Berkun keynote

we should all be poked at when we get into specialized language

“whoever uses the most jargon (probably) has the least confidence in their ideas”

precise language has value, but use the simplest language you can

“innovative” – used sloppily.

“narrative bias” – instinctively prefer simple satisfying stories even if they’re false

what happened before and after the “flash of insight”?

(this slide reminds me of the underpants gnomes)

where do good ideas die on your team?

talking about Star Trek — and I’m reminded that it was really based on Westerns (and that’s based on a myth of the Old West), so.

“we like to believe the best ideas win” (why I dislike when C sez “good design sells itself”)

“who’s a good scout on your team? are they doing scouting tasks?” (which we are here)

good stuff all around.

lightning talks

  1. M & Sh & student should watch the 1st one.
  2. oh interesting, theological school for UU. (2nd one) identify your MacGyver tools.
  3. “an email newsletter for students that they actually read” (cute logo) and it’s really nice looking (simple) short, funny blurbs. listicles! RESPONSIVE. (M should definitely check this out) doubled the click-through rate, didn’t see the usual drop off over the quarter.
  4. this bit on NYU Stern’s “street team” might be of interest to the admissions folks; they’re integrated with social media & other marketing, it looks like.
  5. this is about saying no, but what I’m finding interesting — and side-chatting about on twitter about — is the role of student workers in our work.
  6. card sorting: still the bomb.

(watch ’em online.)


user-centered content strategy

“we were basically emailing them direct links to pages on our website”

card sorts!

students’: mental model, priorities, language

(wow, I think we’re actually doing really well with this!)

4 steps to make the shift

  1. get management support & sponsorship

overcoming challenges — “show, don’t tell”: she mentions running a usability test

producing tangible results, involving stakeholders throughout.

card sorts!

need to read The Content Strategy Toolkit, which we already have at work.

2. building the right team

she’s really into student workers as part of the team.

“our users are all around us”

key skills: visual design, ux, content, analyst

foster their skills

she takes them to local conferences, have them present with her at events. (oh, maybe at the user group meeting, or even have them lead speed-dating content workshops)

3. involve users early in the design process

[what about getting the students involved in user research?]

“simplify people’s lives” (as our ultimate goal)

check rough prototypes early, so you can have your failures early.

nice clip of usability testing

use social media & email to create pool of participants (I wonder if that would work for prospective students) — for us, with students, the internal web message board works strikingly well.

“aim to make things better, not perfect”


4. measure & communicate results

nice report that they created to share improvement. (or is that a thing on tumblr? yeah, it’s a site that they update periodically: maybe once a month?)

“when fixing problems, try to do the least you can do” – Steve Krug

TBH, the MOST interesting thing about this session is how she uses and trains student works.

Q&A with Halvorson

(this was supposed to be something else, but that presenter had a family emergency)

some really nuanced thoughts on PDFs and context.

dealing with distributed authorship – if it’s a box that they check off instead of something that they really care about. these are still professionals! have to have compassion, relationship-building, trust. “my job is to make you look good” then identifying the areas that CAN’T suck and paying extra attention. if you can, work with HR & admin to get it [web authoring etc] into their job descriptions.

#1 way to build trust is page load time.

“they’re really not there for the slideshow”slack channels by project.

Cleaning up after a messy migration

“there’s too much to do it efficiently”

useful to see how the mess got that way, not to repeat past mistakes, but to remember that (most) people are trying to do their best with what they have.

migrate it all or nuke it & start over? (FWIW, usability testing is what gave us the whatever that the housing folks — our first really in-depth content session people — told US to “burn it all down and start over”)

[oh! talk to Susan about adding CMS access as part of employee leaving check-off]

“we had dead people in our CMS. who still owned content.”

policy for regular purging after a year. (oh, is that a thing I can do with Rules? removing Site Editor roles.)

[idea from talking about duplicate content — can I use that module that’s in the LC directory to alert to duplicate titles?]

I really need to do a test rollout as soon as I can get in an initial Migration.

good reminder to make sure it’s clear if something isn’t published (they’re coming from a similar setup where the CMS is very separate from the website, and people tried to email draft pages after the migration to Drupal.)

I feel like there’s maybe too much of the presentation about the terrible things they were going from, vs what I was hoping to learn about the post-migration cleanup. yes, yes, the old CMS was pretty awful.

“people’s behavior is shaped by their tools”

starting to wonder if there’s a way to do a speed-dating version of content worksessions. maybe a weekly open hours time at least for the next few months? what’s a good time for that sort of thing?

are there things that don’t actually belong on the website at all?

when they migrated, everything got moved over in a draft state. then after a year, if it hadn’t been touched, it was deleted: about 70% of all the pages!

communicating what the web IS for.

they wrote a manifesto. what would OUR manifesto be, based on our core values?

you don’t “win” by having the most pages 🙂

[thinking about having a section of things I would like to in the future with our content work sessions: the speed-dating version, the regular review]

minimum viable content – a lot like our “is it better than what we have now?” thing.

[got derailed for a bit looking at something about the committees site]

chart of mini-projects: looking for “click here”, regularizing pronouns, reviewing duplicate page titles (great for students!)

huh, they went directly to Drupal 8?

need to schedule another user group meeting!

How to succeed at practically anything

their sitch is a lot like ours (no one actually doing content strategy)

I feel like the Rahel slide needs to go to SB et al just to get that solid definition across.

  1. focus on the things that matter
  2. do those things well
  3. tell everyone about the cool thing you did
  4. measure the results

super-obvious (her words), but a useful framework.

the core mission is NOT to create websites, or publish alumni magazines, or manage social media campaigns. know the actual core mission. “what do we know about what keeps the people ‘on the 2nd floor’ awake at night?”

“mission statement generator” LOLs — OTOH, can be focusing.

focusing on which things should be livestream — using “the things that matter” as a filter.

“invisibility cloak” story was a great win: came from a signature program and was also objectively awesome.

reminder that online, a press release is its own destination — no longer just serving traditional media relations role.

“more people will see your online press release than reporters ever will”

specialty stories may research specialty audiences – “twisting quantum cryptography” got views via Slashdot & Reddit. (and thus a reminder to think about it as its own destination)


sometimes you have to do dumb stuff, but don’t let it get you to phoning it in

doing fun stuff (what would be fun stuff that would actually connect to the things that matter to us?)

we should also create opportunities for others to make & share their own stuff (she wants to do this more in her environment)

experiment and show value. (my thoughts: what’s the “next level” for fields of study?)

“operation jazz hands” — how could they jazz up some stories? as an experiment.

“just doing things, and being honest about what it took to do them”

she thinks Georgia Tech does a great job with Facebook.

tumblr: Yale & Rochester “a way for little niche communities to find you”

Oberlin annual fund ad. (this is really delightful, actually. need to share this slide in particular.)


it’s YOUR job to make sure people internally know what you do for a living. it’s on you to make sure that people see the value.

Wayne State web communications blog.

THE LEGO HOME PAGE at Rochester.

“they’re your little content babies and you have to get them out there” — promoting the actual content. Basecamp (project planning) + Slack (to break down silos WITHIN communications)

each bit of content needs its own distribution plan

slide about how people find news.


“what does victory look like?”

be honest about the amount of effort and what result will make you happy

[how are M & JM working together on analytics-type stuff? also, looking at news page and thinking about earlier ideas, how are we following up on stories that are basically “interesting event X is ]

“oh, I’m sorry it’s “only” for the web where it’s seen by THIRTY-TWO THOUSAND people” (re photography)

analysis about tweeting to admitted students. congratulated 92 students in kind, 44 of them retweeted: 13K followers of their own. “measuring the value of the high five”

“facebook challenge”: 50% organic reach, 1% engagement on each post. don’t always hit it, but it’s a strong goal. [link to really good presentation on this slide]

they have a list of things that work on Facebook. “own who you are”

[what IS successful in our livestreaming site? is it doing us any good?]

Increasing viewership


virtuous circle. (for sure)

“don’t wait for the process”

Keynote: Collaboration

(watch this presentation online)

Her early computing experience is much like mine, but a few years earlier. (Also, her dad insisted she learn how to type because she was interested in opera & philosophy; which sounds a lot like my mom with the typing.)

I want you to feel good about the mess we’re in — this is just naturally what happens.

why would you know? you just made it up. [‘that thing you just said. oh, yeah, I’m on it.’]

people are trying to replicate the good things, but don’t have the standards or governance and do it imperfectly. set a protocol to avoid the chaos pit. “build better collaboration models”

“this is why it’s hard” — because “it’s a hard use case” (we’ve put everything on the internet)

you must get organized

things. take. time.

[this part reminds me of the information technology book, title escaping me ATM]

“you might retire and it still might not be right” – don’t measure the transformation by your own vocational tenure (it’s bigger than you are)

holistic responsiveness via standards

“remember when you couldn’t put a bagel in your toaster?”

create effective instances of content within a standards-based framework

“we have super-cool jobs, let’s keep them super-cool” (being positive, sharing instead of blaming)

what we want at minimum: a team that works together and follows rules and makes quality content that get real work done

moving to more organic models: giving management information so they can make effective decisions

then going from hierarchy to object oriented thinking about teams “execution atom” – everyone operating against a nucleus of standards and known objectives surrounded by an array of people

“information supply chain management” – can we manage information the way we manage manufacturing? (fascinating but a little disturbing)

your role? to create information flow – that goes beyond the boundaries of page, site, app, etc.