group content therapy

[note: I wrote this last week while at Confab & sat on it until after I’d had a chance to share it with my work team. I’m planning on using this as a framework for a new form of training for the users of our CMS. If you get anything useful out of it, let me know!]

The ideas about workshops have been rattling around in my head along with the whole concept of therapy & content strategy, and then last night as I was drifting off I realized that I could actually use the model of the group therapy that I’ve been in as a way to help our content editors improve their work.

So it was short-term therapy to assist with depression and anxiety. 8 weeks, maybe a dozen people, with a rolling entrance/exit. Almost every week there was someone new and/or someone finishing. new people would be asked to talk about what they were hoping to get out of the experience.

  • limited time frame
  • limited number of participants (enough so everyone could be heard, people could get to recognize one another)
  • similar diagnoses but different life experience
  • self-directed goals for the overall therapy

The content of the therapy was built around a CBT model, I’ll need to go find my folder to see the exact progression of topics, but it definitely felt like a progression, where everything was connected, and the things you learned one week informed what you got going forward. But not so much of a sequence that you couldn’t come in the middle (see rolling entrance/exit).

  • connected topics with loose sequencing
  • visible sequence to refer back to
  • experienced participants could offer assistance to new ones

In the actual sessions, the therapist would have everyone score their previous week (depression/anxiety), and how they did on their “assignment” from the previous week. each person could talk about that briefly. Then the therapist would introduce that week’s topic, explaining the concepts. There were always in-class exercises, often in pairs, to help us figure out how to apply that to our own lives. Then at the end there was a check-out worksheet, where you talk about what you learned, and identified one thing that you were going to try doing. It didn’t even have to be something from that day’s session, although for most people it was.

  • self-assigned homework
  • self-assessment of progress
  • mix of lecture, exercises, and discussion

If it was your last week, you got to talk about how you were going to use what you learned going forward, and what you planned to do to manage difficult situations or recurrences of depression/anxiety in the future.

  • a clear plan for continuing to use materials
  • realization that backsliding happens

So given all of that, I want to figure out how to structure an ongoing training experience that takes all of that into account. But I need to talk to Susan about it first. [note: I did, she was excited about the idea, and I’m going forward with it!]

tourist day

Today my flight didn’t leave until almost 7pm, so I had a whole day to see what I could of Minneapolis.

Rented the bike share bikes again, several times: from next to the hotel a couple of miles, remarkably flat, great bike lanes for the most part. Got to ride through a park with a little lake on my way to the drop-off rack. Walked to a yarn shop that was supposed to be quite nice, but I got there too early, so I backtracked to a little queer cafe where I had an amazing mocha. I think it was Mexican chocolate, had that cinnamon edge to it. And I found the perfect gift for a friend, which I won’t mention, even though they probably don’t read this.

The yarn shop was delightful too, one of those places with just bins and bins of yarn, and a group of women working together on a knit-along project (?) at a big table. Took the bus from there to back near the hotel, then walked towards the park…where by happenstance I noticed a little games & comics shop in a basement storefront. Just really nice people (both the guy at the counter and the couple who were shopping), and I actually felt confident enough to ask for a comic, something I heard about on the Rachel & Miles X-Plain the X-Men podcast, and when he didn’t have it to decide to get the first two Ms Marvel comics. (which I just read. they’re a lot of fun.)

[If you’re in Minneapolis, I can definitely recommend Mead Hall near Loring (?) Park. I think it’s pretty new, and they seem to have more Magic cards than pretty much anything else, but they have a nice open gaming space. Good people, too. Guy said they make a point of making it a welcoming environment for everyone, not just teenage boys, had some stories that illustrated the point.]

A strange tidbit that I heard while there: supposedly being a person who picks up accents easily is a trait of an extrovert. Which is weird and fascinating because I do that, but am generally the most introverted person who ever introverted.

After my comic book side trip, I checked out another bike at the park and rode over to the Walker modern art museum. I guess Thursday night was the free night, and I decided I didn’t feel like paying $14 for the shortest art museum visit ever. So instead I biked through the sculpture garden; fun art & AMAZING weather. It really was the perfect day for a bike ride.

About those bikes: they’re bright green step-through frames, with a thing in the front that’s sort of in between a basket and a rack. Basically, you can strap a messenger bag or a purse into it. Three-speed internal hub, kickstand, but no fenders. Heavy as all heck. But fun. It was sort of unnerving to be riding around sans helmet or gloves, but I was extra-cautious, and I think the bike itself serves as a bit of a warning.

Going through several different neighborhoods was interesting; parts of it reminded me of Tacoma, which is at least partially about the houses being around the same age as the Stadium District neighborhood where I lived for a while in the late 90s. On the big streets, most of the bike lanes were nice and wide with buffer zones; the smaller streets were really quiet and tree-lined. But there were also some huge apartment blocks: projects? I don’t know. The neighborhood with the yarn shop felt like it was gentrifying; fewer Somali women in hijab, more white guys with little skinny bikes. I’m not sure how to talk about it, but I was definitely aware of the differences in the neighborhoods.

I rode back to the hotel, dropped off the bike, charged my phone a bit, and got my suitcase.

And then I went to the Mall of America.

Honestly, that experience was about as opposite from my morning as I could imagine happening in a single day in a single city. As I said in a tweet, it was exactly like every mall you’ve ever been in, but turned up to 11. Or possibly 12. I think I lasted about two hours, and that included getting a bite to eat. (Burger King, FWIW.) There was a constant roar of humanity. People everywhere. And it’s just huge. It keeps going and going and going. It’s all sort of familiar, because most of the stores are ones you’ve seen in some mall or another. And at the same time, it’s totally insane, because it’s ALL OF THEM. Oh, and an amusement park in the middle. And an aquarium in the basement. I seriously considered going on a rollercoaster, but there was a line to buy tickets and a line to the coaster, and by then I was pretty well wiped out.

I did, however, end up spending some time in the Lego store. I couldn’t decide on a set, and I wasn’t sure if any would fit in my suitcase, so instead I made a bunch of custom minifigs. Weird thing: it was REALLY hard to find girl hair, and one of the staff said that it was because there was some sort of breast cancer fundraiser walk/run that day, and all the women had come into make minifigs. So that was weird, but I’m pleased with what I managed to put together. [pics later]

I’m not sure I would do that again…certainly not in the middle of the afternoon on the Saturday before Mother’s Day. But I would totally spend a nice spring day biking around Minneapolis.

content strategy & content engineering

Skipped the post-lunch session to go forage for Excedrin. :\

Content strategy that you can’t implement is just a lofty idea.

[site note: it sounds like the stubhub internationalization session would’ve been helpful, will have to go looking for notes, etc. apparently google translate is a TERRIBLE idea for internationalization content.]

1) personalization: the borderlands of creepy (my term, not theirs) questions to ask: will it pay off for your users? do you have the right content structure? are there content gaps?

customer journey. I like this graphic. can we make one for our office? (and the difference between freshman & transfer. goddamn it, we need personas.)

engineering consideration: which systems maintain the data? (aaaaaaaaah. CRMmmmmmmm. ahem. sorry.) authentication: implied or actual? crazy chart of all the technologies.

2) presentation:

“everyone has a high bandwidth capability” are you fucking kidding me? O HAI DIGITAL DIVIDE.

3) authoring experience

[note: I’m sort of drifting, musing about a three-part series, “the web therapist” – usability testing (active listening), content strategy (CBT techniques), and content group therapy.]

her example of process and lifecycle…yeah, no. staffing just not there for the vast majority of content. (as I’ve been saying lately: “I don’t scale.”)

and his examples & questions, again, just things that don’t work at our budget, scale, or environment. although if portfolio were not THE WORST, it would be interesting to have some access to that for the cms users. is there something we could do instead? how do we help our editors provide the best photos to their visitors?

4) reuse

*modeling* reuse potential. aha! I think that’s one of the things that I hope to get out of listing ALL THE THINGS. (really, seriously, I need to know if the consultants provided their inventory in their reports. cause we could use that.)

how do you review and approve the chunks in all their contexts?

5) governance

“are your teams conversant in your content strategy?” vision, vocabulary, wisdom

[so training really can’t just be “here’s where the buttons are/how to use AP style” but must “here’s how to plan for creating the RIGHT stuff”]

RACI/DACI chart (which was mentioned in the workshop)

of course this guy works for an org that has a white paper. :\

content insight from user surveys

good for gathering insight, esp at the beginning.

audience attitudes. differences between segments. terminology.

don’t use surveys to “prove” success or evaluate content.

slide with 6 steps.

“focusing is about saying No” (steve jobs)

what do you want to find out
from whom
how you’re going to use that info

what is interesting about your users?

no more than three general subjects you want to find out about

I must be the weirdest person, because (most of the time) I like doing surveys. (assuming it’s not interrupting something else I want to do.)

OH HEY that survey example question (the good one) is one we could actually use.

“choose M to Zed” aw, Canadian accent. 🙂

speaking of that question, are we doing any surveys with alumni?

be sure to have incentives, even tiny ones.

I really hope these slides are available, because this is some excellent stuff, good details.

questions: screening -> easy -> difficult -> sensitive

make your surveys SIMPLE in terms of types of questions.

nice list of tips for minimizing survey bias

(random thought: are there any faculty who do survey design who could talk to our content editors? because the drupaling might greatly expand who can do surveys.)

also for maximizing response.

going to want to go back & review this. (goddamn sinus headache.)

rethinking content delivery

on content authorship

what skills are needed?

align tools with tasks

oh hey, COPE guy (formerly NPR, now Netflix), also Karen McGrane.

technology as an enabler, not a decision-maker

trying to separate content management and presentation management

yay, rant about CMS vendors. “don’t get caught up in the myth of in-context editing” AN interaction, certain types of need, but doesn’t address all the needs. not a critical requirement!

there are complex tasks than need to happen, but have been made overly complicated, can’t oversimplify them either.

ah… *digital* beyond web and mobile. (I was sort of hoping for a discussion of non-digital outlets. that remains a big issue for us.)

what would an API for our content look like? Is there anything (ie, list of ALL THE THINGS) we can reuse from those consultants?

audience Q about print: ok, they haven’t even started getting into that. (she’s meeting with them this month. funny.)

“content lifecycle scenarios” (she hasn’t been impressed by ANY available off-the shelf CMS options re: separating presentation & content.)

keynote day 2

“if that were to happen how might I handle it”

social = what humans do

I am SUPER skeptical about her position that connectedness matters more than size now. it’s a lovely idea, but doesn’t match the oligarchy that we are actually living with.

“that’s why wall street is falling apart” (ORLY? that’s why they’re able to defeat regulation and make a zillion dollars?)

unlocking the inherent talent [of people they didn’t have to pay. what did that woman who was the “best folder” end up getting as compensation to improve her own day-to-day life.]

so something about this presentation is bringing out my inner socialist.

ugh, I have so many arguments about why her outline of the “unit of value creation” is all the wrong. feels recklessly ahistorical. 🙁

I think she means well, because she’s talking about “inviting everyone to play”, which is good, and does help people in orgs (sometimes, if people actually HAVE THE RIGHT INFORMATION), that minority viewpoints help, etc. — but maybe in the service

(I used to be on patients like me; it was nominally helpful for mental health issues. I don’t remember why I stopped using it, though.)

If relationships are to the social era as efficiency is to the industrial era…what is the social implication of that? because efficiency was soul-sucking and physically dangerous. (am thinking of that american experience about Ford that I watched recently.)

some of what she’s talking about re “purpose” reminds me of the book Drive. so that’s good.

TED/TEDx (a thing about which I’m ambivalent)

discussion of listening “tell me more” — which is a lot like what Kristina said in the workshop.

[also, she’s the “sitting is the new smoking” person, which reminds me of GeekyLyndsay’s tweet about that as someone who can’t stand while she works.]

[also, also: apparently Steve Jobs: yes, an asshole.]

content & a responsive redesign

an all-day seminar event? who exactly was involved? subject matter experts and/or existing authors. sketching exercise opened up people to content exercises.

some more things to add to our work sessions; the idea of working across departments is really intriguing. admissions, veterans resource center, financial aid, and student accounts, to review the costs & aid “section”

nts: see what the pathway is to the veterans site. how ARE people getting there?

that content strategy statement is something for us to look at for guidance, even though ours will be VERY different.

we HAVE TO give the writing style guide (at least in some version) to everyone who uses the CMS. (great demo of vastly improved writing that came from actual FA staff!)

oh hey global navigation. almost the same as ours, actually.

the whole thing of breaking down the content updates into phases feels a little sprint-like, honestly.

she talks a lot about workshops, which is a lot like what we’ve been doing in our work sessions. pair writing…interesting. the people keep each other in check.

turn rules into habits. and that’s what co-working and workshops are FOR. aha!

interesting discussion of how they integrated net price calculator.

included student blogs, too. curious about the governance model for that.

“video content goals were aligned with the web content goals” !!!

this is all really interesting, but my brain is burning out.

I like the modular sidebar stuff. starting to think that the content block needs a smidge of additional definition from the rest of the secondary content.

step away from the wireframes

“how do we do it?” (infiltrate the process) – this slide.

“content deputies” 🙂

minimum viable product -> minimal viable content? (my thought, not hers. but it makes me think of the way our team works for content and design. “is it better than what we have now? then go!”)

assessment > design AND content > engineering simultaneous with editorial

makes sense.

interviews as a research method to get to better workflow. (THIS. I should totally talk to SB & NP about someone doing that on the broader team. it’s sort of what I meant to do earlier when we were re-evaluating basecamp.)

spreadsheet with all the tasks broken down by “sprint” (phase) [note from Q&A : spreadsheet is like a template for the tasks that actually end up in the project management system.]

a lot of this makes me think about cross-media content, more so than the distributed web content. (esp admissions materials, the magazine)

not a lot of notes in this session, but definitely some things to consider and try.

content audits

she teaches content strategy & info arch at UW.

#conaudit #chunkthatblog

ecosystem! built in interconnections

content audit as map. aaaaaaaaah! (have I mentioned how much I love maps?)

“evidence from our content”

know what you want to get out of it before you start, or before you decide what type or scope.

“they thought they could get away with not paying anyone, and they were wrong. because they were using sharepoint.”

“whose pain are we going to solve by doing this?”

quantitative inventory. the standard thing with the spreadsheet. (the thing we’ve been doing, sort of, except that it’s going through the navigation, whereas we’ve been going through the cms. I wonder what the benefit of one vs the other might be.)

technical audit: level up to add more info in the spreadsheet. hmmmm, page load times….

social audit: did S do this? it seems like she would have. with youtube specifically, can we figure out what pages we’re using various videos on? (and maybe traffic/results)

comparative/competitive audits: when do you need one? note: looking for differentiators, what do we have that’s unique/different? also: potential partners?

want to look up this later.

interesting secondary theme of this presentation around how to work with interns.

qualitative audits: what do you mean by quality? business goals, audiences needs & tasks, constraints (are we meeting them). a list of some things. do the ones that will get you the furthest. (ie, which pieces of info)

does this content help someone make a decision to take an action.

scale by choosing sections, by rolling over time, choosing what to track.

content & analytics

“the numbers went out and got themselves a website”

he’s taking a while to get to the point, sadly.

(doesn’t help that I came in late & am sitting in the back unable to see the slides. sigh.)

he’s a higher ed guy, which is cool.

start with a usability test. which, yeah. I can talk about that until the cows come home.

“you get to people read what you wrote, which is almost as painful as writing it.”

ios ux recorder? that could be super-cool

1. can readers actually read my content? readability scoring. nice analogy that I think relates to cognitive drain/overload.

2. discussion of bounce rate.

feeling sort of disappoint in this session, which makes me also a little restless….

although: personas. we should do that.

3. page value. right, I get the gist of the mechanics. he actually calculated the value of a visit. but you can guess, can use fake-ish values. need to get analytics for more stuff.

ok, now I’m feeling overwhelmed. not specifically by this session, which so far isn’t anything super-surprising, but just by the sheer number of things I think we should be doing.

AHA. just assigning any damn number allows seeing what pages contribute to the overall goals.

and another reminder that google analytics is sketchy as far as accuracy. yup, all relative.


I guess our mobile numbers are low? (he said their numbers are around 30% usually.)