Intelligent Content: A Primer

By on June 12, 2016

intelligent-content-a-primerIt’s been a long time since I’ve done a book review, but I really enjoyed this little book (disclaimer: I know two of the authors, and they sent me a copy of it to review).

Here’s the key: the book is focused. It knows what it wants to do.  It is — as the title would suggest — a “primer,” meaning it’s a simple introduction to a complex topic.  This is not a large scale book that will teach how to implement “intelligent content” at your organization.  Rather, this book explain what intelligent content is, and how and why it can benefit you.  That’s it.

Like I said, it’s focused. And short.  It’s 120-some-odd pages, with diagrams. I don’t think any chapter was more than five pages long.

That might sound simplistic, but I’ve been railing on the need for shorter books for years now.  The value of this book is that your could read it on a plane flight, and that’s what we need.  You could leave Chicago with no idea what “intelligent content” was and land in LA with a pretty good idea.

(As a guy that wrote an almost 400-page book, I can’t help but think I should have written a book this size instead.  I read Git for Humans the other day and felt the same way.  Eight years ago, I was arguing that we need shorter books, and here I am almost a decade later — praising two of them, while pitching my own book which clearly violated my own argument.)

So, what is intelligent content?  It’s modular, granular content which is managed at a level which allows it to be mixed and matched to provide greater value.  Making content intelligent means breaking it down into smaller and smaller pieces so that you can customize it and create larger content products out of it.  This is not a new idea.  It’s been making the rounds for years.  Ann Rockley and Charles Cooper, two of the authors of this book, wrote a much larger book about it years back: Managing Enterprise Content: A Unified Content Strategy.  There’s even a conference: Intelligent Content Conference.

But, all that can be intimidating, whereas this book is not.  If you hear people talking about intelligent content, and can’t figure out what it is, then your book has arrived.

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Proposals Are Like First Dates

By on June 6, 2016

True story: some development firms lie through their teeth in proposals.

Shocking, I know.  But sometimes the winner of a competitive proposal process is going to be the firm that lies the most convincingly.

Of course, they couch it in terms that let them sleep at night, but in the end, they either tell bald-faced lies, or they simply capitalize on the prospect’s ignorance to position themselves inaccurately or promise things they know perfectly well they can never deliver.

I’m proud to say Blend Interactive doesn’t do this.  God willing, I will always have the integrity and foresight to look down the road at the longer-term relationship and ask myself if what I’m writing or saying at any given time is the truth.

But, when responding to an RFP, all firms — Blend included — put their best foot forward.  Proposals are like a first date: you get all dressed up, try to look your best, minimize any flaws, and basically put forward an optimized representation of yourself, in an effort to impress the other person.

Let’s face it, you know you have problems, because everyone does.  Eventually, your date is going to find out that you can’t sing, you forget anniversaries, and that you don’t really engage in extreme sports every weekend. But you’re thinking, “By then, we’ll be invested in a relationship and so they’ll overlook it or we’ll work around it.”  Sound familiar?

Getting “first date ready” for every RFP is tiring, and there’s always an underlying anxiety for me.  Again, I don’t outright lie in proposals, but there might be sticky things that I’d rather not discuss or dig into that far.  Every proposal has weak spots.  I hate the idea that someone will bring them up, not so much because I don’t want to talk about them (I love to talk about content management and interesting solutions to sticky problems), but because it would remind me that the proposal process in this business is so broken that this is what firms have to do to get hired.  I hate the idea that I have to maneuver around this stuff in the first place.

Lately, I’ve turned over a new leaf.  I’ve tried to be as brutally honest as possible in proposals, even when it might reflect poorly on Blend.  Call it naivety, but I’m hoping that honesty will come across, and the prospect will be impressed by that. I figure that someone who wants to hire us in spite of any shortcomings is probably someone we’d like to do business with.

A few months ago, we received a large RFP.  This was for a project that would easily be $500,000, and perhaps even seven figures over time.  It was for a national organization that I promise you’ve heard of before.  For the purposes of this blog post, we’ll call it BigCorp.

The project was a great fit for us — a type of website we do well, and exactly in our vertical.  It was a big, complicated RFP. They had multiple pages of scenarios and follow-on questions.  And there was no boilerplate text in the response — all of it was a custom, unique, 17-page response to that specific RFP.  We easily had $5,000 invested in the response in my consulting time alone (looking back on all the costs associated with responding, we had about $15,000 wrapped up in it by the end).

What I did was write the proposal like I normally would, but then I read through it again.  Whenever I came across something that made me think “yeah, but…”, I highlighted that.  Then, I went back and wrote what I really wanted to say.  I told myself, “Pretend there’s zero chance you could ever win this deal, so you have nothing to lose.  What would you write then?”  I put this text in a shaded sidebar box, as if I lowered my voice an octave, cupped my mouth with my hand, and said, “Okay, now here’s the real scoop…”

For example, BigCorp wanted a bid for implementation services.  We get this all the time, but — let’s face facts — it’s pretty ridiculous at this stage.  We couldn’t know nearly enough to provide them an actual number.  So after providing the requested breakdown as very high-level, estimated numbers, I came out and told them the truth:

Let’s be honest: the numbers quoted above are, essentially, an educated guess. We crawled the entire site, analyzed the URL patterns, and browsed through the site for several hours. Based on that, all we can do is compare it to past implementations to come up with pricing ranges.

While this usually turns out to be fairly accurate, this absolutely doesn’t take the place of a formal, paid discovery phase. To pretend otherwise would be disingenuous.

What we live in fear of is hidden functionality (especially hidden integration with other systems) that we can’t see. Hidden processes are another wildcard: we see the published content, but we have no way of knowing how it got there, which could be a highly process-intensive process, for all we know.

Hence, our desire for a formal technical planning project. It’s the only way we feel we can provide an honest bid that both sides can live with.

The fact is, with a proposal like this, if they want a firm number, you have two options:
  1. Provide a firm number, but give yourself an out — like, a clause that let’s you re-evaluate for scope at the end of the first phase or something — and then hope they either don’t read it or don’t understand what it actually means.
  2. Pad the hell out of the number.  Just give a sky-high number that protects you, and pretend it’s the result of some responsible scoping process which couldn’t possibly be completed at this point.
I hate both of those options.  Generally, we try to do a paid, flat fee discovery process, and then scope the result of that for implementation.  And this is what I was trying to explain to the prospect in this case.

Later, they wanted to know our experience with a bunch of the items in their technology stack, or wanted us to explain how we would integrate with Software X.  We had zero experience with any of it (in fact, we had never even heard of half of it — they were Old School).

I decided to tackle it head-on:

[...] This is an example of where we’re familiar with the genre of software, but not the specific brand of software BigCorp is using.

[...] Another example where we have experience with the genre, but not the specifics. We’re simply theorizing here based on broader experience.

[...] again, this is an example of simply speculating on the functionality of a software package we have no direct experience with. We’re confident we could find some acceptable integration points, but it would be disingenuous for us to pretend to be more specific.

Things like this remind me of politics.   In situations like this, you normally talk like a politician and go around the problem — “Yes, yes, we’ll lower taxes.  It’ll be phenomenal and taxes will be lower and everyone will be happy!  How will we do that?  Well, let me tell you a story about Bob from Omaha, who I met on the campaign trail last week…”

I hate this.  I hate it in politics, and I hate it in proposals.  Fact is, Blend has worked with a lot of stuff, but we haven’t worked with everything.  But, we’re smart people, and there’s a good chance we’ve done something similar to what you (or BigCorp, in this case) want to do.  So we’ll start there, and talk through it.  If we have absolutely no idea how to work with it, we’ll find something who does, or you should hire someone else.  If we get to that point, I’ll do my best to help you find that someone else.

Further down, they wanted to know Blend’s financial viability.  So, we attached financial statements, and I decided to put those into context.

Honestly, Blend could be more profitable than it is. Over the years we’ve learned that the two secrets to profitability in this business are: (1) pay as little as possible and suffer through the resulting employee turnover; and (2) commoditize your services as much as possible by coercing your clients to adapt to a rigid platform and process which takes as few risks as possible.

We refuse to do either. We have virtually no employee turnover (it’s so low as to be almost impossible to measure), and we aggressively pursue innovative and interesting work. Thus, Blend is merely solidly profitable, not wildly profitable.

(In reading that again, it sounds like I’m trying to apologize for poor financial numbers, but I’m honestly not.  I won’t go so far as to post my actual P&Ls here, but suffice it to say that Blend does quite well.  We’ve been in business for 11 years, and I don’t think we’ve ever had a money-losing quarter. We have financials that a lot of firms would envy.)

(Edit: in the spirit of full disclosure, I went and checked.  We have had a couple of money-losing quarters. However, we resell software, and for a long time we didn’t account for large sales as inventory. So when a license sale crossed reporting periods, we often lost money in one quarter, only to make a ton of money in the next quarter. In the last couple years, we’ve changed how we account for this, so I doubt this would ever happen again.)

I didn’t want to humble-brag too much, so when I discussed Blend’s status as the very first North American Partner of the Year, I wrote this:

The 2009 Partner of the Year Award is certainly nothing to overlook, but at the time there were maybe five partners total in North America.
I explained that when something breaks on a website, it’s usually our fault:
[...] 99% of problems will either be with (1) the server infrastructure, or (2) Blend’s implementation.
They wanted to know about EPiServer certifications.  I told them we have a couple, but…
Admittedly, our EPiServer certifications are for older versions of the product.
I called out EPiServer in some places:
[...] EPiServer’s category system is workable, but imperfect.

[...] The ability for clients to directly inject new functionality into production environments [via the Add On Store] was not received well by the EPiServer integrator community.

[...] EPiServer’s default functionality doesn’t redirect, it actually delivers the content under the vanity URL directly. We don’t think this is a good idea.

And I explained that marketing automation integration is basically a pile of theoretical features that hardly anyone uses:
Marketing automation is an example of where CMS is long on theory and opportunity, and short on actual practice. When it comes to marketing integration, the vendors – EPiServer included – are far out in front of the customers.

Additionally, customers’ eyes are bigger than their appetites. We regularly have clients who have grand plans for extremely complex marketing integrations, but these plans never quite seem to get underway. As such, the advanced marketing tools built into the current generation of CMS are incredibly under-utilized, which is a fact CMS vendors try very hard to gloss over.

Understand that this is true across the industry. When asked for case studies, vendors will cherry-pick from an extremely limited number of customers actually using the technology they offer. Every vendor knows full-well that they’re offering functionality very few customers have the sophistication to use.

[...] A/B testing, like the marketing automation discussed previously, is something that remains wholly theoretical for most clients. A few marketing departments have the capacity or wherewithal to actually implement A/B testing effectively. The tools are certainly available, they just rarely get used.

I gotta tell you — writing this stuff was enormously therapeutic for me. I basically took the filters off and told the client what I actually wanted to tell them, not the censored stuff that you normally spew to sell software and services.

And what was the result?

Well, I wish I could tell that we won the deal…but we didn’t.  We came in second.  We did quite well, and got all the way to the final round, but they picked a larger firm that was 100 yards away from them geographically.  Headcount and remote location are two problems that Blend will always struggle with.

Regardless, I was happy with the process.  We went down swinging, and it felt good to just write a proposal with complete honesty and disclosure.  Despite losing, I dropped this organization a note when I was coming to their city last week, and they were happy to meet with me and just talk shop in general.  The guy who managed the proposal process introduced to the project manager (the one managing the project we had lost), to which I offered my expertise if I could help in any way.  I feel like there might still be a relationship there somewhere in the future, and perhaps that’s because of how I framed the relationship with the original proposal.

This is the new normal for me personally, and Blend as a company. If you send us an RFP, expect a response that might border on…strange.  If we don’t know how to do something, we’ll tell you.  If we think your idea sucks, we’ll tell you that too.  If we don’t think you should hire us at all, we’ll decline to respond and explain why.

Ask me on a date.  I’m going to show up looking like I normally do. I can’t sing, I’ll forget our anniversary, and I’ve never actually climbed Kilimanjaro.  But we’ll work through those issues, and I promise you that I have lots of other things going for me.

Talk to me in a year.  If I’m still in business, then perhaps it was the right way to go.

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What do we call the people we make content for?

By on June 2, 2016

What is the name for people who consume content?  We have names for people who create the content — usually “creator” or “editor” — but what do we call the people on the other side?  The people who view/read the content we create and edit?

  • “Visitor”:  This is common, but this presumes someone is going to “visit” a website.  What if you send them an email?  What if they read your content on social media?
  • “User”:  Do people “use” content?  They “use” an app or functionality, but can we use that term to define people who view/read content?
  • “Public”: What if they’re not the public?  What if it’s an intranet, or an email list?
  • “Consumer”: I love this, because people “consume” content.  But there’s potential for confusion with the economic term “consumer.”
  • “Audience”:  This is good, but what’s the singular?  Audience is an aggregate term.
What do we call these people?  Can we collectively define a term for this group?

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The Need for Content Operations

By on January 27, 2016

We implement content management as a practice.  After 11 years of this, we see the same two patterns over and over again:

  1. Organizations not prepared to launch a new CMS because their content is mess
  2. Organizations who do not fully use the content management systems they’ve had implemented
There are a lot of reasons for why this happens, but it’s very consistent.  We’ve so far dealt with them on a piecemeal basis.  However, we’re beginning to wonder if it would be wise to create an entirely separate practice based around what we’re calling “content operations.”  This is low-level, tactical, operational work that needs to be done on content to…well, make it go.

As an organizational exercise, we put together a detailed description of this practice, which I’ve reprinted below.  After a quick intro (suffer through it), there are over a dozen sub-practices and example scenarios for how we think this would work.

Understand that in no way do we think we’re breaking any new ground here.  But I think a lot of implementation shops handle this stuff on a case-by-case basis — they suffer through migration work and other large-scale, tactical content stuff as a price of admission for doing the CMS implementation.  They do it, it sucks, and then they say, “Wow, that was awful…on to the next one!”

What we’re looking to do is accept this work, build some process and tools around it, and actively pursue it both as a business model, and way to develop the competency.

I’m posting this here because I think it’s a good outline of problems we see in this space. Some of this might resonate with you, or remind you of a deathmarch project or two from your past.

This is a practice area that probably needs to be embraced, not avoided.

Practice Description: Content Operations

Content Operations (CO) is concerned with everything between Content Strategy (CS) and Content Management (CM). Any form of content manipulation and analysis would be managed by a CO process.

CO is bookended by content strategy and technical CMS services.

  1. CO is not digital marketing or content strategy. It assumes the content plan exists and just needs to be implemented.
  2. CO is not technical content management. It assumes a satisfactory CMS has been implemented. It is concerned with the content inside this CMS.
CO is the “glue” between the (1) plan for content, and (2) the content management system in which it’s managed and delivered.

CO would provide two types of services: (1) one-time, project-based services which contribute to a CMS implementation; and (2) ongoing services which continue on a recurring basis after implementation.

Goals

  1. To increase overall success of CMS implementation projects by addressing the “client skill and effort gap”
  2. To avoid completed projects from launch delays while they wait for content issues to be resolved.
  3. To increase developer efficiency by off-loading tasks that don’t require developer attention but can’t currently be staffed any other way (content invenvtory and analysis for scoping, URL redirection management, content extraction, content rough-in, etc.)
  4. To increase client efficiency by providing an outlet for larger-scale content activities.
  5. To increase client effectiveness by providing consulting around operations and other non-development content issues.

1. CMS Implementation Service Examples

These are services that would occur in conjuction with a CMS implementation.

Content Inventory/Audit

Identification of all existing content, analysis of types and characteristics, and description of non-content functionality.
Example: To assist in the scoping of a CMS re-implementation, the CO specialist puts together an inventory and analysis of the current content for the sales team to start scoping from.

Automated Content Extraction

Extraction, transformation, and storage of existing content in preparation for an import.
Example: The CO specialist prototypes, tests, and executes an automated content extract to get the existing content cleaned and into an XML document for the implementing developer to import from.

Manual Content Migration

Manual, human-powered movement of content from one system to another.
Example: The CO specialist migrates content from legacy PDFs to managed, structured content objects when no other (programmatic) options exist. Alternately, the CO specialist trains, manages, and reports on a group of subcontractors that perform this work.

Content Rough-in / IA Implementation

Creation of content structures to implement a designed IA.
Example: A CS process has created an approved IA, and a new CMS installation has been bootstrapped. In order to test navigation logic and other functionality, the CO specialist roughs in the planned site map with the correct types to provide some structure for continued development. This is not a full migration — just a stubbing out of future content.

Content Re-Organization

Movement and re-organization of content to implement an improved IA or to fulfill other operational needs.
Example: The CO specialist plans, executes, reviews, and reports on a large re-organization of content to support an improved IA recommendation. The re-org is planned and executed with minimal disruption to editorial staff, who are then briefed on the changes.

Content QA

Review of migrated content to ensure pre-launch quality.
Example: A migration has been completed, but content has to be checked for formatting, links, organization, etc. prior to launch. The CO specialist plans the QA metrics, manages the process, opens tickets and connects with the development team where necessary, and reports on progress both during execution and after completion.

Launch Management and Auditing

Monitoring and management of content-related tasks required for site launch.
Example: During a CMS implementation, the CO specialist keeps track of the list of content that has to be created, where that content is in the process, who is responsible for it, etc. The CO specialist tracks and reports on every content-related item that might impact launch readiness with the goal of having the CMS functionality and content come together at the right time for launch.

Editorial Training Planning and Execution

Development of training plans, materials, and execution of training for editorial staff.
Example: A CO specialist reviews the website plan to determine the different logical editing groups, then plans a training curriculum on the both the CMS and other related, topics to ensure proper skill by launch time. The CO specialist executes this training, then conducts follow-ups as necessary to ensure editors are working with the system correct. The CO specialist coordinates continuing access to training materials, and is available on an ad hoc basis post-implementation for questions.

URL Integrity Management

URL planning, auditing, and redirection management.
Example: During a CMS implementation, the CO specialist reviews the URL patterns of the existing site, discusses and plans changes with the client, communicates those changes to the developer, and populates and manages the redirection file to be used on the new site’s 404 handler.

2. Ongoing Content Operations Service Examples

These are services that would occur on a continuing basis, post-implementation.

Content QA

Monitoring of content for link integrity and other editorial markers.
Example: The CO specialist manages multiple processes and toolsets to review content for quality, such as link validity, image size opitmization, spell checking, and the verification of specific content rules — if an acronym is used, ensure it was previously stated in full within the same content object, for example.

Content Entry / Posting

The creation, formatting, and configuration of content from provided source material.
Example: The CO specialist posts content provided by a client — turning a Word document into a press release object, for example, populating it with an image and scheduling it for publication.

Content Creation Management

Management of the content creation and sourcing process through other vendors, including design support and extended project support for larger content-based projects.
Example: The CO specialist arranges for the creation of content for a client’s upcoming campaign, including design concepts, managing the production of copy writers, analytics configuration, etc.

Content Operations Consulting and Audit

Review of internal digital content operations and consulting around changes and improvements.
Example: The CO specialist performs an auditing of the client’s content channels and digital staff, suggestilng improvements for workflow, reporting, and responsibilities.

Analytics Consulting, Tuning, and Analysis

Review of analystics, consulting around alternatives, analysis of results.
Example: The CO specialist works with the client to determine how to configure analytics to produce the data they need, then makes all changes possible via configuration and scopes more in-depth changes with the development team.

Localization Support

Sourcing and management of localization services.
Example: Based on a localization plan, the CO specialist sources translation services, configures the CMS as necessary, and executes translation projects to produce localized and publish content.

CMS Administration

Management of users, permissions, workflows, etc. as necessary to assist editorial process.
Example: Rather than training internal staff on administrative features, the client depends on the CO specialist to add and remove users when requested, configure permissions as necessary, and create desired workflows as needed. The CO specialist is responsible for the running, administration, and configuration of the CMS up to the limit of what can be done without development.

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Every Day I Want To Quit Social Media

By on October 30, 2015

Every Day I Want To Quit Social Media: This one hit a bit close to home. It’s a heartfelt, emotional piece about the love-hate relationship some people have with social media. There’s absolutely an element of addiction there.

I don’t find the information I’m looking for. Desperately, I click back to the tab with the newsfeed. I notice that I don’t have as many notifications at this hour as I should have, and I begin to tense up, my heart beating faster. I am forever judging myself by my social media performance.

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The Future of Libraries

By on October 29, 2015

What Libraries Can (Still) Do:  This is a good discussion about the future of the public library, which echos things I’ve talked about here before.

[...] librarians will need to cherish their special talent as “stewards” while letting go of the instinct to be “collectors.” Knowledge in physical form needs to be handled carefully, preserved, and curated. But with digital information pouring into iPhones and Kindles in petabytes—via Twitter and Instagram and YouTube, not to mention Amazon’s self-publishing factories—libraries need to rethink old habits. They cannot collect everything, or even a small fraction of everything.
See:

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The Flying Squirrel Book

By on July 14, 2015

The Flying Squirrel BookFor the last few months, I’ve been working on a book for O’Reilly: Web Content Management: Systems, Features, and Best Practices.  It’s a reasonable distillation of everything I’ve learned about web content management in almost two decades of success and failure (hopefully more of the former than the latter…)

O’Reilly has an interesting system of pre-order, whereby you can buy the book and get a series of e-book chapters as its written. They’re rough and not finished, but you can start the reading the book before it’s even published. My book has had two sets of chapters released — 1-4 and 5-7 — and is due for 8-10 in a couple of weeks.  (I’m not sure if there will be another, since the entire book is tentatively planned at 14 chapters).  You can pre-order here.

O’Reilly books are well-known for their covers of hand-drawn animals.  To my dismay, I learned that you don’t get to pick — the O’Reilly art department instead proposes designs to you, and you have a limited ability to object. They first came up with a dog, which absolutely wasn’t going to happen (I don’t like dogs).  Then a bird, which just didn’t seem right either.  Then my editor called and said, “Look, we can go back to them one more time, but you’re gonna have to make one of the three work.”

God was apparently smiling on me, because that third animal was the pygmy flying squirrel, which frankly couldn’t be more awesome.  Thus, my book’s website: The Flying Squirrel Book.

The process of writing has been more difficult than I expected. Finding the time is a huge challenge, but the hardest part has been fighting the image of perfection in my head. I’ve waited so long to write this book, that I avoid writing because I’m afraid the actual words won’t live up to my expectations.

Additionally, “walking back the knowledge” has been challenging.  I’ll go to explain Concept A, then get a few pages in before I realize that I’m not explaining Concept A, but Concept D. I actually have to back up and explain Concepts A, B, and C first.  Honestly, you don’t realize what you actually know until you have to write it all down.

The mechanics of writing have been fun.  O’Reilly has a system they call Atlas (alas, not available commercially yet), which allows to me to write in a Markdown-ish format called AsciiDoc.  I maintain these in a Git repo.  These are then converted to HTML (I could write directly in HTML, if I wanted).  The HTML is then turned into all sorts of formats, in almost real-time.  I can “build” the book into print-ready PDF, MOBI, HTML, etc. in seconds.

So, that’s what I’ve been working on since last year. With a bit of luck, the book will be out in the fall.  Once I finish writing, we go to “pre-production,” where it gets copy-edited and indexed, then apparently I get a box in the mail with a bunch of books.

That’ll be a good day.

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The Limitations of Screen Reading

By on July 9, 2015

Everything Science Knows About Reading On Screens: More proof that reading on the screen is not the same as reading on paper.

But this style of reading may come at a cost—Liu noted in his study that sustained attention seems to decline when people read onscreen rather than on paper, and that people also spend less time on in-depth reading. “In digital, we can link in different media, images, sound, and other text, and people can get overwhelmed,”

[...] The researchers found that when people read short nonfiction onscreen, their understanding of the text suffered because people managed their time poorly compared with when they used paper.

There’s even a slight difference between reading on paper and reading on a Kindle.
Mangen explains that the tactile feedback of paper may help people process certain information when they read, and this may be lost when we move to digital texts.

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Just My Type

By on June 27, 2015

This is a book about fonts (or type or typefaces — I’ve learned there are subtle variations in the definitions of each, but I can’t remember what they are). The book is a series of anecdotes about fonts/types. Each chapter is short — you can read one in 3-4 minutes, but they’re all pretty entertaining.  Some things I learned:

  • Type fans are kind of a cult.  There’s an entire word of type designers and fans that you don’t even know exist. They freak out when a font changes somewhere, and they have massive arguments and flame wars on the internet about what font a particular company uses. The worst thing to hear in these situations is “Verdict: Not a Font,” which means the type was something designed specifically for the logo or service mark.
  • A font company is called a “foundry.”  There are some legendary foundries over the years, like  International Typeface Corporation (ITC), the initials of which appear before a lot of their fonts.
  • There is a character called an “interrobang,” which is a combination of a an exclamation point and question mark, meant for things like “You did what!?”  A guy came up with it in the 1960s, but it never really caught on.
  • There’s a huge war between Arial and Helvetica.  There’s even a funny College Humor video where their respective gangs meet for a rumble (the last 15 seconds is pretty funny).
  • Universal also kind of screwed over Helvetica, because it was free.  So people stopped buying Helvetica.
  • Microsoft has had a pretty significant influence on fonts, given the ubiquity of Microsoft products.  Microsoft commissioned Tahoma, Georgia, Verdana, and Calibri. Microsoft is also responsible for the victory of Arial, due to its default inclusion in Microsoft products. The same is true of Times New Roman, which was commissioned in 1931 for the Times newspaper, but has lived on because Microsoft has bundled it in with their products for years.
  • Gill Sans is named for Eric Gill, who designed it and was, incidentally, a sexual pervert.  He apparently regularly molested his daughters and experimented sexually with the family dog.
  • The Nazis outlawed Gothic script in 1941, believing it to be too associated with the Jews.
  • The testing word that type designers favor when they test their fonts is “handgloves,” because of the way the different letters interact and its unqiue kerning properties.
  • There is software just for designing fonts.  For example “Fontographer,” by Fontlab.
  • There is debate as to the origin of the word “font.”  Some think it derives from “fund,” as in a “fund of letters,” on which the printer would draw.  Others think it comes from the French word “fonte” which means “cast,” because the letters were originally cast in lead.
  • In 1977, a British newspaper created  a pretty funny April Fools Day hoax, using font terminology to create a fictional island which supposedly was marking 10 years of independence.
  • Gotham is a font well-known for being used on the iconic Obama 2008 campaign posters.
  • Johnston Sans is legendary for being used on signage in the London Underground for decades.
  • It’s not possible to copyright a font.  You’d have to copyright each individual letter and symbol, which is prohibitive. Thus, derivation in the font world is common, and some of the great type designers have died penniless after being unable to support themselves.
The entire book is full of these stories.  It’s well-written and frequently funny.  It does occasionally get into touchy-feely emotional talk about the design characteristics of fonts, which I didn’t quite get, but designers will no-doubt love it.  Absolutely worth the read, and so much better than the other book I read about fonts last year: Stop Stealing Sheep & Find Out How Type Works (here’s my Goodreads review of that book, which I really disliked).

 

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Author Payment by the Page

By on June 22, 2015

Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing: Interesting times:

Under the new payment method, you’ll be paid for each page individual customers read of your book, the first time they read it.
Of course, however, there are debates about what a “page” means, when it comes to ebooks.
To determine a book’s page count in a way that works across genres and devices, we’ve developed the Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count (KENPC). We calculate KENPC based on standard settings (e.g. font, line height, line spacing, etc.), and we’ll use KENPC to measure the number of pages customers read in your book, starting with the Start Reading Location (SRL) to the end of your book. Amazon typically sets SRL at chapter 1 so readers can start reading the core content of your book as soon as they open it.
See: eBooks and the Vanishing Concept of the Page

 

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