Last week, I headed to Minneapolis for the fifth annual Confab—pretty much the premier conference dedicated to content strategy. It was my first trip…and it did not disappoint.
I’ve several posts that are kicking around in various stages of draft that should be showing up somewhere in the coming days. (WonkComms if I can de-nerd them sufficiently; here if not.) In the meantime, here are a few high-level takeaways.
On Content Strategy and Content Strategists
We’re all just nerds looking for answers.
I don’t really know what you do. I think you’re all wranglers. You’ve got these crazy, drug-addicted llamas running around, and you’re trying to get them organized.
Content strategy plans for the creation, delivery, and governance of useful, usable, and brand-appropriate content.
We make the unclear clear.
The product manager will want to tell the user everything. It’s our job to figure out what the user needs to know.
Note for WonkCommers: This statement equally applies when you swap in “researcher” for “product manager.”
On Managing Projects
If you don’t have time to plan, you don’t have time to project.
Gantt charts for me, simplified timelines for thee (non-PM stakeholder).
—Aaron Parkening (paraphrased)
Don’t just do what the client says. Create a strategy, get buy in, then act on feedback to the extent that it’s consistent with the strategy.
On Just Being Better
You need to make more messes. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.
Pay attention and have a pen.
Wicked problems sap our will to dare.
Try to think of “perfect” as a verb rather than an adverb.
Two keys to writing are short assignments and shitty first drafts.
I don’t believe in inspiration. Waiting for inspiration to strike is just a way of getting out of doing your work.
Other people make your work better.
My first reaction to getting feedback on my work is, “Well, thank you for your comments. We’re not friends anymore.” But the only reason you love my stuff is because of the quality of my friends who have helped me.
On Managing Content
Imagine if content smelled. What would your website smell like?
—Gerry McGovern (paraphrased)
Columbia College reduced 36,000 pages of web content to just 944. The number of inquiries they received over the web subsequently doubled. “Outdated content actively harms your organization.”
The Venn diagram overlap between what we know and what our users need to know is very small.
—Margot Stern (paraphrased)
We measure inputs, not outcomes. We make people responsible for producing things, but not for achieving the right outcomes.
On Structured and Semantic Content
I’m not going to say much right now, mainly because I’ve a lot to say on this topic and don’t want to keep you here all day on what’s supposed to be a highlights piece. Stay tuned for much, much more.
Content without the right metadata is a depreciating asset.
Metadata is a love note to the future.
Auto-generated metadata is about as accurate as a bored intern.
Metadata makes our content able to adapt.