“You fix.”
Editing an encyclopedia
= content strategy.
1. Limit your topics
2. Limit your authors egos
We know what you’re reading.
What s your onion fly?
The paper encyclopedia
was the web before the web.
Google is everyone’s bookshelf.
What can you do for the Web?
Compete less.
First edition: 1906
People die. Countries don’t.
“He was in a relationship with Lars
Andersen” vs. “He had a male friend”
Find your “damsel in distress”
Rewrite your honey to make it
better.
Some questions
• Do you have any onion flies?
• Do you have any damsels in distress?
• What’s your milk? What’s your honey...
Use Google translate to read
some content : http://snl.no
Content Strategy on an Encyclopaedia: When less is actually less.
Content Strategy on an Encyclopaedia: When less is actually less.
Content Strategy on an Encyclopaedia: When less is actually less.
Content Strategy on an Encyclopaedia: When less is actually less.
Content Strategy on an Encyclopaedia: When less is actually less.
Content Strategy on an Encyclopaedia: When less is actually less.
Content Strategy on an Encyclopaedia: When less is actually less.
Content Strategy on an Encyclopaedia: When less is actually less.
Content Strategy on an Encyclopaedia: When less is actually less.
Content Strategy on an Encyclopaedia: When less is actually less.
Content Strategy on an Encyclopaedia: When less is actually less.
Content Strategy on an Encyclopaedia: When less is actually less.
Content Strategy on an Encyclopaedia: When less is actually less.
Content Strategy on an Encyclopaedia: When less is actually less.
Content Strategy on an Encyclopaedia: When less is actually less.
Content Strategy on an Encyclopaedia: When less is actually less.
Content Strategy on an Encyclopaedia: When less is actually less.
Content Strategy on an Encyclopaedia: When less is actually less.
Content Strategy on an Encyclopaedia: When less is actually less.
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Content Strategy on an Encyclopaedia: When less is actually less.

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Ida Jacksons presentation at CS Forum 2013. You can read a written summary of the presentation here: http://livestream.csforum2013.com/articles/milk-and-honey-what-are-yours

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  • When I started working on The Great Norwegian Encylopaedia, everyone thought I was insane. The Great Norwegian Encyclopaedia had been the main Norwegian Encyclopaedia since 1906, and selling hundreds of thousands copies in the eighties and nineties. But the old editors just assumed that this thing called The Web would be such a fad and decided they would make a CD-ROM encyclopaedia instead. So when the sales plummeted from 200 000 to a bleak 7000 in 2005 because of this scary maverick called Wikipedia the publishers got desperate.  
  • They took the entire Encyclopaedia and stuffed it into a webpage, splashed some banner ads on it and hoped they would still make some money. They went bankrupt in less than five months. But the lack of revenue was not the worst. The old, dignified Encyclopaedia that looked so beautiful on the shelf turned out to be pure crap. It was out-dated, bad content and lost against Wikipedia when a big Norwegian newspaper compared them. It was the most effective way to murder a 100-year-old cultural giant in modern Norwegian history.
  • They took the entire Encyclopaedia and stuffed it into a webpage, splashed some banner ads on it and hoped they would still make some money. They went bankrupt in less than five months. But the lack of revenue was not the worst. The old, dignified Encyclopaedia that looked so beautiful on the shelf turned out to be pure crap. It was out-dated, bad content and lost against Wikipedia when a big Norwegian newspaper compared them. It was the most effective way to murder a 100-year-old cultural giant in modern Norwegian history.
  • I understood at once that this was not a question of mere web design. It was a question of content. After all – an Encyclopaedia is not a webpage using content to sell a product. The content is the product. But when I tried to approach content strategists with our little task, they also thought I was, well, insane. This is I speaking to Kristina Halverson about the Encyclopaedia:
  • I wasn't discouraged, though. The thing is: Encyclopaedias have always been quite a crazy project, even on paper
  • Infact – thereasonthatwriting an Encyclopedia waspossible at all, wasbecauseof an earlymanifistationofcontentstrategy
  • They put the reader before the author. Most encyclopaedia articles were not even signed. And you had to come to terms with the fact that other writers would rewrite and update your articles in the years to come
  • They didn’t just "write books"; they managed and upgraded their content rather than write a new Encyclopaedia every time.
  • The most important difference between web and paper is that people generally believe the web to be better for you know, real text. Books looks impressive. Sad articles standing alone does not. People was more pleased with the paper version, even though most of the articles was worse than on the web. If you Google “Turn your book into a webpage”, you get very few tips. On turning your webpage into a book on the other hand – that is an upgrade.
  • So we know that the tail is LONG.
  • When a content strategist see that a web page has 200 000 articles, and only half of them have any readers what so ever it seems logical to just get rid of the less popular content. But in an Encyclopaedia less is actually less.The Encyclopaedia has a REALLY long tail. To just cut it of would be to kill it. We have about 1000 visitors a minute. Only ten to twenty of them are reading the same article. The rest is in the tail
  • You cannot delete the article about the onion fly even though no one is interested. The fly is still important to farmers and biologists. Andmabye we should turn the argument around – if we delete the onion fly – would not the web be a more empty place? Since nearly no one cares about it, no one else will document it. And suddenly – when we get a onlon fly pandemic and they lay their little eggs inside all the onions in Norway, we would have to look it up in an old, outdated paper book instead. Even though NO ONE read about it in 2012.
  • I believe that all web pages have a couple of onion flies: Content that very few people cares about, but contains information you cannot find anywhere else on the web. The difference between an Encylopaedia and a regular webpage is only that we have about 40 000 onion flies: Articles no one cares about until something happens and everybody needs them.
  • Here is a line showing the amount of people reading our article about the term “Neologism”, which means “a newly coined term” or a new word. It is also used in psychiatry when diagnosing patients with a disturbed sense of reality. The term was a key part of the trial against the terrorist and mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik. And suddenly the entire Norwegian population needed a definition of neologism. The idea of the long tail is that someone is finding something useful in your tale every day. Our experience is that big groups of people suddenly needs one of our onion flies. That does not mean that the Encyclopedia should go on a content diet.
  • Because you could not know the other knowledge your reader had access to, a great Encyclopaedia was a comprehensive Encyclopaedia. The old paper version explained how to knot your tie and how to dance waltz. But there are other webpages that do that better.
  • This kind of how to-information was embedded in the genre from the early beginnings. Salmonsen's from 1916 showed how you could forge your own needle if you found yourself lacking one. Diderot's Encyclopaedia, the first one in the world, had the ambition to contain how to-illustrations for all the professions of 1700-France. Here is a “how to make a dress”
  • When it comes to the web, everyone who knows the same language has more or less the same library.
  • The Norwegian Web is a pretty barren landscape compared to theEnglishspeaking Web. Whenwerecruitenew scientists to write for theencyclopaedia, we ask them to googletheirtopicsofexpertise and commentonwhattheyfind. Oftentheyfindnext to nothing, becausetheyareoneoffewpeoplewriting in norwegianknowinganythingaboutthetopic at all. Askingyourself: Whatkindofcontentcanonly I providewillprobably make youcreatesomething more sustainable.
  • This is the same reason that we are giving up the parts of the old paper Encylcopaeida that other people on the Web do better than us. Norwegian Wikipedia grow indefinitely on sports and popular culture. They are struggling to recruit people with a degree in Linguistics. Then we leave The Simpsons to them, and focus on Chomsky. We don´’ delete the onion flies, but we remove recipes and how-to-articles, because people can learn how to knot their tie on YouTube. We trust in the Web around us, and we try to support it where it’s weak, not try to outshine
  • Many of our articles, like the one about Henrik Ibsen and Aristotle has been revised and rewritten since the first edition in 1906. It has given us as an editorial staff quite the experience with really, really old content. When we started working in 2011, we fixed an error in the general article about engineering. We followed the error through the paper editions of the Encyclopedia, and tracked it down to the 1954 edition. It had stayed with us in 57 years. Since the job of updating was so massive, the editorial staff used to make as small changes as possible. Ideally, the would just add one paragraph at the end of the article if anything new had happened. Remember: They spent 10 years on every new edition.
  • Content age differently. Great works of fiction generally get better with age. Like wine.
  • A lot of non-fiction age poorly. The world change too rapidly. Encyclopedias age really, really fast.
  • In fact – the paper version of the Encyclopedia was already starting to smell when it arrived from print. That´s why one of the important things we needed to figure out was which parts of the content in the Encyclopedia started to rot first. This would make us able to write the articles in such a way that they would have a longer shelf life.
  • Facts is like milk. They start to smell very quickly. This is why it is important to control the amounts of fact in an article. Do you need to list how many users Facebook has right now? It changes all the time. It´s better to spend your time updating the information on how many people in Norway who has HIV. The report on that comes out once a year, and is a manageable thing to upgrade. Facts also come in to categories: Facts you have to update all the time – and facts you only have to update once.
  • This is the most important thing to update in a biography. And you only have to do it once, but then you have to do it quickly. People will not forgive you if you don’t have it right. But after you update a biography after someone dies, you have to update it much more seldom. Living persons biography rot much faster than living persons.
  • They go bankrupt.
  • They win awards.
  • Countries, especially contemporary history and geography, have to be frequently updated. All the time. People dies, and become historical figures that needs less attention. Even though you don´t have biographies and geographical facts in your web content, you can still use the same approach: Limit facts if you can. Identify the articles you have to watch all the time. International shipping will not go away, and the rules change rapidly. You will need to update that webpage more often than the about-us-page. Because you will not switch owners that often (I hope.) Put money and people in the most hectic spots. We pay the poor guy who write about contemporary history in the middle east a lot more than the writer who takes care of the onion fly.
  • Trends, values and language is like root vegetables: They stay in the bottom drawer of your fridge forever. Until they suddenly go bad, and make all the other vegetables icky. You cannot PREVENT this from happening, but you can SLOW THE ROTTING down. First rule: Don´t recruit really old writers. Their language will be more outdated, and so will their values. Some of the language we found in the old encyclopedia was antique, because they started recruiting writers in their early sixties. The second rule is to look out for fads. If you made Google Wave an integral part of your communication plan, you had to rewrite it pretty fast. Don´t write the prime ministers biography with the latest election as the main point of focus. We use the search engine as a tool for sorting out bad onions in the encyclopedia. All words that are condemned racist, discriminatory or misogynist douchebag today used to be ok. And since this is political topics, we will have to continue to monitor them in the future. When will they start to smell? It might take ten years, but the point of encyclopedic writing making it last another hundred years. We give our writers rules like “no metaphors”. This is making sure that the information is less loaded with implisit values.
  • Being as matter of fact as possible will hopefully last longer than euphemisms, even though they seemed like the most appropriate way to write it at the time.
  • Searching for really outdated words on your webpage might help you find big stinkers in huge content without looking at it all. We searched for the Norwegian version of “damsel” and found that it was used in really terrible articles about female sexuality. If you search for “myspace” or “Vista webapp” on your webpage, you might find similar stinkers. Imagine the WORST word you could find in your content; search and brace for impact. This include terrible typos'. The past is always an embarrassment. The good thing about onions and damsels is that you only have to look for them once a year.
  • I love our article about Aristotle. It is almost the same as in 1906. Some thing age so slowly, the only thing you have to change is the onion-part – the language. They are like honey: If you put it in the right kind of container and keep it in a dark place, you can eat it 100 years later, and it is still good. The only bad thing that can happen to honey is that it gets crusty, sugary and weird. Our article about photosynthesis is like honey: It will stay mostly the same until there are a MAJOR scientific change. And still, even honey have to be replaced and rewritten. When our expert on the ancient Egypt read our article, he pointed out that it was written at a time where most of the sources was translated from Greek, not from the languages of ancient Egypt. It could be better and more precise, even though it did not stink more than a average popular science book. So we let him revise it. To last even longer.
  • If you avoid to much trend and value in the page you write about the history of your company, for instance, you can make it honey-like. The only reason to revise it is to make it EVEN BETTER, not to stop it from stinking.
  • I believe that the WIkipedia-way of including “in popular culture” is a way to make sure the addicted writer get a weekly dose of editing and updating. You don´t need to know the position of Hamlet in popular culture. But without the paragraph, the article becomes honey – and there is so little job to do! We always try to minimize the writers workload, because we think it improves the quality. And even though milk and honey tastes good together, they don´t keep well. And there is no need to do unnecessary work.
  • Content Strategy on an Encyclopaedia: When less is actually less.

    1. 1. “You fix.”
    2. 2. Editing an encyclopedia = content strategy.
    3. 3. 1. Limit your topics
    4. 4. 2. Limit your authors egos
    5. 5. We know what you’re reading.
    6. 6. What s your onion fly?
    7. 7. The paper encyclopedia was the web before the web.
    8. 8. Google is everyone’s bookshelf.
    9. 9. What can you do for the Web?
    10. 10. Compete less.
    11. 11. First edition: 1906
    12. 12. People die. Countries don’t.
    13. 13. “He was in a relationship with Lars Andersen” vs. “He had a male friend”
    14. 14. Find your “damsel in distress”
    15. 15. Rewrite your honey to make it better.
    16. 16. Some questions • Do you have any onion flies? • Do you have any damsels in distress? • What’s your milk? What’s your honey? • Where can you stop competing for attention?
    17. 17. Use Google translate to read some content : http://snl.no

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