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Write like
a human,
think like
a robot.sara wachter-boettcher
confab 2013
www.flickr.com/photos/avoiretc/3441244946/
www.flickr.com/photos/saracimino/8528177619/
Content needs to be human.
Relatable
Relevant
Appropriate
Empathetic
People come to Pinterest not just to do
things, but to feel things.
Tiffani Jones Brown, earlier today
Stop using marketing words and setting
unrealistic expectations... Be genuine in your
language and set real expectations.
Steph Hay...also earlier today
We can take
this even
further.
Humanness
turns data
into content.
Mike Atherton, “Beyond the Polar Bear”
But we don’t
always see this
as “our job.”
{This is a true story.}
www.flickr.com/photos/crownsocial/6231232219
You could filter
results based on your
horoscope!
www.flickr.com/photos/crownsocial/6231232219
You could filter
results based on your
horoscope!
What if
it customized
content based on the
weather?
www.flickr.com/photos/crownsocial/6231232219
You could filter
results based on your
horoscope!
What if
it customized
content based on the
weather?
Those filters are
just FPO. The developers
will make it work.
www.flickr.com/photos/crownsocial/6231232219
Make it look like
Pinterest!
You could filter
results based on your
horoscope!
What if
it customized
content based on the
weather?
Those filters are
just FPO. The developers
will make it work.
www.flickr.com/photos/crownsocial/6231232219
{Meanwhile, in dev...}
www.flickr.com/photos/tifotter/544669881
Where
does the feed
come from?
www.flickr.com/photos/tifotter/544669881
What
should the algorithm
be based on?
Where
does the feed
come from?
www.flickr.com/photos/tifotter/544669881
What
should the algorithm
be based on?
Where
does the feed
come from?
Can we add
metadata after the feed
comes through?
www.flickr.com/photos/tifotter/544669881
What
should the algorithm
be based on?
But what fields
are actually in the
database?
Where
does the feed
come from?
Can we add
metadata after the feed
comes through?
www.flickr.com/photos/tifotter/544669881
www.flickr.com/photos/davidcemin/4201972514
The
“concept.”
{It never launched.}
Some sites
aren’t so
lucky.
Some reach
challenges
down the line.
We’ve been
here before.
www.flickr.com/photos/gold41/5280122352
There’s no magic cure.
www.flickr.com/photos/brightmix/1487922055
Our teams need our help.
www.flickr.com/photos/balluffsensors/8448435294
The ‘bots need our help.
It’s time we
get to know
the ‘bot brain.
www.flickr.com/photos/evilerin/4420070113
Rules let robots make decisions.
Systematic
Consistent
Automated
Logical
‘‘How do you get that sense of hierarchy of
information that we’re familiar with from a
printed newspaper page? How do we create
that in a form that’s appropriate to the iPad?
Mark Porter,
“Introducing the Guardian iPad Edition”
While also...
1. Using a simple, flexible grid
layout system
2. Not manually laying out
each day’s edition
3. Doing better than a PDF
Logic is like a robot style
guide: Rules keep the
results consistent.
What it takes:
1. Structure
2. Metadata
3. Rules
4. Transportation
5. Context
1Structure
www.flickr.com/photos/tdd/4493216417
It’s hard to parse this.
www.flickr.com/photos/28478778@N05/5728474385/
This is much easier.
You need a structural
model that matches your
users’ mental model.
Does this content need to be:
1. Something you can search
and sort by?
2. Related to other content?
3. Extracted to display elsewhere?
4. Reprioritized or resized for
some destinations?
Recipe
• Title
• Byline
• Publication Attribution
• Yield
• Active Time
• Total Time
• Teaser
• Image
• Preparation
• Main Ingredients
• Servings
• Cooking/Prep Time
• Nutritional Information
Metadata
2
Extra data the ‘bots can use.
www.flickr.com/photos/rusty_oleum/7325471968/
Descriptive
Structural
Administrative
Helpful
Relevant for
summer, grilling
Secondary
content (side
dish)
May not be
distributed to
third parties
3Rules
If this, then that.
Every content
chunk is an
opportunity.
Display
Combine
Remove
Connect
Reprioritize
If a recipe is in the app,
then prioritize the ratings,
but hide reviews.
List all side dishes tagged
as summer from Gourmet
or Bon Appétit in the BBQ
feature.
Recipe
• Title
• Byline
• Publication Attribution
• Yield
• Active Time
• Total Time
• Teaser
• Image
• Preparation
• Main Ingredients
• Servings
• Cooking/Prep Time
• Nutritional Information
Related
Wines
Reviews
Recipe
Types
Related
Menus
Related
Recipes
Related
Diets
Transportation
4
You need
content that
can travel.
APIs take those content chunks.
www.flickr.com/photos/ogimogi/2253657555/
And turn them into products.
www.flickr.com/photos/fourstarcashiernathan
So you can build what you need.
www.flickr.com/photos/wallyg/2391794127
APIs power
things you
use every day.
Kin Lane, http://apievangelist.com
Yelp
Info
User
Content
Google
Maps+ +
APIs let you bring them together.
www.flickr.com/photos/vanityblue/8694220424/
Context
5
Mashups aren’t
necessarily
meaningful.
UI design
Labeling
Explaining
Things like...
• Where should I
go right now?
• Sights near me
• Most popular
destinations
Content brains
bring new
possibilities.
It knows...
• Starting city
• Ending city
• Arrival and
departure dates
What if...
• Time zone
difference alert
• Upcoming
weather
• City info
You know
your content.
You know
your users.
You know
your message.
www.flickr.com/photos/paulvaarkamp
There’s nothing to fear.
You don’t have to write
an algorithm. But you can
make one better.
Empathy
can’t end at
pages.
www.flickr.com/photos/benhusmann/5126030385
Make all your content more human.
thank you,
CONFAB
Images used via CC-Attribution license unless otherwise noted.
sarawb.com
@sara_ann_marie
rfld.me/content-everywhere

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