Will Alexa Make Us Rude?

AlexaLast night my husband made dinner at a friend’s house. At our house, he often has 3-4 timers running on his phone as he cooks. At our friend’s home, there was Alexa.

As I sat making conversation, I overheard him say “Alexa, please set a timer for 4 minutes.” and I felt a rush of pride for how polite he was. Then I felt ridiculous.

Why should it bother me that other people tell Alexa to set a timer and don’t say please or thank you? Why should anyone care if you thank an algorithm? Continue Reading


Making the Complex… Still Complex

We often talk about making the complex simple. For years, I thought that the biggest challenge in working on a large scale project was to simplify complexity for our clients. But lately, I’ve recognized a flaw in that way of thinking.

Simplify, simplify

I have a lot of great recommendations for how to simplify complex information. For example…

  • Start with a synopsis
  • Pull out the top 5 areas to focus on
  • Provide details at the end of a presentation, in written form, for those who are interested
  • Color code wherever possible

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to reduce 1000+ (and 10,000+) page sites to a few bullet points or a handful of slides. I create excel sheets, word docs, PDFs, and PPTs to share findings and recommendations that address multiple problems with a variety of audiences across dozens of internal teams… and I try to keep it simple enough that we can discuss it in an hour or less.

I thought that was the goal. But now I’m not so sure. Continue Reading


Content Strategy Gratitude

I’m grateful for many things, personal and professional. I’ve worked hard to build my career, and been exceptionally lucky to see that pay off. This year, I’m particularly grateful for:

  1. My amazing team of content strategists at Mad*Pow! Dana, Allison, and our newest addition Rick are brilliant strategists, fun to work with, and inspiring to collaborate with.
  2. The Content Strategy Facebook group. This is a caring, inquisitive, fascinating group of people who share relevant articles and get interesting conversations going. I love being part of it.
  3. Our favorite tools: GatherContent, and Mindjet. We’ve started using GatherContent exclusively for tracking workflows during content creation, and I couldn’t be happier. Mindjet is our go-to tool for sitemaps and IA creation, and I highly recommend it.
  4. My Mad*Pow coworkers. Our content strategy team is only as great as the people we work alongside, and luckily we work alongside some spectacular teammates.

What are you grateful for this year?


Content Strategy Across Industries

What does higher education have to do with healthcare or finance? More than you might think!

Conference Revelations

Last week I was lucky enough to attend Confab Higher Ed. As always, Confab offered a variety of fantastic talks – so many that it was difficult to choose between them. But what most struck me wasn’t the brilliance of the speakers, or the breadth and depth of the information, or even the variety of perspectives.

What struck me was the ways in which higher education topics apply to healthcare and finance. Continue Reading


Live from ConfabEDU: Too Many Cooks!

Too Many Cooks: How to overcome content interference so you can do your job, by Jared Thomas Meyer

Content interference can result in websites that don’t reflect goals, movie posters that don’t reflect the movie, and logos that are terrible.

You end up with: https://xkcd.com/773/

What is content interference?

The unsolicited, unwanted, and often uninformed opinion of an interloper that delays or alters carefully crafted content.

We ask for feedback in our process. Content interference isn’t feedback.

Why do people interfere?

  • Visibility is power
  • Competing interests
  • Content strategy is a mystery
  • Expertise is really difficult to prove (and easy to fake) Continue Reading

Live from ConfabEDU: Getting real about content workflow for your CMS

Getting real about content workflow for your CMS, by Rick Allen

Workflows can be highly personal. So can lunch… and you don’t need it to be fancy, necessarily. You just need it to work for you.

  • Exciting? No.
  • Predictable? Yes.
  • Simple? Yes.
  • Convenient? Yes.
  • Get the job done? Yes.

Getting a content workflow together means understanding the work we do. Continue Reading


Live from ConfabEDU: The accessible user experience

The accessible user experience, by Robin Smail

Robin’s a Penn State UX designer. What is UX, and why should you care?

  • User experience encompasses everything people touch.
  • Usability is how well they can get what they need.
  • Accessibility is the inclusive practice of removing barriers to prevent interactions

There are many many definitions of accessibility though, which can be overwhelming. When admins here “accessible” they sometimes hear that as “costly litigation.” But we are all designing for people with low visibility, hearing issues, etc etc.

We don’t get to choose who our users are or what device they use. They choose that. Continue Reading


Live from LavaCon: Feed the Goldfish in 19 Minutes and 52 Seconds

Feed the Goldfish in 19 Minutes and 52 Seconds, by Stefan Gentz, AdobeSystems

In 2000 Microsoft conducted a study to measure attention span. They found people in a transient situation have a 12 second attention span (as of 2000).

What is decreasing our attention spans?

  • Media consumption (we do a lot)
  • Social media usage (we’re used to seeing a ton of short content)
  • Technology adoption rate (moves so fast!)
  • Multi-screening behavior (we switch between screens)

More and more people have ADHD. Is this also due to shorter attention spans?

What does all this mean from marketing and technical communications?

We’re moving from big drops to little drips. We need to engage people. We need to involve them, personalize and tailor to them.


Live from LavaCon: It’s Amazing What You Can Learn When You Actually Listen to Customers

It’s Amazing What You Can Learn When You Actually Listen to Customers, by Jon Ann Lindsey, Google

Jon Ann works in consumer help centers. She’s trying to get a handle on the quality of translated content, so she had experts review customer service emails and help articles across 11 countries, and the findings were surprising: they thought they knew their customers, but they got a lot of insights.

Good intentions are not sufficient to solve our (content) problems -Mary Parker Follett (with help from Jon Ann Lindsey)

Continue Reading