5 reasons content wranglers should love Blogcast FM

BlogCastFM
Dear Blogcast FM,

I love you, it’s true. Let me count the ways.

1. Jogging is hard for a sloth like me but your voice in my head is distracting and the kms just slip away. Most of your interviews last between 45 minutes and an hour, which is good because I can’t run (shuffle) for any longer than that. The trajectory of each interview is perfect—warm up, pound the pavement, cool down.

2. You claim to be a podcast for ‘online entrepreneurs’ but really you’re for anyone who cares about writing, making things and having a presence online. For me, the word ‘entrepreneur’ harks back to the ‘greed-is-good’ 80s but you’re more like Gordon Gekko’s alter ego—encouraging us to pay less attention to crunching the numbers and more attention to being authentic, developing a unique voice, enjoying the ride, harnessing community and staying on task (1000 words a day). It’s the wholesome face of capitalism.

3. Your voice (channeled through Srini Rao) is buoyant, fresh and endearing. You have a way of making your guests comfortable and confessional without ever trying to score points at their expense. Sometimes you flirt with them (even if they’ve been in jail for drug trafficking) but it’s never sleazy. Each interview is enhanced by your own thoughtful perspective and you always make sure we have some practical strategies to take away. You mention ‘surfing’ in every conversation. Nice.

4. Oh, and your subject matter. Smart people doing innovative things and describing it all with great eloquence. I can be pretty cynical about life coachy, self helpy advice but you rise above that and offer a new perspective. Some standouts for me are:

These interviews are full of useful (tweetable) insights—worth untangling the ear phones.

5. You make me feel like I’m part of a revolution. I’m not sure who we’re overthrowing (or why ‘monetizing’ a blog is a crusade requiring small armies, misfits, instigators and renegade collectives ) but I’m ready to take up arms—because it’s all about designing, delivering and doing something useful with digital content.

Seems like a worthy cause and everyone knows that love is a battlefield not a victory march.

Your devoted listener,
Kath x

Blogs, Tweets, Pins and Podcasts – why you should make a curation map

I have a serious case of DCSD (Digital Content Stress Disorder).

I fear that the web is not making me smarter. It’s distressing my synapses and dumbing me down. Not because the content is junk but because there is too much good stuff. Amazing material at my finger tips – TED talks, zeitgeisty blogs, beautiful pins and seriously meaty journal articles.

Like a kid on a post-party sugar high, I’m over-stimulated, feral and I need to have a nap.

Last week I wanted to learn more about ethnography. Since I write instructions for ethnographers and other qualitative researchers, I need to keep tabs on current practices and emerging trends.

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Does your help content need a makeover?

makeover_beforeYou know what it’s like when you’re pregnant—you suddenly notice pregnant women everywhere.

After I wrote my last post about reader-engagement (tabloid style) people seemed to be muttering about ‘readability’ wherever I went.

Over coffee, Judy told me about her postgrad students who struggle with their writing. They have trouble getting to the point. She encourages them to reveal their findings up front and points out that a thesis is not a whodunnit. Good advice for a tech writer too.

Later, my friend Lil described the reports she writes for her parliamentary committee. She wants to reduce the reader’s cognitive load and is experimenting with ways to make sure the important stuff gets read. Yes.

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What can the tabloids teach a tech writer?

Do you know how Kate Moss feels about her million dollar tattoo? Are you familiar with the secrets of Tom Cruise’s scientology marriage? Do you even know who Elizabeth Olsen is?

No?

Well, maybe you need to put your structured authoring aside for one minute. Take a break from your bulleted lists and procedural steps. Check your ‘content snobbery’ at the door and explore what is going on in the real world of reader-engagement.

We tech writers are always complaining that no one reads the online help. We work so hard to make sure it’s accurate, up-to-date, comprehensive and concise. So, why do so many ungrateful users ignore it?  The hard truth—because it’s quite boring.  A desperate user may turn to our carefully crafted instructions when things go wrong, but they will never say:

“Now, I’ll just make a lovely cup of tea, put my feet up and read that online help”.

What can we do to change this perception? Well, I think we can take a few lessons from the world of tabloid journalism. This morning, I locked the kids in the house and escaped to the garden to read the Sunday newspaper. As usual, I worked my way through the main news; politics, economics and social dysfunction. Then it was time for dessert—the Sunday Magazine.

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Take an ethnographic approach to content design

Sometimes my worlds collide and I try to surf the seismic wave.

World A: Technical Writing

I’m part of technical communication team that agonizes over the usual stuff. Should we be using DITA to create reusable content? What’s the best way to localize our material for an international audience? How do we keep our videos up to date? How do we encourage our expert community to help each other? And, the m-dash—is it possible to overuse it?

Then there’s the big umbrella question. How do we design relevant, accurate, engaging content that both informs and delights our users?

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Does your content strategy include Snapguides?

There are so many platforms for delivering content but you’re confident that you have all the bases covered—user guide, video, wiki, forum, online help (authored in a structured reusable-ish way). Then, all it takes is a friend complaining that his iPhone is slugish and the panic sets in. Here’s why. In a bid to help him out, you consult Dr Google who prescribes a Snapguide.


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