WHY GET BETTER?
We collect content because it contains the ideas that are most interesting to us. Because we have the collection, we can revisit those ideas at our convenience, with less risk of having to go re-discover them, or wait for them to reappear, or have them re-created.
But for most people, keeping those interests conveniently at hand becomes work itself, and often enough it is too much work to do well on time.
As a result, a number of things happen that combine to make the collection more inconvenient than helpful. For example, over time our experiences may change our reasons for keeping things, our habits for keeping them, or our ability to keep track of them as they get retrieved, reused and returned.
Meanwhile, increasingly, anything carrying an interesting idea can be “digitized”. That immediately allows us to collect a hugely increased amount of content without being very selective, because there is little practical requirement to keep things out. Unfortunately, the after-effect is the haystack that later turns out to be hiding the needle you want.
Here are six ways and reasons to avoid and recover from those problems.
1. Be strategic
Group the content for an Audience. Having a collection of already-prepared content is better than not having one, as long as we can actually use it effectively “on demand”.
Understanding demand is easy: there is an audience for the ideas in the content, or for the style of the content’s presentation, or both. Offering content to an audience is like offering an event or a place to stay to a guest. You are the host, and your help your guest navigate the event or place. The guest is most comfortable when they know where they are and why they are there. Organize your content so that it is worthy of sending out invitations. And, if you are the content collector, your most important initial audience is yourself.
2. Emphasize Idea Type over Content Quality
When we go shopping, we usually look for certain kinds of things first, and when we find the correct type then we look for the best example of it. Usually we don’t do it the other way around. But sometimes we run across something that we weren’t looking for. We might decide to keep it, so the first question we have is “Can I have it?”
But the next natural question that we are likely to have is “Is there more stuff Like This?” If the answer to the first question is “Not now”, then we especially want the answer to the second question to be “Yes”. That makes the second question even more important than the first! In fact, getting that second Yes is what makes us comfortable that later on we can probably find something acceptable, or better.
As it turns out, this future probability is also the basic difference between “reference” material “and other material. Reference material is always appropriate for future use primarily by the type of idea it addresses. Quality is important, but many different contributors to the type can help supply the quality needed.
3. Arrange the content specifically for later, not for now
We always have a reason for why we decided to keep something and put it away. But the hard part, later, is dealing with why we want to take it back out. The clearer we are about why we will want to retrieve it, the more helpful it is for the collection to easily remind us of that, by showing us that it already knows why we will come get something.
Memory is powerful and, after all, it is the natural way that we “recall” things. But here’s the secret: it makes more sense to organize the memory than it does to try to remember the organization. For example, organizing memory is how we already make stories and music so easy to use and repeat. We can call that organization “composition” or “design”, but once we have it, it actually helps us to both recall and predict things that “should be there” — even if we had forgotten them or had not seen them before.
4. Match the content arrangement to the content’s audience
The more ways that an item of content can be effectively used, the more valuable that content is. Versatility has great worth, but only if we use it. Just like having a person with multiple talents, the same item of content can offer one thing in a certain situation, and offer something else in a different situation. Each audience represents a situation that we can call a context, and we can arrange groups of content so that the arrangement emphasizes the relevance of the content group to the context. For arranging content, nothing beats using a catalog.
It makes perfect sense that if we have different catalogs, audiences will pick the catalog that seems most relevant to themselves. The catalog makes it more obvious that the provider is already thinking about that context. Meanwhile, the relevance of the content group, made clear by the catalog, makes the item of content in the group more valuable. In effect, for the right audience, a provider’s catalog is a portfolio of the provider’s collection.
5. Grow a reputation as a Provider
People who find good content are most likely to come back to the same place again when they want more.Their experience builds trust in the provider and confidence in their own use of the content. They like to use the same stores, the same channels, and the same brokers or agents, to help make getting things fast and easy with low risk of a disappointment.
The best way to become the trusted source of good content is to be a good curator. That means, we take the steps to make a good catalog based on relevance to future use, and take the further steps to select the best examples of content for each type in the catalog.
Because content can be versatile, we can act as curators to produce multiple catalogs or portfolios from the same content collection, tailoring things to the particular audiences that we want to have or keep. But just like with broadcasting instead of with packaged goods, we don’t want to make and distribute a separate copy of everything for each user; that would give us all the burden of being a supplier. Instead, we want to give many users access to the same copy, wherever it is; that makes us the Provider; and if the location of the item changes, we just give all users access to the same new location.
Users trust the provider to keep them connected to the best content. This is, basically, what a publisher intends to do.
6. Make what you already have, better
It’s safe to say that, more and more, any content collection is both digitized and likely to be kept online. Those are two great practical improvements over the past, but they also have the effect of” letting all the cats loose in the yard.”
Things actually do get copied, modified and moved all the time. Those changes can mean that better content is more likely to become available somehow to whoever demands it; but they also mean that it is more important for providers to communicate where the provider’s preferred versions of content are going to be accessible.
Any time the provider’s preferences match the audience’s there is something worth protecting. So we want to not just save content, but we really want to manage it, just like we manage money instead of just spending it and putting it away. By focusing on the value of its future use, organizing the content collection becomes the best way to make it attractive to audiences on demand.
If you are the content Collector, your first future audience should be “You”. And if you are a Provider, your catalogs become the portfolios that you share with your audience and that become their preference. Your audience can also give you better feedback on what is missing or should be better, and trust you to leave those improvements for them where they already know to look.
So — how to get that done? In a nutshell, eXie.
When you subscribe and sign into eXie, the templates that you see and borrow or make will help you quickly get going with the above approach. They identify the use of key words that label and describe the type of ideas audiences seek out and the ways that the audience is interested in those ideas.
Take advantage of eXie right away.
You can start using eXie productively in under 15 minutes. Whether just for personal use, for a group, for an audience, or for a whole company, eXie works the same way for the same reasons.
Using a simple framework that looks like a table, you link the locations of online content to the type of idea and type of interest that is most relevant to the intended audience. Copy the content links to the right places in the table to create a catalog of the content; name the catalog; then publish the catalog online. People who sign into an eXie user group or who receive an eXie notification will be able to access the catalog and can click any link in the catalog to access the chosen content on line.
There is nothing to install; the catalogs are available 24×7 on the web; and the provider does not have to worry about moving or duplicating the content since the catalog points to wherever it already exists online witihout changing it. Content collectors can quickly organize the content for maximum value in one or more catalogs; add, remove, show, hide, update and distribute the catalogs at any time with no special skills required.
Content Collectors: clean up those files; discover more value in your content; build a reputation; and share ideas and support, all in one place; easily, quickly, and inexpensively, with eXie.
Content Users: find curated content collections from providers offering courses, conferences, campaigns, original creations, comprehensive designs, group-works, projects, knowledge bases, and many other kinds of reference-grade publishing. Get highly effective access to your own content, to other collections by invitation, or as a member of the eXieCloud user community.