Think Info

Exploring the information space

Category Archives: Content strategy

Semantic long-form

Long form: it’s been the basis of communication for millennia. We tell stories; we’ve been successfully sharing concepts with others this way for as long as we’ve been recording history – indeed, long-form communications is perhaps the fundamental enabler of the very concept of history.

Why, then, do we have such trouble migrating this most basic form of communication to the digital realm? What about how we create, manage, maintain and distribute long-form content makes it machine-unreadable?

Personally, I blame Xerox.

Space Diner, by Chris Shipton 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


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

Dependency awareness (content’s identity crisis)

Is your content having an identity crisis? Does it know what it is?

Content's identity crisis

When elements of content become individual entities, separate from the environment in which they are presented (which is the whole point of a CMS, but that’s another story), the need for awareness of these dependencies becomes critical to the “management” part of the CMS.

Most vendors will tell you that their systems are aware of content dependencies: if you create a new page, with an image in it, publishing the page will also publish the image. Hey, the page is aware of what its dependencies are; what more could you want? Read more of this post

Silicon bullet syndrome

“When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” For the last fifteen years or so, we have all been living this proverb. It seems like every second problem business has come across in the last sesquidecade has been that nail, and the hammer has been computers.

The silicon bulletThe following is a tale of a client, who approached me for some integration information for a new system they are having built. It covers what I tried to explain to them. To my knowledge, while the person I was talking to understood and agreed with me (and had the same ideas) they are still going ahead with the project.

The problem

The client is a commodities association. Every few years, they host a major industry event: a dinner. Association members book tables, then invite guests. The client, intent on making this event prestigious, prints fancy invitations, place-settings and a guest list.

Read more of this post

The Quantum of Content Management

Content management, if done right, bears parallels with quantum physics. (Please stick with me: I will keep this high-level, and only maintain the analogy for a paragraph.)

The uncertainty principle of contentThe principles of quantum physics are confusing. Basically, though, they relate to the smallest elements that can be described, which have a subtle property: their actual state (where they are and what they are doing) can only be determined – is, in fact, only realised – by the presence, the contextual forces, of the elements around them; those they interact with. A single particle can be in multiple places at once, in different phases, until something needs to react to its presence (e.g. it is observed).

When developing (or customising) content systems, we need to give our information structures the granularity of quantum particles, and the flexibility of uncertainty.

Why quantum content?

One of the base principles of any CMS worthy of the name is that content is separated from its presentation. An element of content is reusable. In order to achieve proper reusability, elements of content need to be the smallest that can be formed whilst maintaining identity. Read more of this post