3 Of My [Somewhat] Intelligent Insights from ICC

Or, Why I Didn't Get to See Many Palms in Palm Springs

Colleen Jones Posted by
Colleen Jones

Feb 28 2012

Last week, I participated in the 4th annual Intelligent Content Conference helmed by Scott Abel and Ann Rockley. The intense Palm Springs sun bathed the event in a lovely glow, but I didn’t see much of it. The presentations and community of smart people captured my attention and left my mind steeped in insights and ideas. I’m sharing a few of the takeaways that excite me most.

#3 – WE’RE IN THIS CONTENT MESS TOGETHER—AND WE’LL FIX IT TOGETHER

In her keynote “Collaboration Nation,” Kristina Halvorson reminded us that the junkpile of content on the interwebs hurts all of us. Most of it is not worth finding, and the stuff that is worth finding is buried, lost, and unappreciated. While those of us who care about content see the potential for it to be a treasure, not trash, at times the problems stacked against us seem overwhelming. So, we need each other to press through them.

I believe that the more we talk about the value of what we do and inspire each other to solve different hard content problems, the more we’ll make content reach its potential for our organizations—and for the interwebs as a whole. Plus, content professionals will get the recognition they deserve.

#2 – CONTENT EVERYWHERE RAISES NEW QUESTIONS FOR CREDIBILITY + ETHICS

This conference did not shy away from some of the tough implications of having content literally everywhere. As we figure out how to make structured content play well with anydevice, it becomes easy to lose focus on the content itself. We need to focus on bothhaving the right content and getting that content to the right place. In my opening workshop, I walked through how to set your content apart from the trash heap by giving it clout. Robert Rose explored how using what we know about context helps us decide what content is right for our customers—and differentiate our brands in the process. Several other sessions reminded us of the importance of content quality.

I also enjoyed a point that Scott Abel made in the closing session. He told a story about his parents, and then he said it wasn’t true. “How many of you tweeted what I said about my parents?” he asked. Oops! A bunch of inaccurate tweets (content) just flooded the interwebs. Because those inaccuracies are repeated so many times, other people who see them are likely to believe them. (That’s the persuasive impact of a technique called amplification.) And, that’s a relatively harmless example (unless you’re Scott’s parents :D ). What if that happened about a high-stakes topic like taking care of your health? Or operating dangerous machinery? Or the reputation of a business?

That’s one reason why I decided to revisit the issue of credibility, with a focus on content, in our first independent study. Among our questions, we asked people about how they verify or confirm the credibility of content. (The results are coming out this Thursday…don’t miss them!)

And, of course, if you’re feeling extremely philosophical, you might start to wonder what is truth…is it what we know or what we document?

Okay, enough philosophy. On to the last somewhat intelligent insight…

#1 – CONTENT IS INNOVATION

Ann Rockley, who is about to release the second edition of Managing Enterprise Content, discussed innovation with Alan Porter, Joe Gollner, and Michael Boses. They explored the idea of whether doing content differently is a type of innovation. Among my favorite quotes were these. (I unfortunately lost track of whether Alan, Joe, or Michael said them.Update: Alan said this one.)

When you stop focusing on business problems and focus only on products, you will stop being innovative.

We get too hung up on the role of technology in innovation.

Doing content differently is a way of innovating. And, with the way the digital landscape has changed to demand the right content in the right place, I think the old adage “innovate or die” will come true.  Companies who don’t change their approach to content really will die.

I also saw several breakthrough products and services that combine a new approach to content and smart technology to solve tough problems. In the closing panel, Scott Abel talked with two of them: Midtouch and ifixit. All this innovation inspired me to dust off a product idea or two.

So, I might not have ventured far into the green palm trees, sunny air, or dusty mountains. But, I had a journey, nonetheless.