Think Info

Exploring the information space

Category Archives: Context 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

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

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 It is accountable to no one but outdated laws.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.
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Bubbling knowledge in business

Businesses have a problem: there is a disconnect between the people with knowledge, and those in customer-facing roles. Whether the communication is pre- or post-sale, those charged with providing customer interaction are, by and large, operating half-blind. The salesman lives in the sales silo; the customer service rep lives in the service silo; the technician with the answers lives in a dark cellar.
Siloed communication

So what? We know our message.

“Marketing departments know the customers, they have product spec-sheets to educate them; they can craft appropriate messages.” “Service centres have customer profiles, case histories, and Q&A filtering methods that allow monkeys to find the right answer; what more does the customer want?” Somehow, this model is still hanging on. Read more of this post

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?
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