Talking Author Experience with the guy who wrote the book about it

When I first met Rick Yagodich in 2012, we got talking over lunch about his ideal CMS. I may have been slightly hampered by a karaoke-related hangover at the time (thanks, CS Forum), but as Rick raced through his incredibly detailed plans for keeping information in its context, for putting references and cross-references at the forefront of information management, and for pushing content presentation way down the list of jobs a CMS does, I realised that this needed more than a chat over a meal to explain. “He should write this down,” I thought. “Maybe then I could keep up.”

One very simple idea was at the heart of things, though, and that was to make the job of authoring and maintaining content as simple as possible. The actual experience of being an author hasn’t been taken seriously enough, which causes a lot of common problems with content. That was something else that I though Rick should write down.

Two years later, bingo. Author Experience:¬†Bridging the gap between people and technology in content management lays out all this and more. My copy arrived this week, but by then I’d already read a draft version (and found myself mentioned in a footnote. Mum! I’m in print!).

I’d also chatted with Rick about introducing AX to the enterprise. Like most of the larger problems we content people face (or imagine ourselves facing – this was very much a theoretical discussion), a lot of it came down to interpersonal stuff, and politics, and money.
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Someone asked me how to start learning about content strategy, and these are the four books I immediately listed

  • Content Strategy for the Web, by Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach (who at the time were both at Brain Traffic). For a lot of us this is the book that got under our skins and made us want to be content strategists. For the discipline as a whole it’s best described as the book that started it all.
  • The Elements of Content Strategy by Erin Kissane. The first of two Book Apart books on this short list. Anyone who’s worked for more than a couple of minutes on web content will get a heap out of this book. Content strategy is both a craft and a bunch of tools and techniques, and I don’t know of a book that better combines both sides.
  • Content Everywhere, by Sara Wachter-Boettcher. This book, like the next one, is still shiny and new. It’s also the kick in the brain I’ve needed to get me back into things after the Christmas break. (If you’re new to things, just make sure you read the first two first.) Structured, re-usable content is only going to get more important, and more valuable. This book explains why, and how to make it happen.
  • Content Strategy for Mobile by Karen McGrane,¬†in which the user, reader or customer gets to play a central role, by using your content on more devices than you could count. The only way your content strategy can cope is by being robust enough for whatever choices your audience throws at it. This is entry number two from A Book Apart. (You know what? Save time and just get the complete A Book Apart library.)

No-one paid me anything for this post, I promise.