A couple weeks ago, I went to post something here and found the chilling white screen of death – no blog, no admin dashboard, just the sound of wind whistling through the PHP. Many thanks to Steven D. and David H. at Dreamhost for helping me resurrect the site. The crash wasn’t their fault (it was the tragic final act of an aging WordPress theme), but the always terrific Dreamhost crew came to the rescue anyway.
Making a help request, I noticed a nice bit of explaining:
With the range of expertise among their customers, I bet over-explaining (starting off too rudimentary) would be just as big a risk as under-explaining. What a clever solution.
My job title these days is content strategist, and one of the consequences of that is I often have to explain what I do and why it matters. In the interest of honing my own spiel, I’ve read and collected many other spiels. This take on the subject, excerpted from the new book The Elements of Content Strategy, is my favorite to date.
Here’s a taste:
Let us meditate for a moment on James Bond. Clever and tough as he is, he’d be mincemeat a hundred times over if not for the hyper-competent support team that stands behind him. When he needs to chase a villain, the team summons an Aston Martin DB5. When he’s poisoned by a beautiful woman with dubious connections, the team offers the antidote in a spring-loaded, space-age infusion device. When he emerges from a swamp overrun with trained alligators, it offers a shower, a shave, and a perfectly tailored suit. It does not talk down to him or waste his time. It anticipates his needs, but does not offer him everything he might ever need, all the time.
Content is appropriate for users when it helps them accomplish their goals.
Content is perfectly appropriate for users when it makes them feel like geniuses on critically important missions, offering them precisely what they need, exactly when they need it, and in just the right form. All of this requires that you get pretty deeply into your users’ heads, if not their tailoring specifications.
Kahn, a former gynecologist, ran with the man-as-machine analogy like nobody else. That analogy has some problems, of course, but it makes a good foundation for beginners learning about human anatomy (you know, for kids).
Learn more about Kahn here and more about Lederer’s piece here.
Star Wars enthusiast Jambe Davdar has created a three-part “expanded commentary” for the original trilogy. He has re-cut the original movies, stitching in audio from cast, crew, etc. interviews, Pop-Up-Video-style text commentary, behind the scenes footage, deleted scenes and more. His cuts, Star Wars Begins, Building Empire, and Returning To Jedi, are available in 61 parts on YouTube. Metafilter has the links (along with a discussion).
To give you an idea, here’s the fourth section of Building Empire:
How great is the cut to the Marvel comic? I’m enthralled because this is Star Wars, of course, but also by the original mesh of documentary and commentary track. This is the first time I’ve seen anything in this form: essentially, a making-of documentary woven into context. I expect the studios will give this kind of commentary a go, too. If they hustle, Lucasfilm could bang out their own version for the Blu-Ray release.
Explaining bonus: Mr. Davdar has a blog with some information on how he made his making of.