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CS Forum 2012

Last week I went to Content Strategy Forum 2012, hosted at Spier out in Stellenbosch. The conference was great, and I tip my hat to Kerry-Anne (@kerry_anne), Irene (@1rene), Rian (, and Nathan (@NathanBlows) for organising and for pulling in some great people to speak, including high profile experts from overseas. Although I'm a developer by trade, I'm interested in related fields such as Content Srategy, because I find there's a lot of overlap between the various disciplines.

The venue was an excellent choice, and a great way to show off South Africa to all our visitors. I heard lots of complements about South Africa and about Cape Town and it gave me a proud, patriotic, kind of feeling about my adopted home. The catering was excellent throughout, and was the best I've had at any conference. (Food is a big part of my life, so this is important to me!)

The first day of the conference was an overseas extravaganza and filled with excellent people giving excellent talks. The second day was a more complex affair: triple track, with a wide spread of topics and themes. On the one hand, the selection of talks was excellent: there were at least two talks in each time slot that I wanted to attend. On the other hand, I missed a lot of talks I would have liked to have heard. I think my personal preference would have been for at most two tracks.

I've picked out some of my highlights from the conference below:

  • Content Strategy as a profession is becoming more widely known and respected. Businesses are realising that content work is valuable, necessary, and hard.
  • Highlighting the value of content, and the value of having a strategy for it, can get us buy-in and the time and resources to do the job right.
    • Highlight how it supports the business and user goals, from the viewpoint of who we're talking to: highlight how CS can fix the pain points. Also be ready to show the strategic value of CS over time.
    • Sell solutions to their problems rather than Content Strategy as "a thing."
    • Focusing on the governance side of things can be useful.
    • Estimating can let us put numbers (such as ROI) on work, which businesses like, help us understand all the costs and benefits, and can be used as a communication and storytelling tool.
  • Content needs to be:
    • at the core of a business; involved from the beginning, and in every stage of the process.
    • made of structured and flexible chunks (rather than rigid blobs), and be interconnected and hierarchical, in the modern multi-device world. This means we need more solid infrastructure behind it. This flexibility and modularity will let our content (and its associated metadata) move around more freely, and perform better as snippets (e.g. bits of content seen in search engine results).
  • The world is going through big changes. We're changing from an Industrial society to a knowledge-based society; technology is moving from government and large organisations to individuals; publishing is moving from mass media to individual and social.
    • People and organisations are going through big changes and need our help being adept at, and comfortable, with change. This is hard and messy work, but it's where we can make a big difference. We have to take risks and be vulnerable, but together we can be succesful.