My buddy, Ed Marsh, has written and excellent article about the benefits of using some of the WordPress plug-ins out there, and how one tool in particular helped him see inefficiencies in his own WordPress site, as well as with other WordPress sites he’d been working on.
I use the WordPress hosted site for my blog, so I haven’t tried in this plug-in, but knowning Ed, he put this particular plug-in through its paces, and it sounds like a great resource. Read more at the link above.
Do you know of any other good WordPress plug-ins that are helpful? Share them in the comments below.
The second module of my online course in digital marketing is about Search Marketing and how SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SEM (Search Engine Marketing) works. The module is taught by Mike Moran, who crams a lot of information in 3-4 hours of video.
My initial reaction is similar to when I heard Mark Lewis talk about using XML and DITA to determine ROI metrics on tech content, namely that I understand it on a broad level, but ouch, it hurts my brain! Mark is awesome*, don’t get me wrong, and what he figured out with his XML analytics is genius to me, but about 95% of it is over my head. That’s how I feel about Mr. Moran’s talk on SEO Marketing. I understand the concepts without any problem, but I supposed that since I have little practical marketing experience, much like my XML/DITA experience (which is even narrower), it’s hard for me to make the full connection to the information without feeling overwhelmed.
I just took my quiz, and got a 70% on it. Ugh. Not good. I can take the quiz over again many times until I get a better score, but that’s not a good starting point.
I think much of it feels overwhelming not only because it’s taken from a marketing perspective which I don’t originally come from, but also because I’m listening to the information, and the content strategist/writer in me is trying to think, “Okay, now with the content I write, it has to be clear and concise, and written in as much plain English as possible, using consistent terminology and word choices to be able to be reused and translated easily, as well as written in a way that can be globally understood in context, AND now I have to start thinking about keywords in relation to organic and paid searches to my website so that I can have as high a ranking in web searches as possible.” (And I’m sure I’m forgetting a few other things, too.)
I think my brain just exploded. Hopefully there’s something left, because it feels like a mess inside my cranium. In the end, what’s happened to the actual content? Is there anything left worth looking at after that? How creative can I be to make ALL of that happen?
To put it in context, I’m trying to think about how to apply this information I’m learning about search towards either this blog or towards websites I’m thinking of building for my potential tech comm consulting business I might start this summer. Part of me wants to give up before I even start! How can I compete when it all boils down to keywords in my content, figuring out differentiators (which I can’t figure out in the first place), and other factors that would help drive my listings towards the top of a search? For example, how do I even start to promote myself as a tech comm consultant? I have to figure out what makes me a great choice. Part of that is on me, because I have to figure out what my strengths are, and I still don’t feel as strong as other technical communicators who have been doing this much longer than me. Sure, I understand content strategy, but I’m no Scott Abel, or Rahel Bailie, or Ann Rockley, or Val Swisher, or Noz Urbina, or Sarah O’Keefe…(and the list goes on and on…) But once I figure that out, what’s the one thing that will help draw me to the top of the list, or at least the first page of a search, other than geography?
(Ow, ow, ow…hurting brain….)
I think I need to review the slides again for this module, and start re-analyzing the terminology and conditions of all the topics. From a high level, I understand this. From a more granular level–not even that far down–I get lost. I’m feeling a bit defeated already. Mr. Moran said at the end of the lecture that a lot of this information is overwhelming, and that we should focus on what we can do rather than what we can’t do, and work on one aspect, and hopefully you can grow as you learn and practice. He even wrote a compelling article that digital marketing is a matter of bravery, not necessarily matter of knowledge. While I take this to heart, and will keep pursuing this, it will be difficult since I have no or little practical application for this right now. Fear is my primary motivator in all of this. I’m not a content marketer…yet. I don’t even know if I’ll be any good at content marketing until I have a chance to actually try. All I know is that this is the direction I have to go to better my chances in finding work. I really need to master this better, because I don’t have practical experience to use.
I didn’t go to business school for a reason–I’m not good at it, or at least I know others who are a lot better at it than I am. If I can survive this digital marketing course, it’ll be a miracle, at this rate. 😦
One more review of module 2, then it’s on to Module 3– social media marketing. Okay, that might not be too bad. After all, I have a little bit of practical experience with that topic from promoting this blog and other stuff I’ve produced on other blogs…**fingers crossed**
* Since I wrote the two articles about Mark Lewis linked above, I did meet him a year ago, and that’s why I know he’s awesome beyond just watching his presentations. 😀
As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, I decided to bite the bullet and “git me some learnin’ ” in preparation of possible unemployment or breaking out on my own to consult. The big buzz in content strategy for the last year or so has been “content marketing”. From the highest level looking down, I get what it is, but I have no practical experience in marketing, or have true comprehension of some of the components that are important to it. So, I’m taking the Online Mini-MBA course at Rutgers University in Digital Marketing. It seemed to have everything I was looking for in a digital marketing class to fill in the gaps–social media marketing, SEO and SEM practices, YouTube marketing, mobile marketing, etc. (Gee, I sound like Stefan from SNL with that description.)
The coursework for this credential is very different from my experience for my MSPTC (Masters of Science in Professional and Technical Communication) at NJIT. With those courses, there was required reading, and each module was released each week (more or less) with set deadlines for online discussion participation and papers. Each week or two, I had to have something to turn in. I don’t remember ever having quizzes or tests, but rather I had lots of assignments to show that a) I could follow directions, and b) could produce something that showed that I comprehended the information.
This mini-MBA is set up rather differently. It is more self-driven as far as the pace goes, with a series of videos to watch that were evidently taken during a recent week-long, in-person crash course of the same material. There is a capstone project at the end that comprises of a 20-slide PowerPoint presentation, but I guess I’ll figure out what that entails as I go along. All the modules are available to do from Day 1. I’m not entirely used to that!
So, I just completed the first of ten modules, which was an overview about digital marketing as presented by Dr. Augustine Fou. He gave some easy to understand examples that I could follow along, but at the same time, I had to be grateful for having attended the Intelligent Content Conference and other presentations last year that talked a little bit about content marketing. Otherwise, I would’ve been totally lost or overwhelmed. At least I had a clue about what he was talking about, and again, the examples he used were easy to follow. I took my first quiz, and fortunately, I got a perfect score, and that’s considering that I watched all the videos for this module over two days in my free time, and there were only five questions! At least it’s a good start for now.
I was nervous about starting this coursework–business topics are something that I’m not exactly keen on or particularly good at, and it’s been a while since I’ve felt the pressure of having to do well considering I’ve spent a lot of money to be learning this information, but I think, as I said, I’m off to a good start. I’m truly hoping that after I’m done, it’ll help me speak in marketing language enough that I can potentially get a content marketing job, or at least be able to offer some advice as a consultant.
2014 has been a whirlwind of a year, so much so that I’ll be reviewing that in another post soon. But much of what’s been on my mind lately is how I want 2015 to be a significant year of change. I keep hearing David Bowie singing his song, “Changes” in my sub-conscious much of the time these days, as I try to make some sense of what kind of changes I want to make.
But recently, some of these decisions have been made for me. I was told within the last two weeks that my contract has not been extended by a year, but only by four months. When I had discussions with my managers about the upcoming year’s workload months ago, I was assured that there was plenty to do, and no worries. They suddenly were changing their tune, because of instructions from higher up from them that the direction of content needs were going to be changing, so there might not be as much work and maintenance down the line. When they first said they couldn’t commit to a year, I thought, “Well, if it’s six months, that would be okay. I would get off in time for summer break when my son has off from school, and then I can find something in the fall.” When they said that they could only commit to about three months, I was shocked. It really sent a ripple through me that I’m still recovering from. They assured me that it was not a reflection of my work, but quite the contrary. I had proven my value and commitment to my job throughly this past year. With my contribution to their new external website, they told me that had I been an employee, I would have been recommended for company recognition, but since I’m a contractor…well…
It’s hard to hear the “It’s not you, it’s me” line from employers after so many times of hearing it. I’ve always worked hard and proven my worth as an asset to the company, and yet something like this always happens. I see other people go from contractor or temporary worker to employee–why not me? I’ve been told time after time to not take it personally and that it’s not a reflection of my work, but after a while, you can’t help but not completely believe that, and wonder what’s wrong with yourself that you can’t fix to make yourself someone they will fight not to let go. I know that employees don’t have much security anymore either, some say, but having been through the process more times than I’d like, I can tell you that employees have a little bit more security, because a)they let the contractors go first and b) there is usually some sort of severance pay involved, including unused vacation time. Even if it’s not much severance pay, you get something. Not with contractors. It’s usually short notice that your contract is ending when you thought you might be renewed due to the workload, and barely a word of thanks. Trust me, like I said, I’ve been through this several times before.
I’m pretty sure that this is hurting more than other times when this has happened because I really liked this job. I like the company. I like the people I work with. I like the set-up of working from home most of the time. I liked the work, and finally had a chance to have more freedom in how I did things–I could call my own shots more often than I had in any other job, and my voice was heard, making this very valuable to me. I also had the opportunity to learn how to use new tools to add to my personal toolbox of skills. Why would I want to leave that?
So, for now, I know I just have a few more months left on my contract, and I need to try to figure out what my next step will be. What kind of job should I get next? I have a little more experience now, but it doesn’t feel like much when looking at job listings. Do I settle for another contracting job, or look only for permanent employment? The other idea that’s been floating in my mind is becoming an independent contractor, as in setting up my own little tech comm consultancy. The job I have now might not completely end, but might slow down to a crawl. I’m still one of their uber-users for thier custom CMS, so I can keep them on part-time if they’ll have me. Part-time work is better than no work, and usually pays better than unemployment, after all. But perhaps I could find some other clients and start doing work, and get my own business running. The trick is figuring out where to find those clients! I wouldn’t know where to begin doing that. The rest of the business set-up doesn’t concern me, like setting up an LLC or stuff like that. It’s finding the work. I’m thinking of getting the LLC set up, even if I don’t use it right away. But where do I go from here? Continue in content strategy? Revisit looking at instructional design work? (I’m thinking “no” on that for now.) Look at social media strategy work? Find a job being a professional blogger? Or should I take a technical writing job? I feel like I’m swimming in confusion.
Originally, when I was setting out to write this blog post, it was going to be about how I felt I needed to make some changes in how I expanded my knowledge, more specifically in what conferences I was going to attend this year. I wasn’t accepted as a presenter for this year’s STC Summit, so that presents a financial issue for me, as the registration–even with the early bird special–is a lot. I would attend some others that I’ve attended before as well, like ICC or Lavacon, but again, expenses are high when they come out of your own pocket. So, I was thinking of exploring some new conferences. But with this empending unemployment situation in a few months, I’m thinking that might not be a great idea financially. It’s not that I’m against investing in myself to learn more, but I think I have to find more affordable alternatives that are more suitable to my needs right now.
Related to all of this, then, is that I have some time before my contract ends to start teaching myself some new skills that will help make me more marketable. I keep going back to my own advice that I’ve given in presentations about finding tech comm jobs which is you need to always be learning something new or brushing up on a skill to make yourself into a more attractive candidate. But for myself, I’m not sure what that would be. I know it wouldn’t hurt to learn more about SEO, even though there are those who say it’s going away. I keep hearing about Content Marketing. Well, I’ve spend many years doing customer service-related work, so I understand the principles with this, but have never done any formal marketing work other than marketing this blog. Does that count? Or would taking a Marketing 101 class be necessary to be taken seriously for a content marketing job? Or, should I start learning more about coding so that I can learn how to do API documentation? There are so many possibilities that my brain feels like it’s going to explode, and I don’t know what do to.
Add the conundrum of having difficulty finding work in my area without commuting to a major city (usually more than an hour away) or finding another remote position like my current position, and you’ve added another twist to the problem.
So, 2015 will be a year of change. Maybe it’s shaping up to be going in a direction I hadn’t expected, but there will be changes, for sure. At this writing, it absolutely terrifies me, like David Bowie’s look during his Ziggy Stardust years (not my favorite look, Dave). I know I’ll be fine in the end. I’ve got great support at home, and I know the tech comm community is there to support and help me, too. It’s the Aspie in me that doesn’t like changes that aren’t on my terms. I like routine to a certain point, and if there’s change, it’s easier when I make the changes. When something or someone else imposes them, I freak out, perhaps looking more like Ziggy here myself as a result. I’m guessing this will be another year of reinvention. Constant reinvention has worked for Bowie, right?
(If you have any recommendations for me based on the above, or recommendations for anyone else who’s looking for work in the next year, feel free to comment below.)
It’s been more than a week since I attended the 2013 Adobe Day at Lavacon, and like the previous two Adobe Days that I’ve attended in the last year or so, it certainly exceeded my expectations. There’s a lot to digest and write from my notes, plus I’ve been busy with my job, so it’s taken me a while to get things started. I appreciate your patience, as I hope that these upcoming summaries will give you the full flavor of this always free, thought leadership event!
The theme for this Adobe Day seemed to change mid-campaign prior to the actual event. Originally, the day was promoted as being an event in the “City of Roses,” alluding to one of the nicknames of the hosting city, Portland, Oregon. Later, the event was touted as being “a conference at the confluence of 2 rivers,” again referencing the location of Portland. Since this was my second visit to Portland in which I had an opportunity to see much more of the city and surroundings than during my first trip, I decided that I would adhere to the original theme for my postings about the event.
As always, I find it best to start my summaries of Adobe Day with the panel discussion that ended the event, as it provides an excellent starting point for the issues discussed throughout Adobe Day. The panel discussion was titled, “Preparing Your Content for Multi-lingual, Multi-Channel Global Delivery–Challenges and Opportunities.” In thinking about this theme, it reminded me–sticking with my floral theme of the “City of Roses”–of the International Rose Test Garden in Portland. The International Rose Test Garden is the most famous of all the public gardens in Portland, having the most colors and varieties of roses found anywhere for all to enjoy. The Adobe Day panel consisted of several thought leaders in technical communication that resembled this rose garden, as it was full of variety in experiences and opinions.
After an audience drawing for door prizes conducted by Maxwell Hoffman of Adobe for “Made in Oregon”-type prizes, the always nimble Scott Abel (aka The Content Wrangler) moderated the panel. I will admit that questions and answers were going by so quickly as to squeeze in as much information as possible that I was unable to tell you who said what for the most part, but I’m going to provide you with the main summary of the lightning fast conversation. I’d like to thank the following people for also tweeting the event, which helped me confirm my own information as well as fill in some blanks for information that might have slipped by. I’ve included some of their findings in this post:
(Be sure to check out all the Twitter connections of these fine people and the panelists! Lots of good ideas shared by these people!)
Questions and answers were as follows:
Q: What does it means to be global ready? A: Global ready means being able to operate anywhere in the world, ready to be translated easily, and that content being to be able to be structured, simple, and consumable. Other benefits includ knowing your audience well, as this way, content will be more consumable by both native and ESL (English as a Second Language) speakers.
Q: What is the single biggest challenge preventing us from reach global audiences?
A: The current mindset, rapid change, and a lack of strategy were listed as the top challenges. It was also noted that the voice that companies use now, such as cheeky language, isn’t working. We aren’t thinking strategically, so we need to think about the whole life cycle of projects and getting out of thinking in “silos”.
Q: What can we do to prepare for both human & machine translation?
A: Simplifying sentences in a grammatically correct way is a big way to help. Sentences should be 24 words or less. We need to also decide whether to use original content or not, what kind of content, what volume, etc. Content needs good globalization methods with translation and localization.
Q: Is it possible to create consistent tone and voice that will translate well across cultures, and if so, should we?
A: We may not be able to do it for all audiences, but you need to try.
Q: What is multichannel publishing exactly?
A: It is making maximum use of technology to create translation of content. This includes writing code to code, spoken to written, etc. You need to create a single, consistent source for what you are doing. As we break content into chunks for reuse, we have to take into account corporate culture and practices.
Q: What are the biggest challenges facing organizations that seek to publish content to multiple channels?
A: The biggest challenges listed were internal obstacles, such as no one wanting to change, “this is the way we’ve always done it” attitude. The is a need to understand that times are changing, so content needs to change with the times. Content may be outdated and it need to keep up. Writers can be a problem as well, as the content we create isn’t necessarily the content we consume. Customers can consume content in ways that we (the writers) don’t, so we need to be mindful of that. The people who are consuming content today are not the people who were consuming it 5 years ago. The content that you put in your help files also has to be on Google, after all. It was recommended that writers use SEO words in Google that customers use, and that will help writers understand context and how to craft our documentation for customers, as “Google-ability” affects context. Keywords are often created post-publishing, so we need to be proactive before publishing to have the advantage. If you manage your keywords, you can help with findability.
Q: What are the not-so-obvious opportunities of multichannel delivery?
A: Opportunities taking advantage of non-text items are the best opportunities right now, such as automated graphics that adjust to a device display. A table of contents for video can actually help in documentation, since end-users don’t have a long enough attention. Indexing multimedia should be made as part of the product. Further action also need to be taken to expand on the idea of being able to start on one device and continuing on another, like Kindle, as this has not explored enough yet.
Q: What’s the biggest mistake an organization can make when moving to a multichannel global content delivery?
A: Organizations tend to look internally, instead of getting outside input, such as learning things from conferences (like @LavaCon ). Mobile delivery is very different in different countries, so we need to do it in ways other than American. We need to find balance if one aspect is overfocused. The biggest mistake is thinking that everyone is like us (Americans/North Americans). They’re not! Strategy and planning from the start is key! We need to also learn from what’s working and what’s not, and go from there. It’s important to stop and assess procedures, and then add on more. There is a strong need to clean up practices. It comes back to knowing your audience–its symbols, language, culture. Testing is the best way to see if your audience are getting the benefit of the content you are putting out, and making sure it’s usable.
Q: How does one write consistency to reap those benefits and be consistent with SEO?
A: Writers need to know what language your customer is looking for you, and find a balance between translatability and vocabulary. Metadata is important inside as well.
Q; Are there tools on the horizon that will help with those symbols, icons, etc. that could not be good for translation?
A: At this point, no software as of yet. It’s mostly people based right now, but evolving software does exist. Precise content has its benefits including accessibility as well as fluid machine translation. Interaction types (voice, touch, text) will be a big part of how you integrate with content for global audience in mobile, although it’s not limited to mobile. Consideration of various screen sizes will be key. Think your online help is the first place your users go for answers? Unless your help shows up on Google, think again.
You have to admit, it sounds like quite the conversation, and it was!
Next in the Adobe Day -Lavacon 2013 coverage: Matt Sullivan’s presentation.