Sara Wachter-Boettcher: Structuring Content for People & Organizations – Episode 5

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Sara Wachter-Boettcher talks about structuring content, and - more importantly - how to help people and organizations create and manage it. Sara Wachter-Boettcher runs Rare Union, a Philly-based content strategy and user experience consultancy. She is the author of Content Everywhere (2012, Rosenfeld Media) and the co-author, with Eric Meyer, of Design for Real Life (2016, A Book Apart). Her latest book is Technically Wrong: Sexist Apps, Biased Algorithms, and Other Threats of Toxic Tech (W.W. Norton, 2017). Video Here's the video version of our conversation: Transcript This current version is not a word-for-word transcript, just my raw notes from my first listen-through of our conversation. 1:00 Sara's path from journalism to agency where she was first "web writer" - they already had SEO people, design people - she was first to organize content there - working across departments and discplines - natural progression first IDed herself as "content strategist" somewhere between the time she read Rachel Lovinger's Philosopy of Data and Kristina Halvorson's The Discipline of Content Strategy around 2008 - a bit of a time lag between when she did the work and when IDed as a CS 4:00 more on her transition - journalism->CS - tech side: never considered herself a techie - a natural ability to get basic understanding of DBes, workflows, etc. 6:10 - how deep on tech - knows HTML - can mess up CSS, but really at strategic consulting level, so not too much on implementation 7:30 - getting writers to think differently about content creation 8:50 Content Everywhere published 5 years ago this month - crux = need our content to go a lot of different places - APIs, mobile, etc. - one set of content that can go many places - responsive design is important - need cleanly structured, well-organized content 10:30 how hard it is to repurpose a "page" of content into other uses - product, blog, white papers - responsive design patterns, 12:15 - transition to this new medium - Karen McGrane on blobs vs. chunks takes time from blobs to chunks - often driven by new CMS - often tough, lots of old possible chunks embedded in those old blobs - lots of asking, "why does that chunk actually matter?" teaser eg call to action so it needs compelling message - often find that orgs have design pattern that don't necessarily mean anything - have a teaser but is content communicating anything important? and then what does it look like how is structured 16:45 - working with/helping writers - paired writing, templates, guidance and tools and nudges in authoring interface itself - as well as overall authoring workflow, order of operations, etc. in complex systems 18:30 authoring experience, help them - maybe link to or embed good example - validation (char limits, eg 100-300 or 200-250?), until recently this wasn't a job. 20:30 AI form validation? probably better to focus on human/organizational stuff - basic improvements in tooling can go a long way 21:30 "We have not fixed content problems because content problems are fundamentally people problems." 22:00 behaviorl change at org level and ind level - big long term shift - look for viable improvements now - don't bite off more than you can chew - 23:00 being strategic about how much to do and when 25:20 - not a huge amount of implementation - break change down to make it - esp. showing people how their existing skills set fit in new environment 26:45 - "my perfect system" of structured content wrecked by real life - can say they wrecked it, dammit! or revisit with them & reiterate intent - let go of perfection 28:45 - agile vs structured content eg - a "false tension" any kind of publishing system will have consistency around types of content and ensuing patterns (how-tos, tip sheet, checklists, etc) - agile works well when in process of figuring out what's actually important to your users - improve models ov...

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