Future-Ready Content

by Sara Wachter-Boettcher

16 Reader Comments

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  1. In addition to adaptation by different devices, I’m also in love with structured content’s ability to be pulled in by completely different applications. Your Epicurious example reminds me of Pepperplate, which understands the content structure of popular recipe sites and standardizes them in the app or on the site. The amount of structure needed to not just say “this is an ingredient,” but to also say, “this is an ingredient and this is the plural of that ingredient and this is the measure of that ingredient and this is what that measure would be if the recipe is doubled” is a recipe nerd’s dream. Also: I love this article. Go Team Future Friendly.
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  2. Thanks for not diving straight into the technology end of the pool. I think it’s important we avoid falling into the trap of seeing any technology as *the* solution rather than just _one possible_ solution. “Cory Doctorow’s Metacrap”:http://www.well.com/~doctorow/metacrap.htm is relevant here. The way ahead is to acknowledge the flaws (or limitations may be a better word) and strategize around them. I like the way you lay out the tools available and say “You can learn more about this stuff. Some people get pretty dogmatic about their preferred tool but I’m not gonna play that game.” :)
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  3. I am nodding my head over here. Nice work. Happy to see this argument laid out in such a clear fashion. The only thing I might take issue with is the COPE notion. “Create Once”—love that part. Repeatability. “Publish”—like we do. But “Everywhere” gets my goat. There is an implicit green light to push everything to every available channel. Marketers feeding ever-hungry channel-mouths would be happy to see content formatted in a way that allows (and encourages, at least a bit) publishing everywhere. Even if it is not the best idea. As organizations create more future-ready content, they’ll need to make sure the folks with their fingers on the publish buttons know what they are dealing with. As the content becomes more sophisticated, flexible, and responsive, so too must those publishing it. This is why I’ve wished that the acronym wasn’t COPE, but rather COPS: Create Once, Publish SELECTIVELY. (No relation to the television show of the same name, however.) It takes into account the appropriate-ness of the content for each channel and audience. **Cue the COPS theme song**
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  4. My favorite bit: ” Technology can’t help you make good decisions; it can only help you implement them. “
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  5. @Corey—I was just looking at Pepperplate the other day. Something I didn’t want to get into here, but is really important, is how structure makes or breaks your ability to share content via an API. Data portability is cool, but if the data can’t be turned back into meaningful content out the other side of the API, what’s the point? So getting to good structure at the start is critical. @Clinton—I agree—not every bit of content should go everywhere. But I think COPE is still a great acronym, since we use it to “cope” (get it?! har-har) with publishing across endless channels and devices. I don’t know that the message to push everything everywhere is implicit in COPE, per se, but I would concede that it could easily be interpreted that way, even though I know that’s not NPR’s approach nor intent. Ultimately, the goal is to build tools that remove the shackles on our content *and* enable us to efficiently do the things only humans can do well, like make good editorial decisions. @Sailorgrrl05 and @Derek—I think we treat so many things like they’re a technology problem, when they’re actually problems with our people, process, and approach. Karen Mcgrane always has smart things to say about this, so please check her out if you haven’t. So glad you guys feel the same!
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  6. “Before we start throwing around fancy acronyms, we need to get closer to the content itself, creating a framework for making smart decisions about its structure.” - it’s great!
    Future content will be created by experts - professionals in their field. Technology is just a tool to achieve objectives but the content is king.
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  7. Hi, to place content at the core we decided to use an agnostic repository made of internet concepts(Webs, Pages, Images, Documents, Metadata, Links…) which help us to organize it without any look at how it will be used. Then we apply strategies to promote content to the right place.
    The copy-writing phase supported by this approach and we provide simple views of the content in progress.
    Our solution is a mix of process, coaching and tools. Content is the diamond but model is the jewelbox.
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  8. I admire the attempt at not focusing on an particular technology as the solution, but it almost seems convoluted simply to rationalize the argument of this well written article. This article went to great lengths to talk in circles around some mythical CMS, but with a little research you would find all of this is ready and available in Drupal 7 along with the Schema module.
    http://drupal.org/project/schemaorg Drupal is perefectly suited for all the scenarios you posited.
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  9. @Pierre—Yes, I agree. Content models are incredibly useful and increasingly necessary. Too often, they’re done by database folks divorced from the content itself. What I’m getting at here is that people need to evaluate content on a meaningful level if they want to have models that are useful and make sense across devices. I know I didn’t talk about modeling much here, but I’m talking quite a lot about it in my book. @rovo—Drupal is lovely, and I’d like to use it more often. I have a lot of enthusiasm for what folks in the Drupal community have been doing. But I don’t think it’s perfect, and certainly not for everything/everyone. Moreover, I think it’s important to remember that not everyone has the luxury of implementing a new CMS (or the authority to select one). Many large organizations are currently creaking along with legacy systems held together by what seems to be hot glue and hope. Many CMS decisions are made by IT without consultation from content folks. Because people’s experiences and needs vary so widely, I think it’s a lot more important that we start empowering web folks to look at their technical tools more critically, and to get into those conversations earlier and more substantively, than it is to point at a single CMS as the answer.  Thanks for the comments! Keep ‘em coming.
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  10. This is probably the most complete article about content I have read. As they say: “Content is the king”.
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  11. Thanks again for your great article, Sarah. We’ve exchanged some views on Twitter on this matter. This morning (European time) I published an article on the well-known Dutch online communications blog Frankwatching.com, on ‘responsive web sites: target audience, content, context and design’. A major issue, in my mind, that I haven’t seen mentioned either in your article(s) or in articles and disucssions by others, elsewhere, regarding responsive design and content, is whether it’s smart to publish (chunks of re-usable) content on a site, regardless of the user’s context. As in: SSDC — same sh!t, different context. I firmly believe that, together with design and technology, content should respond to the user’s context, i.e.: I think a mobile user on the go should be offered alternate content — not simply shorter, with other bits of content disregarded, but different — than a tablet user on the couch, or a desktop user in the office. To avoid any doubt: I don’t mean to say that content should be hidden or removed — all content should in essence be available to all users — but content should be focussed on the user’s context. As in: different context, different… you get it. And the basis from where you decide which user should get which content in which circumstances, is found in content strategy, i.e. in target audience, needs and tasks, and context (not only device/screen size, but use case as well). Looking forward to your reply. Regards, Christiaan W. Lustig a.k.a. @ChristiaanWLstg a.k.a. Lustigson
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  12. @Christiaan—In regards to context, I think that’s simply really difficult to assume. For example, you mention a mobile user being on the go and a tablet user being on the couch. How do you know that’s the case? I tend to think that responsive websites should be used when you simply want to make sure that all people can access your content on any device—not to present different content to different contexts. You have to assume too much. However, future-ready content isn’t just about responsive design. If you look at what NPR is doing, their model delivers different combinations and lengths of content to different users depending on the suite of NPR product they’re using: one of their smartphone apps, NPR Music, member station website, etc. But in those circumstances, the user has told NPR they want a “special” experience by visiting or downloading one of the specialized products. Going to NPRmusic.org instead of NPR.org says “I want music content,” and logically users there get a different depth of content there. Same with downloading the NPR News iPhone app, which says “I want news.” Users’ exact context is unclear, but these things give us clear direction. But assuming what people want based on device size alone in a responsive design, and offering different content to those who have not asked for something special, seems problematic to me.
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  13. First of all, love this article and the site, just found it and I can’t get enough. Thanks for all the work your doing. I work in information visualization, so I’m particularly critical of content and their structures. This responsive design beast, however provides some really interesting challenges (and joys!) as outlined here. The semantic groundwork of information presentation is horribly overlooked because its value isn’t seen yet, but I trust that’s coming. What I don’t get is how we’re all going about capturing these semantics. When it comes to semantics, you could argue “Context is King” as opposed to “Content”; so, call me ignorant (and I’ll fully accept that) but when smart people are advocating things like ” “I really like to watch <span itemprop=“genre”>Science fiction</span> movies”, it seems to be ignoring the essence of semantics.  By doing that, we’re assuming who I am, my preference for this genre, and what I’m even doing with it.  To build truly responsive systems, ignoring the intelligence and structure of common language, seems odd. It’s like we’re trying to reengineer something that’s already been perfectly designed. Now, I’m not saying IBM’s Watson is easy, but it does point to machines attempting to cater to people vs. the other way around. If we truly are moving to this ubiquitous supercomputer of networked experience, then we need to put more focus the the relationships between info, because that’s where real meaning exist. No doubt google has been and still is (probably while I’m typing this) trying to decode this meaning. Its going to be awhile, but does seem we’re running around trying to figure out how to repackage our information in just the right way for the right experience in the right environment. But this is backwards. As people become more fluent in information seeking and profile building, they are going to have the control to say how they want to see the information in what form and to their preference. We already see this happening everywhere, and I just think it’s going to continue. We should be more concerned with how our information is going to aggregated into their chosen system vs. the one we are blessing, no? And I think those days are closer than everyone wants to admit. Moreover, i think its exciting days ahead. Thanks if you humored my rant; I welcome any thoughts!
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  14. I am fascinated by the idea of separating the CMS from presentation, which seems to be a hurdle for most systems at this point. This makes so much sense! And yet is quite challenging. Are there content management systems that handle presentation to multiple devices / interfaces in graceful ways?
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  15. We’re working on a similar idea by including targeted, audience specific, summaries that can be attached to the meat of a story selectively. The general story is created and stored with appropriate media, metadata, and expiration date. When it’s ready to be pulled out of the story bin, the story wrapped up in an audience personalized summary, much like sharing a story on twitter or Facebook. A “hey, I think this you might find this story interesting and here’s why” attachment wrapper. The best of both worlds? Any thoughts, comments, etc.?
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  16. I think Google Glass is the first example (and just the beginning) of truly context-aware devices that need to be considered when structuring content. To your point, when LinkedIn rolled out their responsive web experience a couple years ago, they operated on assumptions that people on tablets, for example, were in different places (like a couch) than people on their phones, and therefore needed a different experience of the application. I think we all can see a certain short-sightedness in that design now, but with an onslaught environment-sensitive devices coming very soon, we can actually anticipate a user’s environmental (from where they are in their house, to how many people are around, and on and on and on) context in real ways. So it seems that one of our great challenges in the coming years will be how to best identify and address the granular real-world factors that affect information consumption.
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