Contributing Because I Must

Credit the friendliness of the wonderful people I’ve grown to know in both the association and web nerdery worlds, I’ve applied to contribute as an active volunteer for ASAE. Though it’s my second try, I continue to feel compelled to contribute to a group where I’ve long since wished could be influenced more heavily by my other world.

Here’s my entry:

Working in the association world for ten years I’ve grown from a pup at the front desk to director of technology and I’ve learned several valuable lessons I see as my duty to share with others who find themselves in any of the positions I’ve held, and beyond.

What I’ve learned:

  • Taking on scary tasks isn’t mandatory but it is necessary in expanding your viewpoint beyond your role and focus on that of your association’s in the world.
  • Thinking about current issues is necessary to address current issues your customers face. Spending time to learn new skills, technologies and approaches gives your customers knowledge they’ll be thankful for even more.
  • Working for associations provides a feeling that cannot be completely duplicated in the typical for-profit world. Taking your knowledge from the for-profit world and applying a touch of empathy and foresight increases your impact exponentially.

I’d be honored to contribute to an association that takes the time to place an emphasis on collaboration, foresight, empathy and providing answers to questions most of us haven’t even realized we should be searching for yet.

I’ve reached a point in my professional life not of contentment, but more of resolution to contribute more actively. Recently, I took on a leadership role at IAFC, pushing the impact the association has, using technology as one tool toward increasing collaboration, knowledge, access and results our customers are after. I enjoy what I do, and those I do it with. When you’re in that position, it does the world much good if you take the time to contribute what you know with those who could use that knowledge to positively impact others.

Even if I don’t land this volunteer position, I’ll continue to contribute, as I must. Because it’s what feels right.

Content Strategy Notes

“We’ve all got champagne tastes and definitely beer budgets.”

Better late than never.

This post was meant to be posted after I attended the ASAE Technology Conference in December. It got stalled and I didn’t think about it until lately, when I started revisiting content strategy for an upcoming website redesign I’m leading. What follows are notes I took during the “Content Pathway” portion of the conference where Kristina Halvorson and Karen McGrane spoke on “Future Content: Associations in Action.”

Here’s the first session description, with Kristina Halvorson:

Dealing with digital content is hard. It’s complicated, expensive, time-consuming, and often overwhelming. There’s new content – legacy content; user-generated content. Print to web. Text to video. Static to dynamic. The list goes on and on.

But there’s good news: the practice of content strategy gives us tools and processes that can help bring order out of your content chaos. Content strategy guides planning for the creation, delivery, and governance of useful, usable content. It doesn’t just affect the content we produce; it informs our organizational structures, processes, and priorities. If you’re serious about evolving alongside your audiences’ content needs and expectations, content strategy should be at the top of your list. Karen and Kristina will explain why, and how.

Our content is a lot like the Wall-E movie. Heaps of junk and we have pathways. But people want to find share and use content. Determine what’s junk. On creating content strategy, ask not just what but why and how.

Strategy is a series of active choices to take you from where you are now to where you want to be. Karen rearranges soup cans. Says she has a God complex. It’s her way of bringing order from chaos. Ask how good content is and what you are going to do with it. What do users want and need? Use customer service team to get pulse. This is the meat of the matter.

Kristina shared a comic that pictured a kid listening to a parent share a bedtime story. Caption reads: “Instead of a story, can you read me some branded content?”

TV Guide was in the content business. They told writers to write three versions of every type. Short, medium, long. They did it without knowing why. It’s a great example of thinking beyond the here and now. It needed to be structured for the future.

Audit. Rework IA. Make metadata. Rewrite copy. (Substance + Structure) How are we organized and who’s in charge of the stuff? (Workflow + Governance)

Problems are not always technology problems; they’re problems working with each other.

The RACI model: Who’s responsible? Who’s accountable for success? Who has to be consulted? Who needs to be informed?

List persons involved and assign their role in the RACI model.

Read article by Rachel Lovinger - Tinker, Tailor, Content Strategist Governance asks: Ask who’s in charge? What comes next? (This breaks sites) Provides collaborative models of who’s in power.

People are given guru or expert labels but no matter what, are always catching up. “We are perpetually catching up.” Don’t forgo research and analysis. It helps guide your path forward. Ask: Is our content easy to find, share and and on?

Here’s the session description of “The Mobile Content Mandate” with Karen McGrane"

You don’t get to decide which device people will use to access your content: they do. Learn how to get started on your mobile content strategy, define what you want to publish, examine the relationship between your mobile and desktop site, and determine how your editorial workflow and content management tools need to evolve.

“There is no reason anyone will need to do that on mobile.” Don’t be that org. Famous quote: “There is no reason anyone will need to have a computer in his home.” -Ken Olsen, Digital Equipment Corp. Psp8 was worlds first mobile computer. Tractor guy brought the Psp8 with him to track planting. (Farmin’ gone mobile!)

Disruptive innovation - theory is that disruption comes from the low end. Creates new market of something better than others. Furniture vs. transistor radio (Sony first) 80% of fortune 500’companies only advertise jobs online. Impoverished folks don’t all have internet access at home. 91% have mobile phones in USA - ‘12. Up from 85% in ‘09. Mobile phone is staple of human life. Not luxury. 31-63% jump in mobile internet use Of 63%, 34% only or mostly use internet on phone. Add 11% who uses internet half the time.

Know your workflow (map out how content gets created) “It’s not a strategy if you can’t maintain it.” Mobile focuses helps you write better. There’s no such thing as how to write for mobile. There’s just good writing. American Cancer Society desktop site brought everything over to mobile. No changes. Lovely.

“Good content transcends platform.” “Use mobile as a catalyst to make your content better for everyone.” Ask questions. Should we keep or toss content. Look at Amazon: What content should we include or exclude? Should long pages be broken into shorter ones? Will it work to reuse headers as links? Will it work to truncate body copy for teasers? What fallbacks can we provide if our desktop content just won’t work?

“Responsive design won’t fix your content problem.” Create more content sizes and structures to make it easier to package for different screens.

NPR is typically a good example in general. They use truncated headlines. Don’t do that! Guardian has tumblr dedicated to it. What to try: 60-100-200 chars SEO optimized, colloquial Don’t create content for a specific context. Make something that can be flexible, future-friendly. “You don’t get to decide what device people use to go on the internet. They do.”

“Disruptive technologies eventually get good. Or they redefine what good means.”

“Do mobile right. Right from the start.”

Back on Stage

On October 25, As Was Written returns to the historic Lyceum with a fresh lineup and the same creative spirit that has kept it going for five years. Tickets are on sale now.

We’ve hand-picked a lineup of diverse, skilled wordsmiths.

Actor and writer Greg Sestero, best known as co-star of the cult hit film The Room, is new to our stage. He’s the author of The Disaster Artist, a phenomenally funny book that’s currently being adapted into a feature film directed by James Franco.

We have Elizabeth Acevedo, a spoken word poet from the #1 ranked poetry team in the country.

Ryan Schutt is a talented stand up comedian that’ll bring the laughs.

Plus, As Was Written vets John-Mark Davidson (my fellow co-founder) and Stuart Smith will return to the stage.

More names to come shortly.

On a personal note, I’ve taken a break from writing short stories for now. Somewhere in between pushing what I do professionally, I haven’t given the appropriate amount of time to honing my stories like I used to. I’ve written, sure, and even had a piece cued up for our last show, but didn’t have enough confidence in it to put it in front of the crowd I have such a tremendous amount of respect for.

Sometimes these funks take time to work out. I’m on a streak of writing for all of three days in a row. That’s a start, right? But I’m confident I’ll be back at it next year. It’s too much fun to do, and I’ve been writing since I can remember and continue to love it dearly. I owe a few people a ridiculous story about being nice to strangers, as I promised I’d deliver not too long ago.

Anyway, I hope to see you at the show October 25. Doors at 8 p.m. Show starts promptly at 8:30 p.m.

It’ll be a grand ole time.

Things I Read - July 27, 2014

  • Ira Glass, This American Life host and producer, shares how he works, and ends with a direct, inspirational quote at the end: “Go looking for an idea and it’ll show up. Begin now. Be a f*cking soldier about it and be tough.”
  • A look at how labeling yourself designer or developer may be a big part of succoming to imposters syndrome, and how you can look at it in a positive way to feel better about what you do for a living.
  • This website ain’t perfect, but it’s more than not having one at all. This short piece states that it’s a disservice to your industry not to share what you’re doing, and that you shouldn’t wait for perfection.
  • A look at what it would look like if famous brand logos were responsive
  • The Customer is Mostly Wrong - a look into the Steve Jobs mindset that customers don’t know what they want until you show it to them, and more.