Archive | 2010

For better health and education in 2011

As we look toward another year, we at Creekmore Consulting have been reflecting on our good fortune in 2010. We decided to make year-end donations to two charities whose causes we support: literacy and health.

Years ago, when I was in college, I was a volunteer for Reading Is Fundamental. The nonprofit gives books to millions of schoolchildren every year. As a RIF volunteer, I got to go read to a couple of elementary classrooms every month, and take the children free books to boot. I felt just a little like Santa Claus, or at least like a favorite aunt. It’s one of my fondest volunteering memories, despite the many more since that time. This year, we thought about our role in content strategy. Basic literacy is an essential building block for success in this world, and we want to support that effort. So we made a donation to RIF this year.

We happen to work with several clients in the health care field, so we’re interested in the cutting edge of health care work. Two of the three of us live in Nashville, and we’re impressed with the ongoing work of the Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, so we’ve also decided to support their work this year.

Best wishes to you for health, happiness and good reading in 2011!

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More is practically* always better

I was talking with some friends today about their nonprofit website. We were talking about a bunch of other stuff about creating community, building a network, etc., and they said, by the way, how often should we be updating the site?

Love this question. Partly because I have a better answer than I ever have before. It’s one of those questions that editorial folks like me love to bat around, as if there were a “right” answer.

So before I give you the “right” answer, just remember, the real answer is “it depends.”

So the answer I gave is, today, information is flashing past all of us much faster than any human could hope to absorb it. If you want to have any hope of competing — with your competitors, with Facebook, with TV, with Netflix, with text messages and iPhones and Angry Birds — you have to throw as much out there as is humanly possible while staying true to your mission.

The more nuanced answer is, you also have to mind how you’re delivering your content. Because in practically no situation is 100 posts a week on Facebook the right answer. Are you hitting people at the right time, in the right medium, with the right info?

But too much is so rarely the issue. Look around here….I’m terribly stingy with my own blog posts….resolving to improve that situation posthaste. The point is, so few people are putting out too much stuff. The danger of that is rare. So get out there and start sharing!

*Practically: The only situation is which more is NOT better is alas, a situation I do see from time to time, and that social media sadly enables. People who are out there spamming their poor audiences with irrelevant content should be drawn and quartered. There’s enough real information we can’t sort through — don’t muddy the water with spam, no matter the medium.

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Social media is neutral, but people are angry

I was talking to some folks today about social media, and got a question I didn’t feel like I answered well. It was along the lines of,

How is social media contributing to the downfall of civility in our society today?

My quick answer is: It’s not.

My longer answer is [hopefully better than I phrased it this afternoon]:

Social media is a tool. Period. Social media doesn’t contribute to anger or incivility any more than washing machines do. What social media has done in the past few years is reveal that many of us are angry. Social media has given many people an amplified voice — people who previously only could express their anger at the dinner table or around the water cooler at work.

In addition, the more extensive media saturation in our society [both old and new media] may provide information to people about things they used to not know about — thus allowing them to be angry about things that would have made them mad 30 years ago, had those things been publicly known.

This kind of question makes me nervous….it makes me think that people would like to regulate speech in some way. The First Amendment isn’t just protecting happy speech, or speech that we agree with. I would argue that it most emphatically protects angry and rude speech. Think about the context of our nation’s founding; revolutionaries who lose are just traitors. “We” won, so we wrote the history on the founding of America. And several rights in our Constitution reflect a perspective that values dissent as part of a healthy democracy.

At the very least, I think many people look at social media and reject it as the province of blowhards and reactionaries on both sides of the political aisle. But I look at the cacophony online and think, Thank God. Now we can have a dialogue, because all people now have a platform. The powers that be no longer dictate the entire agenda. We can all be heard.

It’s not pretty to see how angry many people are today….but I assure you, many of them were before. We just didn’t know it.

To me, social media provides such valuable insight into the minds of people who are very different from me. It’s not my job to change their minds; it’s my job to understand them. So I say, thank goodness for the angry people on social media. Thanks for speaking up. Let’s talk.

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BarCamp Nashville: See Us Saturday for Content Strategy Throwdown

UPDATE: The panel went really well, according to the backchannel on Twitter, anyway. BarCamp will soon be releasing audio, and I’m hoping ours will be available, but in the meantime, you can get a feel for the panel from comments we have shared on SlideShare or from the resources we listed on Delicious.

ORIGINAL: I’m moderating a panel on Saturday, Oct. 16, at BarCamp Nashville. This event is astoundingly free — would be worth a decent conference fee, and all you’ve got to do is figure out how to park in downtown Nashville [meters now charge on Saturdays, parkers beware].

If you’re wondering about this whole content strategy business, and whether it’s the latest hype, or the way to transform your web projects, see us Saturday at 12:30p in the RockBar.

It’s not too late to register for BarCamp Nashville 2010.

Here are a couple other presentations I recommend, but there are lots of great ones:

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Don’t Let Your Experience Be Your Guide

If you’re in the web industry, you’ve undoubtedly noticed that everyone — and I mean everyone — is an expert on what the web should be doing. It’s similar to education in this way: We all went to school, so we all think we know how a school ought to work. The same mindset applies when we use the web.

You hear web project managers, designers, programmers and others complain about this — the marketing director who likes the color green, so the site must be green, or the CFO who doesn’t use Google, so he won’t approve an expenditure for any site search technology….the list goes on.

Unfortunately, I’ve also run across this attitude in other web professionals. It’s an easy bias to have: We know how we search/browse/like images/don’t like images/expect to find content/like our forms to look, so it’s all too easy to say, “The way you want to do it is [list your personal favorite way].”

So when you’re hiring web professionals to work on a project, you don’t want to know their favorite way. We’ve all got our own biases. Just because I can use your site search engine for 10 minutes and find any document on command doesn’t mean your customers can or will. Hire the person who can tell you how most people like to do it, or even better, who can figure out how your site users like to do it.

And whatever you do, make sure you’ve got a better reason for your site design….or your navigation philosophy….or your content categorization, than, “makes sense to me.”

P.S.: This is the first post I’ve written in an editing swap with Matthew Grocki. Thanks for the cleanup, Matthew!

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When you need content strategy: Content hack-a-matic

I spend a decent amount of time explaining to people in the web industry when they need content strategy. [Answer: on every project, of course.]

And so I thought I’d put together a few situations that arise in real life….those times when you really need your friendly neighborhood content strategist on speed dial. Here’s the first:

You’re trying to unwind your hacked-together “content management system” and implement a real CMS. Sure, you started off with good intentions. Your site structure made a lot of sense when you first built it….a few years ago. And ever since then, when you’ve added something new, you discovered the content system/blog software/hacked-together pieces-parts can’t quite handle it….so you’ve just added on some new software or technology or something to make it work. Perhaps your site itself actually looks good. But it’s gotten to the point where you’re terrified to even look at the site, because you know you can’t hack anything else onto it, and simple text changes eat up your day.

First, if you’re in this situation, you’re not alone. Many, many other organizations’ websites suffer from the same problem. But if you’re ready to figure out how to make content maintenance easier, get a content strategist to help.

What a content strategist can do for you:

  • Audit your content to figure out what you have
  • Determine the types of content you have
  • Determine the kind of information [metadata] you need to have for each content type
  • Recommend how to use this info to set up a system that will make your content work for you
  • Craft or improve a content workflow that fits your organization
  • Help you find and migrate to a tool that makes all this possible and automates manual tasks
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Links from Old Natchez social media chat

I spoke today about managing your online identity. We talked a lot about teaching your kids the skills they need online, and helping them manage their privacy, as well.

We used these links to spur our discussion.

In case you weren’t scared already….

Drunkengeorgetownstudents.com

Kevin Colvin, busted for his Halloween partying

The Real Facebook Burglaries story

Google engineer stalks teenagers via their Google accounts

Managing your online identity

Everything you want to know about online privacy: We didn’t get to this site but it remains a favorite resource of mine.

Managing your privacy on Facebook

Get started with Twitter

Share photos: Flickr and Picasa

Share videos: YouTube and Vimeo

Free blogging services: WordPress.com and Blogger

Special cases
Job-hunting

Teaching your kids about media

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My BarCamp Nashville session: Content Strategy…Or Else

Here’s the promo I just added to the BarCamp Nashville site:

Content strategy’s quite the buzzword these days. But what does it really mean? Does incorporating content strategy mean your web projects are going to be shiny and glorious? [Don’t we all hope!] Or that they’ll be more expensive, take longer, and get more complex? [No!]

Content strategy is the underpinning of a sound web project, and chances are, you’re doing some of it already. Learn the pieces/parts of content strategy in this session, from business goals to audits to information architecture to content retirement planning.

You’ll leave knowing how to be more intentional about your content. You’ll know how to prevent the train wreck that derails many a web project. And you’ll have all the lowdown on the latest web buzzword.

Please sign up now—it will be a great way to learn about how content strategy can improve your web projects.

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