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Why Triggering Language Matters

“Triggered” might just be the word of the year. It’s showing up in political discussions, on college campuses, in relation to gender equality, rape culture, military history, suicidal fears, domestic abuse, racial slurs, sexual abuse, and the list goes on.

Generally speaking, we read it referred to for two reasons:

  1. People defending the right to free speech without worrying about who they might “trigger”
  2. People requesting a safe space where they will experience no “triggers”

These responses seem to assume that triggers are static things that people are impacted by, or that they make up. But a trigger isn’t always a word or phrase that defies political correctness. It’s not always a joke in poor taste, or something said to shock. For content strategists working in healthcare, triggers are associations that impact patients’ ability to care for themselves. Continue Reading

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Why I March

On Saturday I marched at the Women’s March in downtown Boston. Several people have asked me what the point of it was, so I want to share why I marched.

I didn’t march to protest the inauguration, or the US Constitution, or democracy. I didn’t march to try to pass specific legislation or to convince my senator to support women’s rights – I’m pretty sure Elizabeth Warren and Mark Montigny are already on that.

I marched because in her one-woman show Everyday Rapture, Sheri Renee Scott talked about the impact a YouTube video can have on a lost, alone kid in a midwest state where no one understands him. I marched because of the women I see on Pantsuit Nation, sharing stories of life outside the Northeast urban bubble where I live. I marched to show them they have support, and they are not alone, and they are right to demand equal rights and equal opportunities.

I marched for the same reason I write here, and the same reason I work with healthcare organizations. Not because I can change everything, but because I can help someone.

Women deserve equal rights. We demand equal rights. We won’t stop marching. This is just the beginning.

march

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America under Trump: Next Steps

I did a lot of thinking this weekend about the countries I’ve lived in, and the countries I’ve visited, and how they compare to life in the United States. It’s given me some perspective around the election and upcoming inauguration, particularly around the issues we have in the United States with racism, sexism, and homophobia.

Perhaps surprisingly, it’s made me more optimistic – though feeling just as much urgent need – when it comes to improving the society we live in.

I also read Gigi Griffis’ recent piece, recommending where to live to match your values. She suggested France for quality healthcare, Germany for self-employment, Spain for LGBTQ rights, and many other places. Consider this a companion piece; a recommendation for why to stay in the United States, and why to take action now.

And as Gigi reminds us all in her article: “If someone wants to move abroad for any reason, that’s their decision. Let’s respect it.” So please, take this piece as it is intended: as a sharing of information, not a judgment on those who do decide to leave. Knowledge is power.

Continue Reading

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Do You Live in a Bubble? (and why it matters)

“There exists a new upper class that’s completely disconnected from the average white American and American culture at large, argues Charles Murray, a libertarian political scientist and author.” -Do You Live in a Bubble? (PBS)

I live in a bubble. I have a career I chose and love, friends who are informed and enjoy political discussions but are generally liberal and left-leaning, and I have always been lucky enough to have family that could help me out if I took a risk and needed financial support. I have had my share of struggles, but finances have not been one of them. I have fought for many things and endured tough times, but I have also had opportunities to travel and take on internships. I have always had a safety net. Continue Reading

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Books 2016

Every year I track the books I read, and rate each on a personally subjective scale:

  • * I couldn’t finish reading it, I hated it so much
  • ** I finished the book, but I wish I had the hours back I spent on it
  • *** It was about as expected, glad I read it but I wouldn’t recommend it
  • **** I really enjoyed reading the book, and would definitely recommend it to others
  • **** I MUST OWN THIS NOW! I want to reread it over and over and over

Looking for past years? Here’s 2015, 2014, 2013, and 2012. This year, the best books I read were Contagious, by Jonah Berger, A Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood, and Travels with Charlie, by John Steinbeck. My favorite by far was A Handmaid’s Tale. I’ve read Atwood’s The Blind Assassin (twice) and couldn’t stand it, but now I can’t wait to read more by her.

Without further ado, this year’s book list: Continue Reading

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Happy Holidays (or, Why Words Matter)

Every winter I’m surprised to see who comes out in defense of “Merry Christmas” over “Happy Holidays.” This year, a Facebook meme helpfully summarized how many people feel.

Merry Christmas

But words have meaning. Merry Christmas means enjoy celebrating one specific holiday, much like saying Happy Birthday, or Happy New Year, or Happy Hannukah. I wouldn’t wish you a Happy Birthday on a random Tuesday – it just wouldn’t make sense.

From a communication perspective, the difference between Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays isn’t about political correctness. It’s about common sense! If you’re not sure what holiday someone might celebrate, go for a blanket “Happy Holidays.” If you know they celebrate Christmas, go for Merry Christmas. And if it’s their birthday, then wish them a Happy Birthday.

Happy Holidays, Content Strategy Style!

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The Case for Including Content Strategy in CMS Builds

If you’re a content strategist, you have likely heard a lot about the importance of being part of designing and customizing content management systems. But if you’re a developer, you may not have the same perspective.

On a recent project, I witnessed this firsthand. While I made a point of creating content templates, identifying content types, and designing governance practices with an eventual CMS customization in mind, the (external) development team was not prepared for the same level of collaboration. They looked at my deliverables as options, and when my ideas didn’t fit, rather than open a discussion they unilaterally made decisions. Unfortunately, the result was a CMS that didn’t fit the content needs or the editorial team’s abilities.

wreckingmylife Continue Reading

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Building a Structured Author Experience

At this year’s CS Forum in Melbourne, Rachel Lovinger gave a brilliant talk about 10 (well, 8) things she has learned in 10 years as a content strategist. It inspired me to consider what we know as content strategists, as compared to what our users (particularly the editorials teams) know.

Rachel stressed the importance of author experience, explaining how necessary structured content is, in order to have easily findable, and thus usable content. She went over the basics of structured content, reminding us that it needs to:

  • Be stored separately from any display infrmation
  • Have content types identified
  • Be stored in discrete, manageable chunks

All of this is very important to us, as content strategists. But I suddenly remembered a client who told me how frustrated she was to work with Oracle, where she needed to build “links” and “assets” that could then be pulled into “sections” that could then be pulled into “pages.”

Our authors don’t care if their content is structured. Continue Reading