Using Empathy as a Framework for Success

My dog, MarcoOver in the web world, the fun comprised of Information Architecture, User Experience, Content Strategy, and a few other titles, there has been an increasing focus on empathy. There is even the Dare conference dedicated to the people skills, aka feelings, that is needed by all of us techies.

There have been discussions about empathy being the missing ingredient for successful projects. Others have pointed out that while empathy is important, more education and leadership needs to be added to the mix as well. I even talked about it when I encouraged Content Professionals to Be the Business and spend more time understanding what people actually do during the day.

Of course, like everything in the world, proper balance is the key to success. Empathy is the framework in which we need to deliver our advice, solutions, and products. It isn’t the deliverable, but it adds depth to how we present the deliverable.

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The Changing World of the Content Professional

I wrote last month about the Next Generation Content Professional. That post was directly inspired by the presentation I was giving at the 2013 Alfresco Summit in Barcelona. My talk, along with all the Summit sessions, are now available for viewing.

In addition to all the normal breakout sessions, the Summit Keynotes are also available for your enjoyment. The keynotes include talks from our CEO Doug Dennerline, Andrew McAfee on Big Data’s Three Questions, Jimmy Wales talking about A Wiki Future, and Simon Wardley explaining the new reality of Situation Normal, Everything Must Change. There are several others that I encourage you to check out.

Finally, I wanted to share links for my panels on Running a Successful Content Management Project. I moderated one in Barcelona and again in Boston, but with two different panels. The participants were all business users, so the advice would apply to a project using ANY Content Management software. I greatly enjoyed the panels because it was a chance for me to learn more about how organizations are using Alfresco. Each panel was different, so if you enjoy one, you will enjoy them both.

Forget Users, Think People

We have a problem in this industry. We live in a world where we constantly think about the “users” of our software. In that identification, we dehumanize the People that are using our system. While this is a small detail, we have to remember one thing…

Words Matter.

Everywhere I look, in proposals, requirements, and manuals, the People that use the system are referred to as Users.

Not Writers.

Not Publishers.

Not Creators.

Not People.

It is pervasive. We hold User Conferences. We write User Manuals. We assign User IDs.

The cruel thing is that we don’t do it to ourselves. There are developer conferences. The creators of the software get to be People, why not those who have to live with the software?

We even try and perfect the User Experience.

Why are we not working on the Human Experience?

Why do we insist on calling the People whom our software helps users? We aren’t pushing a drug. If we were, more People would be willing to use it.

imageDrugs are addictive. Content Management software is not.

One thing that we do have in common, aside from calling People “users”, is that we have to push People to use the software. We have to convince them to take that first step in using the software. People view the software as dangerous, a risk, something to be avoided.

We need to change this approach. As Content Professionals, we need to think of everyone as People. The first step is to change the way we talk.

I am not trying to help users.

I am helping People.

The Next Generation of Content Professionals

imageLast week I took on the fool’s errand of trying to define Content, in relation to Data and Information. While there are many discussions to be had before any real consensus is reached, assuming that it is even possible, the key point that few people disagreed with was that Context was critical.

Content is Information that requires Context in order to derive its full meaning and value.

I want to extend this discussion into what it takes to be a Content Professional. After all, to work with Content we have to understand it. In order to understand Content, we MUST understand the Context, and world, in which it lives.

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What is Content?

A couple months back, Deane Barker wrote an article where he declared himself a Content Management Professional. This is a true statement by every definition of the term I have ever encountered. If that was all there was to it, this would be a boring post.

Deane then made the mistake of defining Content.

I can’t really fault Deane because I am going to make the same mistake in a few paragraphs. Everyone in the Content Profession eventually writes about the very nature of the work we are doing. Some do it to establish a reputation as a leader. Others do it in order to support a point.

I do it out of hope that by coming to some sort of agreement, we can better solve the Content problem.

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