Earlier this year I was invited by Jonathan Kahn over at Together London to speak at his annual Agile Content Conference at Sadler’s Wells, London. This is a fantastic event looking at all aspects of agile content and it was a real pleasure to mix with content strategists working across a broad range of disciplines. You can watch all the presenters from the event here.
I’m a big fan of Gamestorming – creating really fun interactive sessions motivate participants to focus on a project objective. Using the element of play can be really useful in these instances, as so many of our meetings are dominated by distraction with people answering email on their devices and disengaged. Introducing novel exercises can really counter the monotony of established office routines.
The ‘Pre Mortem’
The exercise I selected from the Gamestorming book was the Pre Mortem – essentially focusing the group on what could go wrong with a project. Asking a group to spend time actively ripping apart a proposed vision or product is actually really fun, and something people aren’t usually asked to do.
Here’s how the hour was organised:
10 mins intro (explain project and point of exercise)
10 mins 2 x groups of 5 – generate disasters
5 mins 1 x person from each group to stick up on wall
5 x mins dot voting
15 mins back into groups – take the top 4-5 and brainstorm mitigation for each
5 mins 1 x person from each group to stick up on wall
10 min summary of what we’ve learnt
With so many meetings booked in our calendars, many of which overrun or haven’t an established agenda or goal, it’s easy to take the simpliest path – attend, keep participation to a minimum, and then head to the next meeting. With a bit of forward planning, and maybe testing on a few willing participants in advance, it’s possible to create a really constructive session that really bonds the team and helps them see the project (with its many challenges and solutions) in a new light.
Hi Gang! I’ve just spent a delightful couple of weeks restoring my blog after meddling with the database too often. Lesson learnt. Moving forward I’ll aim to curate a list of my most interesting content strategy reads this week.
Your Media Business Will Not Be Saved: Joshua Topolsky
Interesting to see how the industry is now revisiting the monetisation vs quality debate… “So over time, we built up scale in digital to replace user value. We thought we could solve with numbers (the new, seemingly infinite numbers the internet and social media provides) what we couldn’t solve with attention. And with every new set of eyeballs (or clicks, or views) we added, we diminished the merit of what we made. And advertisers asked for more, because those eyes were worth less. And we made more. And it was less valuable.”
This week I attended another of Tom Hewitson‘s excellent Content Lab sessions, this time looking at how creative writing exercises can feed into content design. Although Content Strategy/Content Design/ContentMarketing are fairly new disciplines, it’s already fairly easy to follow ‘established’ methods which may not break any exciting new ground. I know that might be controversial so I’ll let that one hang for a while…
Anyway, at the session we had the wonderful Jacqui Lofthouse who took us through a series of exercises like the following:
Individual: Here’s a random photo of a person and answer the following – what’s his/her name?, What do they most regret? Who do they hate? What stops them sleeping at night?
Group: Flesh out your characters further with some inspiring ‘props’ (a series of envelopes with random objects e.g. a dollar note etc). What is the connection between the objects and the character?
Group: Write, without editing, about your character for six minutes. Here’s a scene to get you going…
Apart from being fun session (I rarely go to creative writing sessions) I found the techniques above really focused the mind around what the character thought and felt in a moment in time. The six minute stream-of-conscious approach was also good at fleshing out aspects that might have been easily deleted in the writing process.
You can see how this might be useful in persona-building activities and is certainly something I’d consider with my own team. However, I would have to be careful not to conflate an entirely fictitious character with a user: personas do have a habit of taking on a life of their own. But as a quick exercise to really engage a team around a topic/challenge, this was really fun exercise to explore.
Being approached by tv broadcasters is just such a great reflection of the hard work the team have put in other the last six months. We’re already attracting more than a million users every month and that’s down to the talent of the team but also the fantastic comments and interaction from the Unicorns community – that’s YOU!
Like some beautiful burning phoenix rising from the flames I present to you my often-cited but never seen, content strategy links of the week. I’ve been a little preoccupied by a new job recently but no more excuses – let’s get this off the ground again. So here it is, in all it’s glory, repeated every Friday.
(I mean the blog series, not the actual same content. That would be ridic.)
The container model and blended content – a new approach to how we present content on the Guardian Interesting overview by Nick Haley on the content strategy decisions behind the new responsive Guardian website. Nice notion around ‘blended content’ and how they are using this new modular approach to inspire serendipity and increase dwell times. As Nick himself writes: “Blended containers were a vehicle which exposed content to people they may not ordinarily encounter but is interesting to them. The containers both support existing patterns of behaviour and may spur on new patterns.”
Interestingly, when I visited the site it took me a while to realise I wasn’t actually on the Beta version. But then again, that might be me just being thick.
Vertical campfires: our user research walls I loved this overview of the UX process at GDS from Kate Townsey. Check out the use case scenarios. Notice these are not fully-fleshed personas which have the tendency to drift off into fantasy – this is just enough detail to help the team focus on the user needs. And notice it’s on a wall, not hidden away on someone’s laptop.
How we built the the new wired.co.uk homepage
Again another open, honest account of a responsive site launch – and I don’t just like this because of the cool parallax formatting (although the responsive ads absolutely rock). I particularly like the question posed by Pete Miller: “…what is the purpose of a website’s own content discovery experience when there are extremely popular purpose-built cross-site content discovery platforms – search engines, social media, content curation apps such as Zite or Flipboard”.
I don’t pretend to have the answer to this either, but worth pondering.
Does journalism still require impartiality?
Great article by Kellie Riordan on the importance of editorial curation to help users identify the best bits of info each day. This has to be balanced, of course, with the fact that people are now posting clips faster to social media than can be identified, verified and curated by journalists.
“What has changed in the digital era is not so much the need for impartiality but the method to achieve it. New media prefer transparency and plurality to achieve impartiality, old media achieve it with objective methods. Let’s acknowledge that both methods can lead to quality journalism, or for that matter, to poor journalism.
But it’s also important to recognise what hasn’t changed. Audiences now have access to more information and a variety of different perspectives to form their own conclusions. Do audiences need a journalist to de-code the news or contextualise the facts anymore? I think they still do. This is what hasn’t changed. “
Does The Internet Still Need Comments? Yes, But A Different Kind Interesting article on a the recent trend of bloggers and publishers removing comments from their articles. It also highlights how users are simply using the comments section to share the article on their friend’s Facebook pages and not commenting at all. In which case, should we really be calling these comments at all?
Responsive Web Design Podcast No weekly content strategy roundup would be complete without mentioning Karen McGrane and Ethan Marcotte’s excellent weekly podcast on responsive design. They’ve interviewed some great companies (Capital One, Fidelity, Marriott and The Boston Globe) about their responsive design decisions and it’s compulsive listening. Highly recommended.
And finally, fans of this post will know that I have an eclectic taste in music. I found this the other day and I’m still trying to make sense of it. Good ol’ Brian…
Last night, I attended another fantastic UXPA UK event hosted at Sapient House, London, to discuss agile in the context of user centred design.
As a content strategist I always find these events rewarding because content strategy shares many of the challenges faced by UX teams. We all want to champion user-centric content, hitting business objectives by bringing the users and clients closer to the design process. Plus, it’s always good to discuss the latest trends over a nice, cold beer! Continue reading →