Things what I writ

I sometimes write nonsense about things to try and sound clever

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Global, local, desktop, mobile

About a million years ago I wrote the web globalisation strategy for a large corporation that included, variously, authoring and production strategy, globalisation, localisation and internationalisation requirements, data architecture, content management platform definition, functional specifications, business requirements, lots of pictures of concentric circles, some arrows, some double-byte character sets, search integration, all sorts of stuff. I mean, I didn’t write all of it. No, actually, I did write all of it. And it was pretty good. But it never happened.

It never happened because the content strategy that supported a ‘write once, publish everywhere’ model was simply too inflexible for stakeholders to sign up to. The idea is perfectly simple. The execution is pretty doable. We could build the platform, we could integrate localisation workflows, we could support content authors with different levels of scope and authority, we could distribute that authoring, we could centralise that authoring, we could mash everything together into a globalised online presence, and Bob would indeed be your uncle.

However, different stakeholders want different things. Different customers want different things. Different users want different things. So, what’s good for the North American goose isn’t necessarily good for the Korean gander. What’s good for the North American buck isn’t necessarily good for the French doe. What’s good for the North American seahorse isn’t necessarily good for the Australian, well, seahorse. And the subtleties of those differences are what led the program to dribble to an apologetic unconclusion. We simply couldn’t define a content strategy that was flexible enough to assemble and distribute a globalised site, based on the centralised, corporate brand and product requirements and the business needs of the content experts and marketeers in the countries. It was easier for the countries to roll their own. So that’s what they did. Using the platform we built to support the central content model. They just created their own instances and copy and pasted the bits they needed from .com, creating silos and duplicates all over the place thankyouverymuch.

It’s that difficulty I witnessed in the global vs. local model that appears to be a central (pun intended) issue with desktop vs. mobile. Well, ok, it’s one of the central issues. I mean, it’s a bit of an issue. IT’S AN ISSUE.

There’s no reason why technically we can’t support the authoring, publishing and distribution of content and services that can provide a coherent experience across all kinds of screens and devices. Responsive design is a method. Having less stuff is a method. Having smaller stuff is probably a method. But for a properly scalable, flexible and efficient operation, it’s just not going to happen unless all stakeholders are in agreement about the content strategy. And when I say stakeholders, I mean anyone who owns, manages, authors or consumes that content. As a content owner, you might not care about comments disappearing from an article when you read it on a smaller viewport. As a commenter, you’ve just been slapped with the wet fish of ‘fuck you’ simply because you’re reading the article on something that fits in your palm. And that’s why content strategy is hard and why rendering isn’t the whole answer.

I’m not proposing a solution, I just see parallels with the globalisation efforts I went through years ago. I don’t think anyone has ever really got globalisation right. I’m not sure anyone will ever really get content strategy for the wider web right. But it is fascinating seeing the component parts evolve that might make it happen.

Jennifer might enjoy this Global Web Programs presentation (PDF 5mb) that talks about the common web platform. Fun times.

listening post: pg.lost – jonathan

just try everything

there is an option during an interaction with a particular screen, page, interface, device, port, socket, panel, window etc., that can be so effective that its a wonder we don’t do it from the outset and avoid all that well-thought-out user experience nonsense. its the option I most often select when I’m beginning to feel the vein on my forehead and there’s small beads of ‘stay calm’ sweat forming on my temples. more often than not, its when I’m trying to find the enhancements panel in window media player, or wondering why on earth something that used to be quite so simple in windows XP needs to be quite so appallingly difficult in vista, but quite often, its at the point when I have piece of hardware A that need to somehow interface with hardware B in order to successfully deliver experience C.

its normally at that point I just try everything. this is actually more successful with hardware issues since notwithstanding the screwdriver/electrical outlet scenario, most should-be-compatible-somehow hardware interfaces allow you do mash them together in any number of ways before doing it the right way. things don’t really get broken much and there’s not very often a knock-on effect to other resources. consider my vein-throbber today. I was only trying to wire in my previously perfectly serviceable 5:1 speaker system into the back of my new desktop system – both dell. of course, since the last computer, they’ve changed the sound card interface and so it all looks a bit different, although its all a bit the same, its just that the 6 jacks plugs and 1 I/O cable for the front left, front right, rear left, rear right, center, subwoofer (I have to say them all out loud like that because the old soundcard configuration utility spoke them out like that like some teutonic sat-nav for audio hardware) now don’t have the same number of sockets and boards and interfaces and things like that to plug into. but they have some of them. needless to say, crawling around the back of a PC with a torch when you’re supposed to be analysing financial consultancy data outputs doesn’t really have a long attention span, so the temples are glistening pretty quickly. I tried a few insertions and extracted myself from under the desk, hitting my head in the process, to see what was coming out, but it was variously a fuzzed warbled cross-phased back-to-front tinny bass calamity of an Aimee Mann track. 3 or 4 swaps and re-insertions and head bangs and torch positionings later, there really wasn’t any progress, and the markings on the interface panel that were supposed to somehow help me out were just making it worse, since they just appeared to be crop circles to me. its at that point I decided it was probably worth the risk to my 800 quid desktop if I just tried everything and anything and just wrapped this sorry exercise up.

needless to say, as soon as I just randomly flapped about with whatever cables and plugs I had in my white-knuckled fist at the time and crammed them into the nearest probable orifice, then hey presto, goodbye caroline. I should have just done that in the first place and saved myself the bother. which is what I subsequently did with windows media player. so craftily obfuscated are the enhancements that rather than navigate a series of contextual menus or follow a meaningfully and meticulously signposted user journey to the graphic equaliser of beelzebub, I just randomly clicked all the buttons on my mouse at stupid speed across all the panels in the media player container. and it worked. I saw a fleeting reference to a fly-out menu that said ‘enhancements…’ and followed that menu thing all the way to frequency nirvana.

so now I’ve got my sound balanced exactly how I want it, and my speakers are working just fine thank you. once I’ve rebuilt the music library I deleted in the process, it’ll be great.

listening post: nothing – I deleted it all