have left me pondering.

The artifacts of content strategy
As good content strategy is largely invisible, how can content strategists prove the worth of their work? Here are some of the possible artifacts content strategy:

  • A content inventory. It’s the first step towards understanding the content in context of the rest of the site.
  • A projection of how the site will look and what it will be.
  • Editorial style guides that include a section about SEO.
  • Documents on brand, tone, and voice. As these can often be a bit waffly, include a ton of examples of correct use of tone/brand/voice so that everyone is on the same page.
  • A long-term strategic document that clearly lays out the problems and possible solutions of the site. Include the primary, secondary, and tertiary goals of your work.
  • A detailed and well-kept change log, listing the date, the words or phrases that changed, and the reason why. This will help to prove the credibility and hard work of the content strategists. It also prevents your organization from going in circles and repeating past mistakes.

The mobile web
The mobile web is being largely ignored in favor of apps. CC Holland called it “the ugly red-headed child of mobile”. One of the problems with this is that if I am on the go and need to find out if your shop is open, your address, or just to find some basic corporate information, I don’t want to download an app.
CC also talked about how this is difficult to manage as a content strategist because you don’t want to have two separate sets of content.
Kris Corzine added that this is another reason for keeping your content as concise and minimal as possible.

As mobile platforms become a larger focus for content strategists, I will be interested to see how we balance the needs of our different users. Although many people on-the-go just need concise nuggets of information, there are those who have time to kill on public transport or waiting in line and want to kill it by reading our content (and then there’s those who just want an app for that).

You can see other interesting tidbits from the meetup by searching twitter for #sfcontentstrategy.

Thanks to Frank, Stacey, and Michael for organizing an awesome event, and to the Barbarian Group for allowing us to meet in beautiful offices. I am looking forward to the next meetup and would recommend joining the group if you are interested in coming along too!

On why I love nudibranchs

[Disclaimer: I am not a marine biologist or a literary critic.]

Pteraeolidia ianthina reminds me of a feather boa. Photo by Doug Anderson.

In the Preface to the Lyrical Ballads, Wordsworth talks about how he sees poetry as being a vehicle “whereby ordinary things should be presented to the mind in an unusual way”. Throughout the Lyrical Ballads he uses the everyday to discuss the divine – We Are Seven is a conversation with a child which leads to a discussion about perceptions of life and death, in Tintern Abbey his ruminations on ruins lead to an epiphany of the self and the sublime.

As much as I have struggled with Wordsworth in the past, I really like this way of thinking about the divine in the everyday. I am terrified by space, open oceans or the tallest trees. However, I am infinitely interested in plant cells, pebbles, fingerprints and pencils. I love the everyday and the small because in that’s where I find the infinite and the wonderful.

So I guess it is no surprise that nudibranchs fascinate me. They are small, and glorious.

I found out about nudibranchs by becoming one of them. My friend Greer needed some volunteers to dress up for a river cleanup. There were various sea-themed costumes: albatross, lobster, a shark and… a nudibranch! As I donned my costume (a pink sack with white spikes on the back – pictures to come), I vowed to find out more about these odd creatures. Consequently, I fell in love with them.

Separated at birth? Nudibranch and Kirby. Photo of Ceratosoma amoena by Doug Anderson.

Nudibranchs are a type of sea slug that is found pretty much everywhere from the antarctic to the tropics, but they seem especially prevalent in the coral reefs around the Philippines. They feed on types of sponges, jelly fish, and each other and get this: they can absorb poison and use it against their predators! They are the Kirbys of the sea! [Side note: What is the plural of Kirby? Kirbies? Kirbys? Kirbi? Kirbuses?]

Here is a nudibranch having a small feast.

Besides all that, nudibranchs are *gorgeous*. Just take a small glimpse at Nudi Pixel (one of my favourite sites) to see why. They are found in almost every color I can think of, with crazy spikes, fins or frills. At the time, I thought that this inexplicable array of seemingly unneccessary diversity might be proof that there is a God. Now I think of it as proof that, even if there is no God, at least life isn’t boring. To me nudibranchs are like underwater poetry: they present the ordinary, a sea slug, to my mind in an outrageously unusual way.