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Engineering Influence: Talking to Developers about Content


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Successful digital projects require a host of skills, but critical to the mix is software engineering. The most elegant, thoughtful, and pragmatic content strategy grinds to a halt when the implementation doesn’t live up to the plan.

Even when we get into so-called “maintenance” mode, we often find ourselves entirely dependent on the actions of strange beings speaking in a foreign tongue: developers.

What’s the best way to collaborate with our colleagues who come to web and mobile projects not with a focus on the content per se, but with a focus on the System?

Published in: Internet
  • Just in case it isn't clear from the slides without my voice over them, the stereotypes on slides 2-4 are highly problematic - the point is to not let your assumptions about what developers are like (skinny young white hetero hipster dudes with some form of asbergers' syndrome) substitute for actually getting to know the real engineers with which you work.
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Engineering Influence: Talking to Developers about Content

  1. 1. John Eckman | @jeckman | #ConfabEDU Engineering Influence Talking to Developers About Content
  2. 2. John Eckman | @jeckman | #ConfabEDU Q: How can you tell an extroverted engineer? A: When he talks to you, he looks at your shoes (instead of his own).
  3. 3. John Eckman | @jeckman | #ConfabEDU
  4. 4. John Eckman | @jeckman | #ConfabEDU
  5. 5. John Eckman | @jeckman | #ConfabEDU But we have to work together
  6. 6. John Eckman | @jeckman | #ConfabEDU “There is only one thing worse than going to war with allies . . . and that is going to war without them.” –Winston Churchill “You go to war with the army you have---not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time.” - Donald Rumsfeld
  7. 7. John Eckman | @jeckman | #ConfabEDU #blameEthan • We had this nice workflow worked out where we didn’t have to talk to each other. • Static wireframes with Lorem Ipsum -> Static comps with Lorem Ipsum -> Built out sites with Lorem Ipsum • Now have to think about multiple devices? Yikes • Designers and developers will have to talk.
  8. 8. John Eckman | @jeckman | #ConfabEDU #blameKaren • Content Strategists can’t ignore how things are built. • RWD itself doesn’t really answer the underlying question. • We’ll have to talk. Developers, Designers, and Content Strategists.
  9. 9. John Eckman | @jeckman | #ConfabEDU #blameSaraWB • Adaptive content? That’s a whole ‘nother layer • Content strategists, designers, and developers will not only have to talk but actually agree on goals and approaches
  10. 10. John Eckman | @jeckman | #ConfabEDU Engineers are People Too SIX WAYS TO MAKE PEOPLE LIKE YOU: 1. Become genuinely interested in other people. 2. Smile. 3. Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language. 4. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves. 5. Talk in terms of the other person’s interests. 6. Make the other person feel important—and do it sincerely.
  11. 11. John Eckman | @jeckman | #ConfabEDU Sincere Interest
  12. 12. John Eckman | @jeckman | #ConfabEDU Interest in the Platform • How is structured content managed? Can new content types be created / extended? How? • What’s the editor experience like, and how can it be customized? • How are templates / themes created and edited? • What is the team excited about on this platform, and what are their concerns?
  13. 13. John Eckman | @jeckman | #ConfabEDU Common Ground Shared Problems: • Lack of budget (time) • Weak/unclear strategy • Pointy-haired bosses • Shiny object syndrome • Scope creep • Migrate everything
  14. 14. John Eckman | @jeckman | #ConfabEDU
  15. 15. John Eckman | @jeckman | #ConfabEDU
  16. 16. John Eckman | @jeckman | #ConfabEDU
  17. 17. John Eckman | @jeckman | #ConfabEDU 1. Eliminate all privacy. 2. Force push your own changes, without code review. 3. Interrupt people regularly for status updates. 4. Rush out software in 3 wks that needs 3 months 5. Hire a “Sr. Architect” but make architectural decisions before they show up 6. Change issue tracking software and means of communication regularly. 7. When hiring, find people that have at least a two hour drive, [then] disallow working from home. 8. One day, without notice, demand that everyone report to work an hour and a half earlier, starting the next day. 9. Make sure everything is on fire all the time. 10. Deny your team decent hardware.
  18. 18. John Eckman | @jeckman | #ConfabEDU
  19. 19. John Eckman | @jeckman | #ConfabEDU post/17153602389/gojugo-one-more- reason-not-to-respect-jose
  20. 20. John Eckman | @jeckman | #ConfabEDU
  21. 21. John Eckman | @jeckman | #ConfabEDU Common Ground Shared Problems: • Lack of budget (time) • Weak/unclear strategy • Pointy-haired bosses • Shiny object syndrome • Scope creep • Migrate everything Shared Goals: • Project success • Clear goals, set early • Long-term stability • Ongoing usage • Mastery and flow • Focus on impact
  22. 22. John Eckman | @jeckman | #ConfabEDU Content Models vs Data Models
  23. 23. John Eckman | @jeckman | #ConfabEDU
  24. 24. John Eckman | @jeckman | #ConfabEDU
  25. 25. John Eckman | @jeckman | #ConfabEDU “Content is made of data in the same way music is made of notes” - me
  26. 26. John Eckman | @jeckman | #ConfabEDU Making it Real • No design without content - ban lorem ipsum • No implementation of a CMS without understanding the “C” - structured content • Content strategy throughout the project lifecycle, including into maintenance & optimization • We’re here to help - to ensure that what gets built gets used, populated, and thrives
  27. 27. John Eckman | @jeckman | #ConfabEDU Enlisting Help • Avoid asking “Can the system do X?” • Instead, explore goals and desired features: • What’s the best way we could accomplish X? • What is it that makes doing X difficult on our platform? • What could we do to achieve the same goal that would be more in line with our architecture?
  28. 28. John Eckman | @jeckman | #ConfabEDU What’s in it for me? • Content audits help developers uncover requirements gaps • Content strategy provides leverage to push back on out of scope or irrational requests • Mediating / translating between users and developers (“I speak human and engineer”) • Nothing is more frustrating to developers than building & refining features that no one uses
  29. 29. John Eckman | @jeckman | #ConfabEDU Q & A John Eckman @jeckman