I was just a few weeks from moving from New York to San Jose to start my new job when I got the text: “By the way, you’ll be making a stop at the STC conference in Anaheim on your way over.” Just like that, I found out that on my very first day of work, I’d be getting face time with industry experts and clients alike. I had been managing a web development firm for over three years, and it was time for a change. Instead of watching safely from afar, I was heading to the content development frontlines and I couldn’t have been happier. The exposure I’d receive in these initial few days would prove invaluable in the months to come. I didn’t just dip my toes into the world of content; I took the plunge. Here are my observations.
The First Day
First, allow me to describe the scene of the first day for you. I was manning the Content Rules booth with two highly experienced colleagues – Tim Steele, President of Content Rules, and Scott Abel, the Content Wrangler. The three of us were dressed in full scrubs (to stay consistent with our ‘content health check’ theme). So here I am, decked out in scrubs, mingling with people as they stopped by, trying my absolute best to catch every strange content word being thrown around (‘DITA’, FrameMaker, Translation Memory system, style guides, Egads!), when it dawned on me that some of this actually feels pretty familiar!
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I had been working with content all along as a web developer. The proposals I wrote to prospective clients? Content. The chart depicting user flows through each page in a website? Content. There are similar concerns, too. For example, reusing code/content for consistency and more efficient development. I’ll be delving deeper into web development and content development parallels in a future post. For the most part, anything that can be expressed in some way or another is content. From this, I was able to deduce the simplest of truths: everything is content!
It seems silly looking back, but it took a little time for me fully grasp the scope of what we are dealing with. Content takes so many shapes and forms; the possibilities are both exciting and a little scary to think about at once. Naturally, this only leads to more questions – How are you creating your content? How are you serving your content? How are you managing your content? When you take these concerns and elevate them to the company level and beyond, it’s easy to see how things can get complicated fast.
An [Obvious] Observation
This leads me to another observation I had. Companies are continuously shooting themselves in the foot because they don’t place enough emphasis on understanding and improving their underlying content workflow. Similar to spending lots of money on the exterior of a car, but totally leaving everything underneath the hood untouched.
The Big Question
The final observation I’ll share is more of a general question. How do we go about educating everyone OUTSIDE of our relatively small content community on the importance of effective content and content principles? From mom and pop shops to multi-national corporations, every entity needs content to operate, both internally and externally. Can you think of a single business which doesn’t use or rely on content in some way? Furthermore, why haven’t millennials caught on yet? To illustrate my point, I’m going to ask you, the reader, to do something for me. The next conference or networking event you attend, I want you to take a good look around the room and count how many ‘younger’ people you see. In 10 – 20 years time, who will be taking the baton? Stay tuned for my next post, where I’ll explore this topic in depth.