My phone is broken

Terribly sad news. My beautiful Nexus One did not win the phone vs. concrete bout.

Broken phone

My poor broken phone...

I still have remote access to my voicemail, but that’s about it. Luckily, the phone is insured, so I will have a new one soon.

If you are trying to get hold of me, best to use my email: mia.judkins[at]gmail.com.

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Strange happenings with our basil

Every two weeks we get a delicious package of organic produce delivered to our doorstep by Farm Fresh to You. Sometimes, there are generous bunches of herbs in our package, and most times we are terrible at using them. We’ve tried various recipes and  techniques, but we always end up with our herbs going to waste.

So when a gorgeous bunch of basil appeared in our last package I put it in plain sight, so that we would be constantly reminded of our duty to consume it.

Two weeks later we had failed at consuming all the basil, but the strange thing is that the basil showed no signs of deterioration. In fact, it was sprouting roots…

Basil takes root!

Basil takes root!

I quickly transformed the peanut butter cup container in to a pot and transplanted the wee basil stalks.

Basil planted in a handy Trader Joes container

Basil planted in a handy Trader Joes container.

I have never seen this happen with any other herbs I’ve had. Is this normal for Californian basil? Or is it because the Farm Fresh to You people pump it so full with goodness? Whatever the cause, I’m stoked to have wee basil plants growing on our kitchen sill.

Basil on our window sill

Basil on our kitchen window sill.

“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.

Writing in an age of content creation

In his recent post on leaving True/Slant, Mark Dery quotes Weschler describing non-fiction as:

“pieces you might curl into, of an evening, having no prior notion that you could even become remotely interested in their subject, and through the sheer narrative energy of the writing, you’d find yourself becoming caught and then held, completely immersed, lost to the world for hours at a time…”

I have never read a more fitting description of this phenomenon. (It also gives me a great come-back for when I am hassled about having spent hours online reading anything and everything about the Battle of Thermopylae, nudibranchs, radio valves or whatever has recently swept me away.)

Mark Dery‘s post brilliantly argues for writers who “care about words” writing for people, rather than content creation for Google bots. More about this in Scott Rosenberg’s piece on Google News.

The coffee that changed everything

The coffee that changed everything

It seems silly, but one coffee made San Francisco feel like my new home.

I have been struggling with American espresso since I got here. I had given up and been drinking filter coffee rather than facing the disappointment of a sub-standard flat-white replacement.

And then something wonderful happened. To kill time between my Dad-in-law’s tour bus, we went to a small cafe on Mason Street called Caffe Capriccio. He ordered a hot chocolate and I asked for a cup of coffee. However, when his hot chocolate arrived at our table I noticed something odd – silky milk, distinctive patterning where the chocolate and milk had met – the barista knew how to steam and pour milk!

I immediately turfed my cup o’joe and ordered for a double-shot soy latte in a small cup, daring to hope that I might have a reversal of coffee-fortune. And then it appeared on our table, complete with perfect fern patterning.

Not only did it look good, it tasted brilliant. Given, it was not up to a Deluxe or Mojo standard, but that didn’t matter one bit. The coffee was perfectly expressed and the milk was silky and consistent for the whole cup. Sigh.

You know what the really weird thing is? Up until drinking that coffee I had been suffering from a particularly icky cold/flu. I will spare you the details, but let me say it was severely unpleasant. Post-coffee, the cold/flu has receded and I’ve had more energy that I’ve had in a fortnight. Turns out all I needed was a decent coffee. Go figure.

Videos are the new bulk emails!

I’m terrible at writing long emails to keep everyone updated on our adventures in America, so I’ve been making these wee videos instead. They are pretty rough, but at least they are better than a boring bulk email.

Here’s the latest one, made on the 4th of July in Whitefish, Montana.