LavaCon 2012 Key Note — Content Strategy: “We’re Not in Kansas Anymore”

Content Strategists and Technical Communicators Get Ready for the Realities and Complexities of Content Strategy, Development and Delivery

Continuing an apt and entertaining tradition at the LavaCon 2012 Conference, Jack Molisani,welcomed attendees to the conference and quickly got to the heart of the matter by introducing the opening keynote speaker,Scott Abel, of TheContentWrangler.com.

Compared to some other speeches I have heard from Scott, he was somewhat subdued, due to at least in part to the head cold he picked up at another recent conference–we know because he apologized on Twitter for being under the influence of sinus meds. However, Scott Abel, in a subdued and medicated state, can still beat just about any speaker for enthusiasm and contagious excitement. I also found this address to be very positively-focused. His LavaCon keynote in 2011, by memory, was somewhat more focused on highly accurate and timely warnings for technical writers who just wouldn’t or couldn’t keep up with technology and progress, but the LavaCon 2012 speech focused on the current and upcoming reality and how we can respond to it.

The need for organized content could not be any clearer than it is with NetFlix. They support (as of last count) 837 configurations. In order to be the success story that they are, they must have a way to manage these configurations. They use the strategy known as COPE (Create Once, Publish Everywhere) which was pioneered by National Public Radio (NPR) eons ago, in 2002 or so. (read more about COPE, NetFlix, and NPR at  http://www.readwriteweb.com/hack/2012/01/netflix-engineer-daniel-jacobs.php.)

Scott provided some startling statistics about the demographics of the world today:  there are about one million more people today than there were 5 days ago; There is a huge youthful demographic bulge in the developing world; 75% of the world’s population has access to a cell phone; an increasing number of people only have mobile experiences with the Internet; many have never used a desktop computer. Scott referred to the leapfrog concept using Africa as an example where much of region has leapfrogged past landlines, and is connected mostly by cellular networks. The same is true of mobile devices as opposed to desktop computers.

The increased dominance of mobile Internet access has implications that may not be obvious. For example, what does a page-duration metric mean? Was the user stuck on the page, or did he or she click the link by accident, which is so easy to do on mobile devices?

Thus, it is more important than ever that content be appropriate for the devices that are going to display it. Scott suggested the HTML5Test.com site to determine a browser’s compatibility with HTML5. Determining the correct standards is not straightforward either. As a sometime-web-developer who has observed W3C since the early 1990s, I can attest to its slowness when it comes to standards development. Having the HTML5 standard ready by 2022, as projected by some observers, just might not be soon enough. Another group WHATWG (Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group) has produced an HTML Living Standard.

All of these requirements and diversity suggest incredible complexity. As Scott said, the “Easy” button only exists in Staples commercials.

I always appreciate Scott’s speeches with his impassioned pleas that we better ourselves, that we adapt to the changing world out there, and that we should not try to preserve our technical writing domains by holding onto the past.  His positive and exciting message at the start of LavaCon 2012 continued throughout the conference.

Link to Slideshare:  http://www.slideshare.net/abelsp/state-of-the-content-industry-and-opening