Revising Content for Quality


In a collection of reference content, one of the key ideas is to avoid having changes occur between one retrieval and another of a given content item. Being a reference pretty much means being a relatively fixed standard of something. If the item is continually changing, it is too difficult to keep aiming at it as a reference.

In normal use, when a given item is uniquely identifiable, that identity often acts as a simple token of the reliability of the content. It’s no different than calling for the “right” person by their proper name.

Let’s continue that analogy… We know that a name acquires a reputation, and when we ask for someone by name we are usually counting on that reputation to be reconfirmed by our upcoming experience with them. But sometimes this is not going to be the way things work out.

Who amongst us has not observed the difference between the high interest in a famous athlete, and the discomfort of evaluating them when it is evident that they are past their prime or “over the hill”? In cases where the managers of a team have a such a player on the roster, it is often wise for the manager to keep the player but change the player’s role to something where they are still most likely to succeed. The type of success changes, but the idea that the player is valuable remains intact.

The player undergoes changes of two kinds, but they both amount to the same thing — a decreasing impact that certain kinds of skill have on the continuing incoming situations.

The player may actually have a degradation of the skill itself; or, the typical circumstances of their use may now be more complex or tangential compared to those for which the skill had been used in the past. The gap between the skill and the current requirement means that the decreasing relevance of the skill is threatening the value of the player.

In our analogy, skill is just a key characteristic or “property” of the player. When we look at content, the properties of the content are also conditions that may degrade in their relevance to ongoing needs.

To keep the content at a desirable degree of value, there are two main options. One is to “upgrade” the content so that it fills the same role better. The other is to find a better role for the current state of the content.

For example: an item of content might today be a good representation of instruction for best practice of something; at some point that same content may be outdated but it can still be considered for its accuracy and clarity as a historical explanation. Managing the content means knowing if and when the role of the content should change.

OR, that item of content might have begun as information understandable only by a technical reader; the same content item might be edited and expanded to make it usable by a non-technical reader as well. Managing the content means assuring that the non-technical readers are made aware of the improved suitability of the content for their use.

The word “Re-vision” is a great one in that it calls for us to “see something again”. The importance of the additional look is in noticing what value the item actually offers compared to what was earlier assumed.

As content collectors and providers, when we make or accept revised content, our objective is to be sure that the next user gets our “second look” first. We need the item’s current relevance to be more obvious than its prior reputation.

In the organization of a content collection, all content has a role that should be made apparent by the organization’s own design. In effect, the design of the collection’s organization is what gives value to the content within it.