Prepare for a Challenging Content Management Swim

Review of The Content Pool by Alan Porter

Alan Porter has an extensive background in technical communications, so I was thrilled when I learned his recently published book, The Content Pool, spoke to the exact topic I was struggling with at work, knowledge and content management and providing an ROI to senior executives. I was eager to get started, but I struggled with the book’s length and unfriendliness to someone on the job trying to get the gist and apply or implement it.

Porter did an excellent job of covering the topic and related concerns. He established an approach that was easy to follow: sub-topic explanation, related quote and supportive anecdote. The order of these things and whether all three were included in every subtopic changed some throughout the book, but were prevalent enough to prepare the reader to know where to find information in each new section. The problem I had was getting through all the sections.

Even more of a struggle for me was that so many of my AHA! moments came within the quote or the anecdote, so I felt that I couldn’t skip those parts to get through the 216 pages without potentially missing exactly what I needed. And it was all very valuable and currently relevant information!

While I don’t know what it’s like to publish in a wiki (which is how Porter says this book was completed), there were several small errors throughout that were highly distracting to my editorial eye. I imagine that anyone for whom this book would be a good read would feel the same when they cross text with incorrect dashes (en dashes instead of em dashes) and errors such as, “I was told of one DVD set that involves the monthly rental of a boat and boatman to delivery it along a jungle river! (p.18)” or “…commonly known a single-sourcing. (p.36)”

In general, I think Porter did an excellent and thorough job of covering what can be a very convoluted topic. He writes in such a way that readers can easily apply the information to their given field or industry as well—a very difficult thing to do for technical communicators. Because Porter frequents conferences and maintains a fairly well-known blog thecontentpool.com, I would have thought his book would serve practical applications of working professionals, instead of reading more like a text for an advanced university course.

Still, it’s well worth the read and valuable should you find yourself on the path to content management, or to encouraging your company to embrace content management. Porter not only covers the basics, but reminds us of content we may not consider—engineer’s sticky notes, icons and representational graphics, the added complexities of globalization and localization, and what he referred to as the “pain points” that touches on what Leah Guren has referred to as the hard questions we as technical communicators should be asking.

Definitely be prepared to park yourself for some time, several times, to get through this book, but also definitely put The Content Pool on your Amazon wish list.

The Content Pool

Paperback: 246 pages

Publisher: XML Press (February 22, 2012)

Language: EnglishISBN-10: 193743401X

ISBN-13: 978-1937434014

Julie Grady

Julie Grady is the marketing/technical communications specialist at Qsource, a nonprofit healthcare quality improvement and information technology consultancy. Her experience includes creating promotional and informational materials; editing, writing, and designing technical publications, proposals, analytical reports, web content and books. She is also a reviewer for the Southern Medical Journal and theses and doctoral students. Julie has a master’s degree in English and a bachelor of fine arts from the University of Memphis. She recently editedYou Can' Eat Your Degree, by Tricia Berry and Danielle Forget Shield.

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