Fred Sampson's Radio Weblog
a card-carrying member of the reality-based community


Contact Fred:


I listen to IT Conversations


Subscribe to "Fred Sampson's Radio Weblog" in Radio UserLand.

Click to see the XML version of this web page.

Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

Electronic Freedom Foundation



  Wednesday, May 8, 2002

Content Is KING!

Jared Spool's latest email included these notes about content:

Letter from the Editor: Content's Challenges


We just got back from the CHI 2002 conference -- an annual gathering of people who are interested in the latest research in usability and design issues. ( This conference was a particularly fascinating one, focusing on both new advances and new challenges.

One of the issues that kept coming out at the conference was the focus on how content has changed everything. In the old days, we never paid attention to content. When we designed a product, like a word processor, we only focused on how the user interacted with the product. We never focused on what they wrote -- their content.

But now, browsers don't really do anything without content. What makes or breaks a web site is the content involved. And content is really hard.

How should it be organized? How should it be written? What can we leave out? What must we include? Does order matter? Does presentation matter? We're just now getting a glimpse of how much we need to learn to answer these questions. . .

. . . What are your thoughts about the challenges presented when you have to deal with content? Let us know at We'd love to hear from you.

Jared M. Spool, Editor

I took up the challenge and wrote back with these thoughts about "content":


You opened the door by asking about content. Let me tell you about content.

Here's what one blogger has to say: "Seems to me, the big problem with the word "content" is that the terminology is mostly used by those who are NOT creating the "content" but rather the merchandisers of said "content" The word has a serious p.o.v. problem. . . The word instantly separates the person who creates from the person who profits by the creation." Read the rest at, then see for Dave Weinberger's take on the same subject.

Technical communicators have known all along that content is king--and by content we mean words, writing, conversation, information, not commodity devoid of its originator. Without it, the Web and other media are just empty containers, nicely decorated but inherently meaningless.

Sounds to me that what you're talking about are issues we tech writers have grappled with for years: organization, navigation, accessibility, readability, meaning. We're just as concerned with usable interfaces as you are, because a well-designed interface doesn't need documentation, whereas a poorly designed interface is nearly impossible to document. And we've learned how to answer questions such as "Does order matter? Does presentation matter?"

No need to reinvent the wheel, just get your technical communicators and information architects involved. You'll be glad you did.

Content IS King!

Cheers, Fred
9:16:11 PM    Questions? Comments? Flames? []

About Fred

    I am a senior technical communicator for a large software company headquartered somewhat outside of Silicon Valley.

    I also do a bit of freelance writing here and there.

    And I just started this weblog!

    I am active in the Society for Technical Communication (STC); I've been Treasurer for the Silicon Valley chapter (STC's largest chapter) for two years, and will be Vice President at the start of the new term in July.

    I was also active in the National Writers Union until recently; I was Treasurer for the Santa Cruz/Monterey Local for over two years. But continued empire-building by NWU's president has prompted me to deactivate, and I will likely not renew come October.

My focus in technical writing, outside of my current writing assignments, include:

    Human factors
    Human-computer interaction
      All with attention to how they impact technical communication
    Wireless and mobile computing

You can see my resume at
1:07:17 PM    Questions? Comments? Flames? []

Changed the theme to see if the graphics show up.
11:13:06 AM    Questions? Comments? Flames? []

Click here to visit the Radio UserLand website. © Copyright 2002-2005 Fred Sampson.
Last update: 5/21/05; 10:12:26 PM.

May 2002
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
      1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 31  
Apr   Jun

Search this site:

Fred's Blogroll

ACLU Safe and Free

What I'm Reading:

The WeatherPixie