Think Info

Exploring the information space

Category Archives: Information strategy

The biological imperative (ICC2014)

The highlight of Intelligent Content Conference – at least for me – was Noz Urbina’s presentation that caps over two years of research into how the mind works, and the consequences of this on how we communicate… on how we need to design our communications so they are most effective.

To influence behaviour, we must understand behaviour. And behaviour begins and ends in the mind.

So, to the mind. As humans, we are born with our brains unformed. The new-born’s brain is a single large mass: not yet divided into hemispheres, the cortex lacking the crinkles we expect to see. That definition of the brain’s structure comes from learning. And learning is the construction of semantic models. Indeed, we have a natural need to create models. (Infants who are aware there are models they could be creating, but denied access to the experimentation to build them – e.g. they can only watch others play, not participate themselves – will express their frustration loudly.)

But… Read more of this post

We are the Architects (Euro IA 2013)

Any talk about information that kicks off with references to chaos theory is bound to be good. Lisa Welchman‘s opening keynote at EuroIA was just such a talk, and it didn’t stop with the chaos.

Summary:

We live in a society that has been permeated by digital communications. As key participants in this relatively new, but rapidly evolving, ecosystem, Information Architects need to be stepping up and leading. We are not passengers: we are the drivers who will shape the future. But it is not an easy world to navigate; not only do we lack a map – we are breaking the first trails – but the system is far from linear.

Much of the environment we are operating in is a legacy from the industrial age: big organisations with top-down hierarchies. These are not conducive to designing and implementing meaningful digital presences. The people tasked with crafting these things often sit at the lowest point of the organisation, minions responsible for avoiding failures, but without the authority to make decisions (and, obviously, never credited properly when things go right). But this organisation model is not where the industrial revolution started; when the individual artisan was replaced with larger enterprises, the first organisational charts were designed with lines of reporting and responsibility, empowering the individuals at the tips to make decisions because they were the experts, while the trunk managed overall strategic direction. The inversion of the model came about as a result of megalomania, and those running organisations based on this model clearly fear change – their power is at risk. Read more of this post

Content Strategy for B2B

While most people were off at Hawk Thompson’s talk on native advertising (which everyone seemed to agree was fabulous), I opted instead for the one subject session from which I was not aiming to learn in order to apply to client scenarios, but for the development of my own business – using content strategy in a business to business situation: how to sell my own endeavours.

Summary:

In their talk, Kati Keronen (KK) and Katri Tanni (KT) tackled content paradigms from the perspective of communications between companies. While this is a different situation to the sales and marketing that many companies deal with when selling directly to end-consumers, there are parallels. And many of the learnings that seem more intuitive when considering the effectively peer-to-peer world of B2B can actually yield great benefits when applied to B2C.

There is a huge disparity between (honest) sales and marketing. The marketing world live for their slogans, their hyperboles; but an honest sale is about a conversation, and identifying if what you have to offer fills a real need. Understanding this distinction between pushing and serving explains why in a B2B conversation, the buyer wants to talk to a person – someone who can adapt to their needs and answer their specific questions. A site can’t do that. Read more of this post

Leveraging Community Management (CS Forum 2013)

Speaking on a subject that I, personally, have trouble understanding, Misty Weaver delivered a rousing call to embrace people’s passions -to help them get the most out of what they love – thereby knitting together a community that will turn to you also as a supplier of choice.

Summary:

We hear constantly about community, especially as an empowerment of business: engage your community, the rallying cry goes. But what is this community, and how can one truly harness it. Given human nature, a community needs a guiding hand; it needs to be managed. Otherwise, its dynamic nature will result in it evolving away from being “your” community. Management implies some for of order.

There are many activities businesses think initially will help them manage their community, in the misguided belief that they are somehow dealing with people who do not conform to human nature. Specifically: Read more of this post

Bridging Content

A short while ago, I attended a Content Strategy event: nine people each gave a five minute talk – an intense format that can throw up some real gems. On this occasion, the gem came from Chris Atherton (@finiteattention), and is a concept I can only describe as the principle of Bridging Content.

You can lead a horse to water…

The background to Chris’ presentation: design agency Numiko was selected by the UK government’s Time to Change initiative to build a digital engagement strategy aimed at younger people. Considerable research was done with the target audience: both with and without direct exposure to mental illness and its impact. According to Chris, this resulted in thirteen – yes, 13 – personae. Read more of this post

The content testing ground

At CS Applied last month, Rahel Bailie held a workshop where she explained the work she has been doing on the City of Vancouver’s web site. She outlined a triage approach to content auditing: what to keep, what to discard, and what needed reworking.

The model is beautifully simple. And if done right – with sign-off from the powers – it provides a perfect tool with which to test new content people come up with. Anything that fails the test would not have survived the original triage, so should not make it onto the site.

The four levels of the value proposition

Content Heaven Gatekeeper

Goals

What is the goal of your site? What are its goals? This is described in lofty terms; it is board-speak. It may be to sell more product, to service a community or to provide thought leadership. This is the answer to the Why of your site’s existence. It is not interested in implementation or approach; it cares only for concepts. Read more of this post

KISS and the black box

I have been told, over and over, to keep the systems I design simple. The mantra is familiar; we all know it well: KISS – keep it simple, stupid.

Everyone and his half-brother is quoted saying something of the sort:

“That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

Steve Jobs

Now, I have a big problem with how many people choose to interpret this concept of simplicity. There are several ways in which KISS can be applied.

KISS and the black box

KISSing the system

This is the aspect of KISS that people like Jobs have referred to: it is about reducing the set of requirements; eliminating second-tier functionality.

KISSing the system is about identifying the tasks that really need to be supported, and eliminating the rest. If you can halve the number of tasks the system supports, thereby halving the overall complexity, while maintaining 90% of the user-task needs (i.e. the retained tasks are used more than the discarded), your return on effort will increase.

Of course, just because a task is not frequently performed does not mean it is not critical (e.g. a purchasing process involves putting items in a cart, and a check-out; just because the average shopper selects five items before checking out does not mean we can do without the less-used step). Read more of this post

Double standards in the Google Empire

Google is big. Google can do pretty much anything it likes; with a code change – justified by its vision of what the web should be – Google can change the fortunes of companies of all sizes. As such, it sets the rules everyone else must operate by. It is accountable to no one but outdated laws. Google hates contextualisation of the internet; a practice it refers to with the shady term of “cloaking.”

Google logoWhat, though, are we to make of Google employing double standards?

While this post is about cloaking, the thought process was triggered by Google’s announcement that, in the name of security, search query data will no longer be included in referrer strings for logged-in users; this information being critical contextualisation (as well as SEO) data for site owners.
Read more of this post

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.