Wednesday, June 27, 2007


Back in the pre-dawn age of electronic publishing, when one of the greatest challenges was how to convert the literal mountains of legacy paper documentation* into electronic storage (Any type of electronic storage – standards weren’t even a twinkle in the industry’s proverbial eye at that point.), I worked on a marketing campaign for a new conversion bureau service.

For the campaign’s central messaging image we selected a photo library montage that showed a ship’s life belt floating on a sea of paper.

That image stayed with me and it’s one I've referenced over the years when doing consulting work, or preparing papers for conferences.

The idea of us living in a “sea of information” is far from being a new one. The fact that we are all drowning under the amount of information currently available is a well acknowledged problem, not only in business, but also in our personal lives as well. The challenge of navigating that sea can be overwhelming. Many people just choose to ignore it, other’s make valiant attempts to, but soon drift off course.

A few years ago it struck me that the answer was not to consider all the information as a large continuous sea, but to look at it in terms of distinct separate pools of content. A pool isn’t so daunting. A pool is something we swim in for pleasure. We can easily transfer, or even share the content between pools using a bucket.

If we replace the water in the pool with the content we generate, then the bucket becomes exchange standards. The task of using the content becomes one that can be mapped, navigated and understood.

In upcoming posts I’ll expand on some of the ideas I’ve developed for establishing strategies for swimming in The Content Pool.

[* In the late 1980s I managed a large publications shop for a major aerospace company and employed two people full time as departmental librarians just to manage the amount of paper we produced. – We also had to strengthen the floor of the building!]

Related Posts.

Welcome to THE CONTENT POOL - Dive "Write" In

Making Sense of Standards (Part 1) – The Shuttle & the Horse’s Ass

There’s a popular anecdotal tale I’ve used over the years when talking at various conferences and industry group meetings about publishing standards. It goes something like this:

What’s the connection between the space shuttle and a horse’s ass?

  • Consider the large Solid Rocket Booster (SRB) tank that is strapped underneath the Space Shuttle. – Why is that diameter?
  • Because the only way to get it from the manufacturing facility to NASA was by rail. – So it had to fit through the smallest tunnel on the intended route.
  • What decides the width of the tunnel? – The width of the tracks.
  • Why are the tracks that wide? – Because they were based on the early English railroads.
  • What determined the width of the English railroads? – The first ones were built over existing cart tracks. Therefore the rails were the same width as a cart axle.
  • How come everyone had carts with the same axle width? Because they had to be wide enough to accommodate – a horse.

OK it may not be 100% technically or historically accurate (and you can find some of the arguments against it here), but as an illustrative parable it works well.

Standards and specifications can have a long term unforeseen impact not only on your business, but on those who may follow, or do business with you as either a supplier or customer.

When it comes to choosing which publishing standards you want to use, don’t just jump at what is the fashionable Standard-du-jour, but carefully consider what it may mean in the long term.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Innovation on craigslist

Over the years I’ve both drafted, and responded to, various ads and online postings looking to fill various writing positions. The usual routine with these is that when someone applies and gets through the initial selection process they are sent, or invited in to complete, some sort of test of their writing or editorial skills.

It’s a routine, well accepted, process and not one where you think there’d be room for innovative thinking.

But why not apply some of the latest techniques being advocated in the creative side of corporate publishing to the recruitment process?

A few days ago I came across the following at the bottom of a listing on my local craigslist from a company looking for an editor.

To apply, please e-mail your resume with a coverletter high-lighting your background/ skills and your current compensation (or your most resent fulltime job compensation) to and specify "Editor/media Support" in the subject of the email. Please paste your resume into the body of the email. Also, to exemplefy your editting expertize; please also designate the editting errors (ie. such as mispelled words, ect.) in this paragraph

A smart example of repurposing content. Creating one document to serve two distinct yet complimentary needs. In this case a recruitment post that is also has its own built in proficiency test.

A little bit of innovative thinking that makes the recruitment process more efficient, saves printing costs and the admin overhead of sending out and reviewing follow on tests. This one paragraph probably saved the company a few thousand dollars.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Welcome to THE CONTENT POOL – Dive “write” in, the water’s warm.


The obvious answer is that TCP (Is it too soon to be initializing the title?) is my new blog in which I plan to post my thoughts and observations about various aspects of Corporate Publishing. I’ll be covering events I attend, telling anecdotal stories, offering my opinions on a wide variety of subjects, and generally sharing some thoughts and ideas I’ve developed in over 20 years of working with words for a living. TCP is designed to build on the popular 4J’s Focus newsletter I ran for a while – so if you enjoyed that – welcome back; and if you are reading my scribblings for the first time, Welcome. I hope that you will visit often.


Of course there’s a reason that I used “THE CONTENT POOL” as the name of this blog, and I’ll be covering that in a series of articles to come over the next week or so.