…is better parties, social occasions, family life and harmony. Possibly.
Yes, the Creative Commons licensing of your content has the direct side-effect of shareability, clarity and time efficiency of not chasing copyright permissions. But it also has the real-world, real-time impact of more people (hopefully) attending what is a truly lovely family event in Birmingham this weekend. And here’s why – in a 24-hour timeline:
Saturday 12.00: Yesterday, I took photographs at a family day out at this weekend’s Traditional Edwardian Fete at Winterbourne House and Garden, and as is my habit, set them uploading to my Flickr photo account, during the making of dinner. Here’s the set of 60 and also in slideshow format:
Saturday 22.00: After adding a few captions and tags and the like, at midnight I posted the link to the family on Facebook, and then also posted to Twitter.
No need to contact me first; the pics were released under Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial licence.
He then let me know via Flickr comments and Twitter that it was up – just in time to get the word out to more potential visitors.
Sunday 12.00: Hopefully, as a result, many more people will get to enjoy this lovely house, garden and fete – as it was intended, full of promenading Edwardians, the bluebell wood still just about in flower, cream teas on the terrace, cheese-rolling skittles and coconut shies on the lawn, and donkey rides down in the glade. And now, by doing something interesting with my content, Nick’s driven me to blog about it too. 😉
Winterbourne Gardens Traditional Edwardian Fete is on til 5pm today in Edgbaston, a stroll from the Barber Institute, King Edwards School and Birmingham University. £6 for adults, concession £4, under fives, free.
Ooh, just realised I can create a slideshow on Flickr. So while waiting for today’s Traditional Edwardian Fete photo set to upload to my favourite photo-sharing platform, here are my top 50 photos (imo). It’s a personal pick since joining Flickr in September 2008. And if you don’t fancy the slideshow, feel free to browse through the 50 Favourites set on site, photo by gloriously random photo. 😉
For those who need a reason to scoot through, there are pics here from:
The desert where Lawrence of Arabia was filmed
The murder of crows in my local park
A haunted furnace in Birmingham, Alabama
Light-painting with an illuminated gyroscope
Rice representations of human populations
And neon No Farting sign in a pork ribs shack
And who should open the show but, natch, the lovely Pete Ashton, who was the one who pointed out how easy it is to do a Flickr slideshow. Full circle.
Fascinating as Content Strategy Forum 2010 was two weeks ago, one major thing that came out of it was the need for benchmarked case studies that focus specifically on online content strategy, its effects and its impacts on the development and success of a website.
Serendipity landed Kristina Halvorson (queen of content strategy) next to me at lunchtime on #csforum10 Friday – which, by the way, was a three-course à la carte lunch with wine. (Bless whoever decided to set the first-ever dedicated content strategy event in Paris in the springtime.)
Content is a hard sell
Halvorson admitted that content strategy can be a hard sell, particularly in an environment that is prioritised for design and development with content requirement boxes full of ‘lorum ipsem’ often only fulfilled with real content at the 11th hour.
There is a lot of advocacy for content strategy going on at the moment to sort out the mess of working this way.
Halvorson herself has spent the last 18 months being very vocal about why something as crucial as content should be considered not only upfront but throughout its lifecycle. She looks for content advocates within organisations to help make the case. And last year, she wrote Content Strategy for the Web, a handbook that outlines a repeatable process to take care of the whole messy content thing.
Finally, the content strategy buzz of 2009 means that clients are starting to request content strategy directly.
Lack of successful case studies
And yet, despite reading the book and saying ‘yes Yes YES’ like Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally at the common sense that lies within, the finally page is a massive deflation:
‘At the time of writing, I’m not aware of a single case study available to the public that documents a content strategy successs story.’
It was something she echoed at lunch. Part of this is because projects are often not benchmarked from the outset and then monitored for change arising from content strategy changes. Partly, it’s because content advocates are still trying to get in on the act at an early enough stage.
But expect to see some case studies soon, I think.
Facebook’s content strategy success
It was great, for example, to hear Sarah Cancilla, the solo content strategist at Facebook, talk about some basic content tweaking to make the calls to action clearer on the ‘Get connected’ section. Some simple sub-editing here resulted in an overnight rise of 56% net traffic to those three links and six million more people connecting as a result of the change.
Six million! Now that’s what I call a justification.
Facebook is now also hiring a second content strategist, unsurprisingly.
A multi-tasking discipline
But as a former sub-editor, I’m not surprised. I come from a background of 20 years’ prepping raw copy for an audience, both in print and online, and trying to make it more engaging, clear and understandable for readers.
But content strategy is not just sub-editing and clever writing. And there is still a whole lot of new to take on board…
A content strategist has to get to grips with the disciplines of information architecture, user experience, monitoring and analytics, pinning down key business goals, auditing and analysis, alignment of stakeholders, and so on. All of these inform the choice of content.
It’s a lot to get your arms around, as Halvorson might say.
But forget arms. Since coming back from Paris, I’ve put my legs on backwards and kicked myself up the butt to initiate three content strategy projects for clients. I’m hoping to create a benchmarkable case with one of them in particular.
Fierce Festival as a case study
Fierce Festival, an internationally renowned arts festival based in the West Midlands since 1997, has become a different beast over the years. It has developed a training arm for artists and consultancy arm for arts organisations. The festival itself is also morphing and this year has two new artistic directors, Harun and Laura.
With their arrival comes a clean slate. Past sites have been archived or taken offline and a blog has been set up as a conversation leading towards a future full-scale festival website, in which all the strands of Fierce will be brought together under one umbrella at last.
I’ve volunteered to help with this from a content perspective. It’s going to be a journey but I’ll be documenting some of the issues involved in trying to unify Fierce’s radical and innovative performance side with its practical training/consultancy side.
Of course, I’m learning here too so I’m kind of on my own journey here with content strategy – and the arts, too, since the rest of the week I’m Grant Thornton‘s freelance blogger (they’re a large accountancy firm btw).
I hope the project will be interesting to watch, document or engage with. I should be blogging about it both here and possibly on Fierce’s blog as their journey develops.
Not having been in Birmingham at the same time as Fierce festival, I’m also fresh to it, but would love to hear from fans of Fierce if you want to give me a nudge about something.
(Afterthought: how much will people be looking for Fierce festival stuff on smartphones, do you think? Great slideshare from #csforum10 on optimising content for mobile by Erin Scime. Would hate to see web/blog stuff shovelled onto the small screen.)
Here are the quick links to my Blogger’s Style Guide, which I’ve posted over on my Subs’ Standards blog as a series of 10 posts. This is the ‘how-to’ that I give to my company bloggers when they start writing posts for their employer’s blog. It acts as a support document for those who know their subject well, but know little about blog writing or publishing in general.
Of course, what happens after the raw copy comes in is a whole ‘nother series about content and blogger wrangling.
I’m also finding that this is overlapping with my Content Strategy work so I’m hoping to add posts on #CSforum10 here on this blog soon for those interested in the Content Strategy Forum in Paris last month.But I’d rather do it in context of my ongoing content strategy audits rather than just report back on the event so need to sort some permissions first.
After a week of unusual nights out– featuring trampolining, Balkan and Israeli folk dancing and ukulele to name three – tonight had the potential to be the weirdest yet.
The Box of Frogs theatre impro workshop is held in Moseley, Birmingham’s arty, crusty and eclectic postcode, every Tuesday evening. For just a fiver, you can revisit your inner child for two hours of pretend, singing, mirroring, general making things up on the spot and playing games called things like ‘Zip Zap Boing’.
Now let me just say, I am not the dramatic type and hate being put on the spot. I used to be very shy and hid behind my mother’s skirts when people came to the house. I also hated acting at school and found it false, stressful and humiliating. As an adult I can hardly breathe when speaking in public. Oh and being a ginger, I blush to the roots.
And yet… I admire people who can perform naturally, who can wing it at a talk or who can give a confident or charming presentation. And there is something (megalomania?) within me that drives me towards taking the lead. I also seem to have an occasional exhibitionist streak and have sung/played on stage (for Gordon Brown) in what now seems like another lifetime.
Finding an improv session in Birmingham was part of my SXSW Interactive follow-up, after feeling particularly inspired by the fun, games and confidence-building at a session called Improv Lessons for Freelancers.
Box of Frogs featured seven players and was fascinating, supportive and not at all embarrassing. This was unexpected considering that tonight I have had to perform a contemporary dance about dog walking, sing in fluent nonsense and play a bank manager so obsessed with a potential loan customer’s spectacles that she just had to touch them and get them for herself.
Because the great thing about improv is that nothing you do is wrong! For once, the brain can take a day off from fretting about getting it right.
Which was a particularly good thing – because I spent the first 10 minutes in the church next door doing vocal exercises with the local choir.
My blog mentor used to say keep your posts short. One point per post. Three paragraphs should do it.
Well, here it is. The perfect post. Albeit leading to 3,000 >more< words of juicy goodness about a trade that is being eroded, outsourced and killed off as mainstream media declines. Over on Subs’ Standards, I’ve just posted up the final chunk of a three-part epic looking back over my 21 years as a sub-editor.
And here is it: RIP Sub-editing 1987-2008. Enjoy! Meanwhile check out these taster pics: of my old-skool kit and the changing size and shape of technology…
* …some content strategy contacts
This was one of my main reasons for attending. Content strategy was a SXSW Interactive content buzzphrase this year. The content panels were packed out and the queen of content strategy Kristina Halvorson gave a talk that felt more like a keynote presentation. Content is messy and soaks up resource so it makes sense to apply some thinking to it ahead of where it usually gets chiselled in –ie, right at the end. Anyhoo, there was an impromptu content strategy meetup, in a bar natch, to meet the early adopters. I now have at least two business cards in my biz-card-takehome-pile from people who I feel I can contact for help and advice. Also, Ruth Ward of Rewired PR and I are thinking of setting up a content strategy meetup in Birmingham for those looking to make the leap from web writing/editing, online PR/marketing, UX or IA into this growing field – as you can see on the link, all CS meetups are currently in the US. It’s an opportunity to bring Bham companies ahead of the curve.
* …a spontaneous urge to take up improv Improv lessons for freelancers has inspired me to sign up for improv, which is not only a bit of fun, but also a confidence-booster when you’re being put on the spot in client-vendor relationships. Having been put on the spot in this session myself by some smart-arse on the front row, I realise I could do with learning to think and process on my feet a bit faster as well as learning the Whose Line Is it Anyway? art of the winning instant comeback.
* …the skill of shuffleboard networking
The great thing about SXSW is that it is more a festival than a conference. You can meet old friends and find new ones ridiculously easily. This year, one of the leading meet spots was at Buffalo Billiards over a game of table shuffleboard (see above). I think I had beginner’s luck with it and opened up some a can of Brummie whoop-ass on various delegates after randomly pairing up with the CEO/founder of TripLittle.
* …some potential work leads
It’s too early to say but I have a meeting lined up in April to do some blogging. And with a bit of luck, it might even lead to some international working. Watch this space. I also hope that all the chat about how digitally connected and determined we are in the West Midlands has fallen on fertile ground. With 25 of us out there shouting about the region, hopefully there will be some positive outcomes from the trip.
* …a haze of insight and context
It’s too early to assimilate all the things I heard and learnt over the five days at SXSW but it will feed into all the work that I do over the next 12 months. It feels kind of like doing an A’Level in a weekend and, at the moment, I’m post-exam with a blank mind, a whole lotta jet lag and the feeling of never wanting to work again.
Fringe events outside of the main SXSW programme are occurring all the time. I just found out today for example that there were THREE Twitter parties (not just the official one). But you can often only come across these serendipitously through the people you meet at South-by. One off-programme invite I got was courtesy of Stephanie Frost, a rather lovely marketing lady from Atlanta and co-author of a new book called Marketing Unmasked. Being from Atlanta, she had access to SExSW (which spells Sex SW, I know), a party put on for those hailing from the south-eastern states. Stephanie’s invite took me to the Frost Bank Tower, the second highest building in Austin, for some rather pretty views, chats and a glass of the good stuff up in the 33rd floor penthouse suite.
* …the ABC of douchey panels
Sometimes you just get a panel that doesn’t live up to its blurb. Irritating if you picked that one out of three others that you also wanted to see. It happens; there are hundreds of panels at SXSW. Here are your options:
A. Revel in the backchannel snarking.
B. Leave in search of an alternative or take a sunshine break.
C. Use the time to catch up on your Twitter, emails, feeds, SXSW blog, uploading your SXSW pictures and video, filling in job applications, etc.
* …about the digital agency workflow
Well, one agency’s workflow in particular. I kind of felt sorry for Archetype, the Interactive Agency Workflow panel guys. They had a packed room but killed it by using themselves as the only example. Result? The room emptied by degrees. They also got a slating on the Twitter backchannel. However, being a web writer/editor, I’m often at the end of the digital agency production line and don’t get to see the overall process so this was quite interesting to me. It was good to see the wireframes, hear how not to burn out your staff and some ways of dealing with the post-delivery jubilance that is then crushed by the client hating it.
* …that being called a bitch is good news
I don’t >think< I’ve been called a bitch, but according to @Cinnachick on the #sxswbitch panel, I’m missing out, because this situation is full of WIN. ‘When they call you a bitch, it means you’ve won. Why? Because they aren’t smart enough to continue the conversation,’ she says. Fair point. She loaded this up with a whole list of projects set up by women who haven taken on the establishment in some way to create their projects. Here’s the blog post/slides.
* …that heartbreak and wonderful things often occur simultaneously The Fray Café is a SXSW regular. It’s an event where people stand up on stage and tell stories, with only one proviso: IT MUST BE TRUE. Having had a couple of crap years here and there myself, several stories really resonated. One in particular from Baratunde Thurston, Web & Politics editor at The Onion, was both amusing and tragic at the same time. The audience was sworn to secrecy due to the personal nature of the story, but I was reminded of 1996 – the year I lost my Dad, uncle and grandmother, but also found one of my favourite friends and went off to explore the world. HsAPaPdY.
* …that the average blog is read by 6 people
That stat from Danah Boyd’s keynote. So think about that the next time you feel pressure or guilt to produce a blog post for your audience but should really do other, more important things instead.
* …to JFDI!
Am I a video blogger? No. But Social Wayne impressed on me to ‘JUST DO IT’ in his Becoming a Real-Time Video Blogger in 2010 talk and, you know what, I think I will. After all, YouTube is the No2 search engine, the 4th most visited website, has over 20 hours of video uploaded every minute and is watched for 8.3 hours every month by the average viewer. I also remember randomly overhearing in the corridors: ‘There are just too many words, man!’ So, my takeaway: more video. (And here I am in real-time trying to video blog after 22 hours no sleep on the train to Austin…)
*…two new words Propinquity is the coincidence of being near – in ‘physical proximity, a kinship between people, or via a similarity in nature between things’. This was brought up by Peter Kim in the Social Business Design panel. Propinquity is what business has to fight/extend/engage with in order to get people to venture beyond their near friends/family. Twelpforce was an example quoted as helping creating this engagement and getting close to consumers by offering a Twitter help squad to answer questions beyond the local store experience. Slacktivist was another word from the Little NGO That Could panel but for some reason this type of portmanteau word reminds me too much of chillaxin’. Bleugh.
* …that content strategists are like Wall•E
We go around cleaning up the Armageddon-like mess of crap that has been thrown up on the Web often without a thought by brands, marketers and others. And when we find something beautiful amongst the endless crap we get all excited and want to store it and share it. The Wall•E analogy was used by Kristina Halvorson to bookend her Content Strategy FTW talk.
*…about porn startups
I think #futuresmut was one of the catchier hashtags of SXSW this year and the potential for a smutty backchannel loomed large, especially when an attendee arrived wearing an above-the-knee kilt. While the backchannel (surely a smutword in itself) had a humour fail, the panel did with get right down-to-business (#smutgalore) with pointers for the wannabe pr0n kings and queens in the Hilton Ballroom. Conrad Hilton must be turning in his grave. Here’s what the man in the kilt doodled during the panel by the way – check out the hairy knees.
* …that journalism is getting interesting again
The panel on combining news with context (how revolutionary!), or context with attached news, had some great speakers. What seems clear is that big organisations ar failing to do this well because they are constrained by their traditional roles – which leaves opportunities for the agile. The other interesting thing was The Newspaper Club – a 4IP-funded tool called ARTHR for producing your own newspaper on those ‘magnificent bits of infrastructure that are just lying around’ – printing presses . I heard more than one classic Austin ‘awesome’ when people circulated the ‘limited edition’ newspaper the group had printed at 7am that morning on the Austin Statesman presses. As the endline of the presentation went: ‘We have broken your business, now we want your machines.’ How funny that the internet is accelerating content in the form of old-school newspapers, and how great that these newspapers are made by the readers themselves using traditional publishing infrastructure.
* …that we are networking as Rome burns
Sci-fi author Bruce Sterling traditionally does the final remarks of SXSW and this year his dour look into the future added a fat dollop of real-world context to all us little digitalists running from panel to panel, searching for answers to today’s business conundrums. But in essence we must face the digital demonetisation of our new world – many business models are broken and the numbers involved in their replacements are not large enough to sustain us. Oh and we will be hated by future generations for what we are building or throwing away now – just to warn you.
I took 16 pages of notes at SXSW Interactive festival this year. It’s hard to get your head around all the difference panels, talks, core conversations and notes-to-self but I think this Wordle shows something of what I was getting from and attending at South By in 2010.
It’s particularly interesting that the top three words are: ‘Content people want‘. I guess that’s the key and secret to online enterprises.
There is more to blog tomorrow ahead of the long plane ride home. PS. You can click on the link to see a larger version of the Wordle.
A little SXSW diary catchup… It’s the halfway point of SXSW Interactive and I’m still gearing up into this festival to end all web festivals.
Here’s my personal/business mission statement for this year’s event – slightly different from last year as I’m being part-funded to attend by the UK’s Digital Mission along with about 25 others from the West Midlands. See the Heart of Austin site for more on who we are – but with a trade show stall the size of the UK’s stand and no other UK region represented here, you can see how much Birmingham UK values the digital dollar and I think is also representative of what a digitally connected hub the Midlands is.
SXSW Diary: from Miami to Austin
Arrived into Austin on Thursday at 9.30 am after 22 hours of train travelling from New Orleans and 25 hours of no sleep – you can see the state of me in this ‘Let’s look at the brewery’ video as I fail spectacularly to be a tourist guide to San Antonio from the train.
There will also be content going up on my travel blog, Tourist vs Traveller, about my Amtrak train and Greyhound road trip from Miami to Austin via Atlanta, Birmingham and New Orleans. But mainly about the 24 hours this Brummie spent in our namesake city, Birmingham Alabama.
I’m also adding to my Flickr picture set as the days go by: SXSW2010 and USA2010 – if you want to see the trip that led up to the festival and see what Birmingham, Alabama looks like.
Thursday/Friday saw badge pickup – where I learnt that it pays to be late. Never to turn up at the listed time but at least two hours later if you want to avoid the queues.
First panels: mobile UX and improv lessons
My kick-off panel was the UX of Mobile, which is a whole new world of design, dev and content and one that may lead website design in future rather than the other way round. In future, mobile design will be a key driver in all digital design, was the expert view, because shrinking down website to fit on a small screen (surprise, surprise) doesn’t work.
I spent most of this panel, however trying to track down a certain Bharath Kumar who had left his memory stick on a corridor floor by a power socket. It was like trying to solve a mystery. You’d think everyone at SXSW would be easily findable on the Web, but I tell you, Bharath Kumar is a VERY common name. In the end we found his mobile number somewhere on the stick and texted him. And he lived happily ever after.
The afternoon’s best session was Improv Lessons for Freelancers – and has inspired me to take up improv if there are any such sessions in Birmingham UK… This is not just about how to be charming to your clients but how to, for example, say yes positively to their ‘Make it pop’ requests without actually committing yourself to a bad design decision – or extra unpaid work.
How to network at SXSW
Over a margarita, of course. Thursday evening was the SXSW West Midlands networking dinner at the Iron Cactus, the social and business bonding oiled by the drink of SXSW: the margarita. Parties are another major feature of SXSW.
I’m a relative new arrival into Birmingham’s digital scene – see September 2009’s Why I am moving back to Brum – so it was good to cement a few friendships and to let people know that I’m a web writer, web editor and content strategy person who can plug into the commercial scene in Birmingham and create content for clients/agencies that need a professional web writer/editor.
The serendipitous Glastonbury effect
Saturday was a frustrating day. Every panel I chose to attend had a mile-long queue to get in.
But this is where SXSW reminds me of Glastonbury in that it’s all good. If you can’t get to something you want to see because it’s over the other side of the site and four floors up, or it’s oversubscribed, then there are some great little gigs right next to you. It may not be your subject but you can still take away something from it.
Critical Tits, for example, was an interesting one – a conversation where the Burning Man festival was being called to account for its new and tight restrictions on photography, where they see anything shared to a wider audience as ‘commercial use’. I think the move has stemmed from people snapping naked female artists and those shots appearing on porn sites. But the clamp down seems excessive and controlling being applied across the board as it is. I may be wrong on this, I didn’t get the full lowdown as the session was interrupted by an emergency fire alarm and evacuation of the whole Austin Convention Center.
I also attended Why Keep Blogging by some of the original superstars of blogging (SXSW is great for attracting big names) and How to Create a Viral Video – which was (possibly) more fun than useful but made by the attendance of Damian Kulash of OK Go viral video fame.
How to create a viral video
I think OK Go’s music has become secondary to their videos, but, OMG, This Too Shall Pass is a damn fine video. It starts with domino toppling and ends in the most astonishing series of pop music Mousetrap that you will ever, ever see. Ever.
An incredible idea if you can afford the 60 engineers and six months it took to make. Although the point was made that the record company couldn’t afford it but commercial sponsors State Farm Insurance could – and got very positive comments from the millions who have seen the video. And the only product plug was their logo on the side of a truck that sets the first domino falling, plus a credit at the end.
Now that’s what I call marketing 2010!
Content Strategy FTW!
Kristina Halvorson’s Content Strategy FTW was the highlight of my day. I received a major info download that is currently swirling around my head so will post another time on that.
Over the next year, I’m looking at employing content strategy for We Are Fierce in Birmingham and helping them to bring their festival, consultancy and training arms all under one unified web presence over the next year.
I’m not sure what will result, but it’s going to be interesting as few organisations pay this much attention to the haphazard and messy world of content. We shall bring order! And the basic premise is ‘Less is More’.
Will also be attending CS Forum 2010 – an entire conference devoted to the growing discipline of Content Strategy.
Daily Strangeness from Dorkbot to Kick-Ass
Finally, last night was fun. After a brief stop-off at the Dorkbot tent to twiddle some knobs (here I am with a BleepLabs Thingamagoop), we were hijacked on Sixth Street into a cab for an interview for (I think) DVD bonus features for a new superhero flick. SXSW Film Festival saw the premiere of Kick-Ass – a superhero movie based on a comic book of the same name – we signed our Hollywood movie waiver and proceeded to be drilled about what type of superhero skills we would have and who’s ‘ass’ would be like to kick and why, as we were driven around the streets of Austin in a cab emblazoned with Kick-Ass all over it.
It was one of those mad, interstitial Glastonbury moments that is tertiary to the main event but one of the things you remember most. After all, the slogan and ethos of this city and this festival is ‘Keep Austin weird’.
Off now to enjoy Tuttle at SXSWi, an inaugural Content Srategy meetup, Fray Café tonight and see what else Sunday brings. It’s going to be fun.