Autobiography of a Content ChunkApril 18, 2016 at content strategy, information architecture, technical communication, UX
Johunnnnnn is a technical communicator. As the meeting room opened, he came out and picked “Single Sourcing: Building Modular Documentation” from the rack and settled in his chair. It was drizzling outside. There were doubts—for strategy, goals, and for tools.
The whole work culture was passionate—to plan scalable and branded content that works towards the right customer experience goals. There was a white board behind his chair and the meeting minutes listed there pointed to some undefined energy. He was running late to present the roadmap on next Tuesday and the book helped him with some clarity on defining the content process.
In the evening, the passion took over the man and he just wandered into the content strategy tent.
“You never know.”
Doubts. Needs. Goals.
Finally, he quit within a few days not aware of a little promising life evolving in that culture.
It was me. Soon I saw the light, and they named me widget-intro. The industry calls me a content chunk. I was described as:
“A widget is a logically organized group of data available on your dashboard. A widget can also show attached data within a contact, company, deal, case or an event.”
I saw the world around me, different and busy faces saying Hello to me. A marketer in the team often stroked my cheeks and once a customer support engineer referred to me in a support ticket conversation.
Sometimes my dress was readjusted for small tags. I was not sure of the purpose of those tags; and not everyone else knew it.
Soon, an engineer put me a DITA cradle, before moving to another bedding, and then finally to another, more structured bedding. I loved all the misplaced attention.
On same day, I saw a coffee table high pitch discussion where engineers were arguing for something related to my cradle. One wanted a wooden and grilled enclosure, and another preferred a metallic structure that was more open. They were talking about shelf-life, reuse, accessibility, and such variables.
I was not worried because whenever anyone came to me, they brought their own cushion, and with their characteristic smile while holding me. I was comfortable everywhere, every time.
In no time, I was in a group where many identities like me were assembled for a specific goal. I overheard that it was for a new content type called skating team. There was a manager who enrolled me into a music group, and I was also told to escort a small group of chunks to the ground, for assembly. I learned that I could fit in different roles. As if I was being reused. I was growing.
One day, as I was listening to my music class instructor, the skating coach borrowed me to prepare me for some competition. When I landed in the skating rink for practice, I had to wait for 45 minutes for my turn. I wish I could finish my music class.
I felt bad. I quickly recalled the coffee table discussion between two engineers, for my cradle. Was it about ownership?
Next week, we were packaged in batches. As if to entertain an audience for a music show. A few of us were joining them as individuals, without batch mates. The individuals appeared to be more responsible. The show started and the participants were landing on stage, by their turn. Next moment, the anchor announced my name and I got a shock of my life when one more widget-intro walked on the stage. So, there were two widget-intros. He looked like my fraternal twin.
Signs of chaos.
The band was not sure whom to discard. It was not the right decorum to take time to make a decision. The audience were about to react and considering the stakes, I made way for him. For my twin brother.
Down the stage, I moved out of the hall, and slid into the lawn. I could hear some noise that the audience wanted to be on stage, to address the confusion. It costs to everyone. Was it because of the culture that fuelled the misdirected passion on that rainy evening?
Perhaps our world needed only one widget-intro. We were two. I was confused for other reasons too. We were offspring of same mother — the culture. The ownership was confusing to me. In fact, it was more about the stewardship. That is why we both landed on the stage when the anchor and the audience were expecting only one of us.
I looked at myself. Will I be archived now?
I saw my tags and these appeared to be relevant to the organization goals. I looked at my seat and it was marked as approved. I saw my birth certificate and noticed that the seal was overwritten a few times. Johunnnnnn too had testified my presence in the system. So there was nothing unworthy about me.
One more music show was scheduled a week later. I had little control over my fate but I was up to the task if required. An evening before the show, the show anchor had called both the widget-intros and she explained some details.
She readjusted our tags.
It ensured that we were prepared for the right reference call. We were more confident of our roles now.
It was a big day for me. Goal was the only word in my mind when I woke up in the music show morning. All set and ready and we all landed behind the stage.
We were aware of the context when we will be called on stage. There were high school students in the audience. Participants started occupying their spots on the stage. As the anchor called widget-intro, my twin brother walked to the stage. He had a job to do for that audience, in that moment. The band gathered momentum and the audience loved it.
Soon I noticed that some parents were also joining the audience. Now, the band changed the tone for the new audience. New characters were walking up and down the stage for their specific roles. During all those announcements, I heard widget-intro announcement again. My twin brother made the way for me and I was there, serving the audience. So, we were serving different audience, for their specific goals.
Our tags helped all of us. For the two widget-intros, the audience has nothing to do with the egg, sacs, or chromosomes. To them, only the right reference, at the right time, for the right purpose, matter. So, some readjustments in our tags and that gentle pep talk by the show anchor a day before the show helped everyone. Clarity of thought, for clarity of purpose.
It almost gave me a new meaning in my life. I did not need to slide into the lawn, or to think of being archived. I had a chance to say thank you to the anchor and she told me that culture brought the transformation. It was a combined effort and she was merely anchoring the show. There was nothing better that Johunnnnnn could do, the energy too was positive, and all we needed was a direction from the smallness to the wholeness, for this transformation.
The tags helped. Cradle or container does not make a difference. Now, it was role based and goal based. We could coexist in harmony. For any purpose.
Either of us became the fulfillment for the audience. A content chunk.