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Monthly Archives: September 2011

The Enterprise as the Context

Rick Yagodich asked the question: How do we manage this Context thing, anyway?

He identifies that context has two main purposes:

  • to provide a baseline for understanding, the assumptions of meaning
  • to make the choices to communicate the appropriate message to the other party, in the best possible way

By focusing on the latter, he identifies a gap in current CMS technology and suggests how we might begin to deal with this problem. It’s an excellent starting point, but I would like to throw the net much wider; I would like to suggest that context is so important that it requires us to rethink the entire enterprise.

We are only at the beginning of the digital age; postulating about the digital future is much like asking a monk (in the Middle Ages) what the impact of the printing press will be on ecclesiastical affairs. Enterprises are faced with a similar question: what does all this mean? What will all this mean?

Monks' Mead
Ultimately, what Enterprises are dealing with is an explosion in the variety of people, experiences, products, services, geographies, societies, and markets they must cater for simultaneously. Compounding this is the accelerating emergence of new markets and communications channels. Context management is critical, and will only become more-so in determining the success or failure of enterprises online. Read more of this post


How do we manage this Context thing, anyway?

When people discuss content, another word is bandied about with impunity: context.

context [kon-tekst] n. the set of circumstances or facts that surround a particular event, situation, etc., based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2011.

Everyone is in agreement that we want and need it. When we communicate with others, it is vital that we take context into account. Context serves two purposes:

  • to provide a baseline for understanding, the assumptions of meaning
  • to make the choices to communicate the appropriate message to the other party, in the best possible way

I am going to deal here with context in the second of these forms: the process of determining how to communicate with another party. Most people do this instinctively in person (a salesman reads his customer’s body language and responses, and adjusts his pitch accordingly). But when we move context management into the digital realm – when we have to hand these decisions over to a computer – things get tricky.

It’s complicated

Context is a big problem; it is convoluted.
The problem with context - who is responsible / qualified?
Read more of this post

Which came first? The CMS or the failure?

I thought I harped on about it enough myself, but earlier this week, the theme was repeatedly brought up at Content Strategy Forum 2011: Content Management Systems are selected too early in the process.

Which came first? The CMS or the failure? (current process)

This is how the story goes:

  • Marketing decide the web site isn’t performing well enough
  • Marketing instruct IT to fix it, providing some high level requirements or a pre-selected “solution”
  • IT issues an RFP for the new CMS
  • A new CMS is selected based on the vendors’ sales techniques
  • Designers and IAs are brought in to design the new site
  • The CMS vendor’s development partner builds the site (including pushing back most of the new ideas in design)
  • Marketing are given their new site and reminded that they need to populate it before it goes live tomorrow
  • 6-18 months later, repeat

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Content Strategy Forum 2011 in review

London, 5-7 Sept 2011, CS Forum came to London in its second incarnation. A lot of attendees (I couldn’t count) from 20+ countries descended on the Mermaid Centre (near Blackfriars). Talks, parties and workshops were the disorder of the day.

I am not going to try giving a talk-by-talk breakdown of what happened. With multiple streams, I couldn’t be everywhere at once. For an assortment of slides and published notes, see Instead, I’ll cover the general themes that came out of my own notes.

Content Strategy is bigger than that

Content Strategy is – in many people’s perception – a new field, especially when referred to within the digital realm. Eric Reiss (@elreiss), however, pointed out that content strategy has been around for just about as long as we have been communicating; the only people who seem to have trouble with implementing the concept are those on the digital bandwagon.

Lisa Welchman (@lwelchman) made the point that content isn’t a something in its own right. Content is everything (as in: everything is content). What you view as content in your particular situation, and the needs surrounding it, depend entirely on how that something-being-seen-as-content is described by those who own or deal with it.

Diana Railton (@dianarailton) demonstrated how content strategy is a pillar supporting communication strategy, which itself supports business strategy. A digital content strategy cannot be divorced from other parts of the communications agenda. Read more of this post