Content Strategy Reading List

Mettre en avant les auteurs

Alors que la majorité des plateformes permettent à plusieurs utilisateurs de travailler sur un même blog, on voit toujours des blogs qui on un nom d’utilisateur commun à toute leur équipe de rédacteur comme L’Agenda Blog ou REEL Genève, par exemple. Ils pallient parfois  ce manque en mettant le nom de l’auteur dans le corps du billet. Cela renseigne les lecteurs attentifs mais  laisse les ordinateurs dans l’«ignorance».

Lorsque votre article écrit avec amour est indexé par Google, partagé sur Twitter, sauvegardé dans Instapaper, des ordinateurs vont le «lire» en premier. Ensuite, seulement, proposeront-ils sa lecture à des lecteurs de chair et d’os. Or, pour un ordinateur, le corps d’un article n’est qu’un amas informe de données. En revanche, si la date, le titre, et l’auteur sont entrés dans les champs corrects, il les «comprend». Tout cela signifie qu’un billet aux métadonnées complètes voyagera plus facilement sur internet et attirera l’attention de plus de lecteurs.

L’auteur devient de plus en plus important pour le placement des articles dans les moteurs de recherche. Des informations sur l’auteur, tel que son influence sur Google Plus et Twitter sont  prise en compte dans le classement des résultats de recherche par Google Search.

Avec ces changements, Google envoie un message clair aux éditeurs. L’heure est donc venue de mettre en avant les talentueux rédacteurs de vos publications. Cela ouvre la porte à de nombreux bénéfices. Techniquement, c’est assez simple. Il suffit d’avoir un compte utilisateur par rédacteur dans WordPress et d’installer un plugin qui gère Google Author dans le balisage du site web. De très nombreux guides proposent des explications détaillées — celui de Google est très bien.

Politiquement et économiquement, cette évolution pose la question du rôle des éditeurs dans un monde où le crédit social en ligne reviendra plus massivement aux rédacteurs. Pourtant, si la circulation des contenus est l’objectif prioritaire, une signature claire pour les machines comme pour les lecteurs est indispensable.

Content ROT’s like Moss and Weeds

Moss and weeds grew slowly. So slowly that I didn’t notice their presence until they had taken over the entire terrace, in fact.

Moss and weeds on a terrace

When I did find out, the entire situation became something of a shame. When I opened my shades in the morning, it stared me in the face but I avoided it. All this work! How could I do it! And what for? Where could I start?

Your website is a lot like my terrace. If you leave it alone. Pieces of content go bad one after the other ever so slowly. Content becomes redundant, outdated or you find out it’s trivial and no one cares anymore. In the end, you have a terrible situation on your hands and you don’t know where to pick it up. That’s what content strategists call content rot. It happens to every content store and every website, all the time.

Maybe, you refuse to see it as I refused to acknowledge the poor state of my terrace. Denying reality consumes a lot of personal energy and is really inefficient… Once I re-realized that last summer, I looked at my terrace with new eyes and decided that I would make my terrace beautiful and comfortable again. I took a tour of the terrace and took notes of what was there and where the moss and weeds were. Then, I took my gloves and tools and plucked, plucked, plucked. I spent two week-ends working on the terrace. Getting moss out of cracks. Plucking the weeds that had taken over flower beds. The exercise and sense of accomplishment felt good. Taking action made the guilt go away, too.

You can do that for your website or data store too. Walk around your content and inventory it. You’ll identifiy the areas which need work and what you need to do about them. If that’s too much for you, you could even hire a content professional (me, for example) to do it.

Content management is a lot like gardening (although I am better with content). The result is never perfect. My terrace isn’t in top shape still. Winter came and the weeds crept back in. And this coming spring, I’ll have to take care of that again. You can’t eliminate all the rocks and dead lavender wood from the flower beds. Moss doesn’t come off so easily either. Lots remain to be done and there will always be more to do. The essential is to start now and make things better.

“Read Later” Buttons and Overflowing Buckets

As Google Reader is going to disappear into the sunset, I started thinking about my inboxes and the pressure I feel to empty them.

“Read Later”, “Watch Later”, and other such buttons each create a new bucket. Since the buttons are easy to push, items get thrown in there and accumulate. They accumulate in silence. None of the buckets ever overflows, the container keeps expanding. Nothing seems to happen but unread counts go up and up. And so does pressure.

I currently have 65 items to read in my Instapaper queue, 13 videos to “watch later” on YouTube and six more on other video services. They are articles, talks and documentaries I should watch or read taking notes. They’re unwatched webseries am afraid to get sucked into. All sorts of stuff in there.

Part of me wants to declare some sort of “time-shifting” bankruptcy, delete the queues and never fill them up again. But I am curious, curious about the world we live in, how it changes and why. Too curious to shut down my tireless online explorations. So, I delete the outdated ones, the ones for which the headline makes no more sense, the ones that were irrelevant all along. I read and watch many, tweet them out and sometimes even take notes.

There may be some spring cleaning to do with my inboxes, especially the “Read Later”/“Watch Later” kind…

No Publication Without Compensation?

Last week, Nate Thayer’s rant about an editor’s request for free work sparked a global debate about the compensation of writing.

Nate Thayer was contacted by an Atlantic editor asking him to repurpose and summarize a previously published story without compensation. E-mails went back and forth. He started ranting in his replies and, then, published the whole e-mail exchange on his website.

Alexis Madrigal, senior editor at The Atlantic, published a piece defending his colleague. In addition, the piece walks the reader through the economics of a general interest magazine and argues that they can’t pay for each piece.

After that, lots of people jumped into the discussion. Fore example, Paul Carr, founder of NSFWCorp, wrote an interesting article about how his company operates, pays writers and why.

The discussion was well recapped and commented on «Let’s Make Mistakes», episode 85. In this episode, Matt Honan, senior writer at WIRED, discussed the similarities between writing and design with the hosts, Mike Monteiro, co-founder, and Leah Reich, researcher at Mule Design.

The question is not whether you should write for free. You should write for your own joy and your clarity of mind as well as to make a living. The question is: «Should you allow organisations to publish your articles without compensating you?». Ann Friedman, a magazine journalist who loves the internet, argued it makes sense to allow your work to be published for free sometimes. I agree and have done it. Knowing exactly when is tricky, however. Where do you draw the line?

Updated 20:06: I just found the Branch discussion many people are talking about.

Élégie pour Google Reader

Google Reader va s’arrêter le premier juillet 2013. Cette nouvelle m’a mis de méchante humeur. C’est pô juste.

On dira qu’il y a «pleins d’autres agrégateurs» mais aucun n’a les mêmes fonctions très pratiques. Les raccourcis claviers de Google notamment s’impriment profondément dans le cerveau. Le fait de marquer les articles comme lu lorsque l’on scrolle est une fonction que je n’ai jamais réussi à trouver dans d’autres produits jusqu’ici.

Bien sûr, le nombre limité d’utilisateur et le fait que l’aggrégateur n’offre pas de source de revenus à l’entreprise expliquent cette décision. L’agrégateur n’est ni un projet de science-fiction comme Glass ou les voitures autonomes, ni un projet d’importance stratégique comme Android et encore moins une vache à lait comme AdSense. Cette nouvelle reste très frustrante et inquiétante.

L’arrêt de Google Reader a une portée symbolique. Le service permettait de montrer l’importance que Google accorde à la sauvegarde de RSS en tant que protocole ouvert et libre. Les grands acteurs comme Twitter et Facebook ont depuis longtemps abandonné les flux RSS. Si Google fait de même, que va-t-il advenir de ce format?

Même si l’industrie se tourne vers les «rivières d’information» où la sélection des sources est algorithmique comme le NewsFeed de Facebook, un service d’agrégation «bête» montrant les articles des sources que je sélectionne moi-même et, surtout, qui me les montre tous offre de la valeur pour faire de la veille.

D’après Google, la pétition #SaveGoogleReader restera malheureusement sans effet. Il est temps d’exporter sa liste de flux et de chercher refuge ailleurs. Google Reader, tu nous manquera.

Writers, how do you organize writing files and papers?

It’s late, so very late and I am once again desperate for something to publish thanks to the #back2blog challenge.

As I crawl through all the unsorted text files on my computer and through more than forty drafts in WordPress, I say to myself: «That’s crap. That’s not ready. Ah, that’s just a funny title and no more. Oh, I can never publish this». I begin to question the sanity of my process — and my own. Writing is bound to be messy. Some of that will show in the writer’s file organisation, I know. However, there has to be better systems out there.

So, I would like to seize this opportunity to ask you #back2blog participants and other writers how you keep your writing organized.

Many years ago, I’d print out and keep every version of every piece of teenage-angst poetry in a single giant binder. This binder’s subdivisions matched with the folders and subfolders in my computer. The system blew up when puberty hit, I think. I started writing pages upon pages of prose and couldn’t afford all that paper anymore.

In adopting Getting Things Done, I banned grey binders for yellow Manilla folders. Altough my reference material, my financial and other administrative documents are better organized than ever, my writing’s a mess.

If you would be so kind, please, tell me how you do it. In the comments, on your blog, in a private e-mail. Just tell me. If your writing’s messy, how do you cope? And if you have a system to keep your writing under control in your computer and out, how does it work?

Nouveaux #blogchat européens

Pour le deuxième mois consécutif, la session de #blogchat pour les Européens a eu lieu aujourd’hui. Il s’agit d’une discussion d’une heure à propos de blogging. Mack Collier, consultant en média sociaux dans le sud des États-Unis, organise ces «chats» depuis 2009.

Tous les intervenants utilisent le hashtag #blogchat et on passe une heure à discuter ensemble. Les tweets défilent si vite! Utiliser un service spécialisé comme tweetchat.com pour y participer est indispensable.

En décembre dernier, Paper.li sponsorisait les sessions hebdomadaires à l’attention des Américains. Elles avaient lieu, pour nous, le lundi à 3 heures du matin. Comme de nombreux Européens, je m’étais levé tôt pour y participer. L’enthousiasme des Européens a donné envie à l’organisateur de mettre sur pied une session mensuelle avec un horaire plus favorable. Ainsi, cette nouvelle session a lieu à 1 h de l’après-midi dans le fuseau horaire médian des États-Unis tous les deuxième mardi du mois. Puisque les Américains sont passés à l’heure d’été hier, l’horaire correspond à 19 heures en Europe centrale.

La session du jour était consacrée aux Calls To Action sur les blogs. Nous avons discuté des raisons qui nous poussent à demander aux visiteurs d’effectuer des actions comme commenter, s’abonner ou acheter nos produits. Il a aussi été question de la manière de le faire le plus gracieusement et subtilement possible. C’était très intéressant et animé. Vous pouvez consulter la retranscription.

Le 9 avril prochain, le thème sera les statistiques de fréquentation. Je suis particulièrement content car il me reste beaucoup à apprendre à ce sujet. C’est d’ailleurs la raison pour laquelle je l’ai proposé. J’espère vous retrouver lors de ce prochain #blogchat!

Catching up on Pinterest

I joined Pinterest roughly two weeks ago. The amount of attention Pinterest got from the start didn’t convince me to join. The commentary seemed enough to understand it. Soon, however, iconography in blog posts began to shift. Editors told me to find catchier graphics to appeal to Pinners. I grew more curious of the service’s specific culture. Its recent round of financing and their open positions boosted my confidence in the future of the service and I joined.

Evren Kiefer on Pinterest

The signup process is great. All you have to do is connect your twitter account, choose five things you like and — boom — you’re in. Simple. Although the second step startled me a little bit. I chose four things I liked and started looking for a next button because I wanted to be as specific as possible. However, the interface wants you to choose five things. I clicked around and my contacts from other social networks got mass-followed. The first few sessions, I had to trim down the selection to get what I wanted.

I wonder how long visitors stay engaged and how often they come back. Since the site doesn’t use seem to use many tricks to keep you on, I guess the average visit is shorter than on other social networks. However, since it is useful and versatile, users probably return at similar rates. If someone has data on that, share in the comments, please.

Like on any versatile platform, finding a precise purpose is best. Otherwise, novelty-seeking becomes a goal in itself. The novelty on tap offered by image-centric services can make hours disappear off your day. From the start, my use was going to be very specific. I’ve always been an amateur of architecture and engineering. This interest of mine got only more acute when building in Minecraft. Posting inspiration sources and documentation to Pinterest seemed the perfect way to put the service to use.

So I started boards around the themes of houses and public buildings which soon branched out into other boards. I soon started following city planning and related boards, users followed me back and introduced me to new boards on urbanism. It is a great learning and networking environment!