Blog: Content writing and content strategy insights

June 27, 2015


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Multipurpose infographic on intranet vs. digital workplace homepages

intranet vs. digital workplace infographic: Richard Dennison

Richard Dennison has written a blog post 

that summarises nicely the differences between a home page for an intranet and for a digital workplace. Use it at work as a reminder, teaching tool and bomb.

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When web accessibility goes down the drain

WCAG 2.0 and S.508 go down the drainWe work with many government agencies on web accessibility. And sure,
 our whizz-bang accessibility experts can get your web sites to comply with national web standards, whether that's S. 508 or WCAG 2.0 or some other variation. So what's the problem?

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Save your intranet project: start training content authors today

1950s women waving. Copyright holder unknown.Your intranet is being redeveloped. Everything is going OK except for the content, which is unsatisfactory, late or non-existent. Start training them tomorrow, and make everyone happy.

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"Write" (no) "Me" (no) "a Web Page" (no): all business writing is content

Business writing has changed into something unrecognisable: content. The ironic book title Write me a web page, Elsie! reflects a 20th century viewpoint and a world that has gone forever.

The manager who says, Write me a web page, Elsie! has no concept of the nature of the internet. As content strategy, Write me a web page is disastrous. It generates ROT, it undermines information architecture, it ignores accessibility, it stomps on customer service.

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New year resolution for small business: 3 wins in 3 months

Pondering new year resolutions for work? James Robertson of Step Two Designs offers an excellent suggestion. It's aimed at intranet teams, but equally applies to any small business. It certainly fits our business, which is all about web-based training and accessibility services.

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Intranet Idol: an idea that will transform intranets

Dmitri Prigov, Russian poet
'Five ideas that will transform intranets' (aka 'Intranet Idol') was a high spot at Intranets 2012. In a misguided moment, I decided to sing my contribution. Here are lyrics, which, at the time, went right out my head—which was better than remembering them.

First in a wee spiel I said something like this:

In the coming intranet utopia, everyone who writes for an intranet will understand the WCAG 2.0 guidelines for writing accessible content. They will use Word and their CMS correctly. They will not need to be policed, because they will understand the fundamental principles of accessibility and eagerly comply for logical and altruistic reasons. And the hard-pressed intranet teams, now in despair about all the broken content that crosses their desks, will be happy too.

The far-from-deathless lyrics of my song follow.

Oh, the poet and policeman should be friends.
Yes, the poet and policeman should be friends.
She wanders lonely as a cloud.
He says, 'Tables not allowed!'
But that's no reason why they can't be friends.

Intranet folk should stick together,
Intranet folk should all be friends.
Then the ones who used to break it
Will know how to make amends.

I'd like to say a word for the writers.
They have to use a funny CMS.
They all use Yammer but they don't know grammar
Or how to make a decent PDF.

I'd like to say another word for the writers.
They could do half your WCAG work for you.
They should do Heading 1 and 2 and ALT-text—
But no-one ever showed them what to do!

Oh, the writer and the web team should be friends.
Yes, the writer and the web team should be friends.
This one likes to spew out words.
That one says, 'Can they be heard?'
But that's no reason why they should be friends.

Intranet folk should stick together,
Intranet folk should all be friends.
Then the ones who used to break it
Will know how to make amends.

Tragically, I did not win Intranet Idol. Martin White gave a splendid riff on why information architecture should be banished to the pits of hell to make way for the Angel of Search. Mere mortals didn't stand a chance.

Photo: Dmitri Prigov, Russian poet, CC


Intranet obesity: content diet or content stomach stapling?

Intranet content review, cull and control requires drastic solutions. When intranets are piggy eaters, their health problems can only get worse. The eternal problem of intranet obesity is now under discussion on the contentstrategy Google Group. Here's the question, from Richard English in Toronto:

What if the CMS didn't have a content expiry process, what if there
was some other method / process that got content reviewed. What would
that look like? I'm looking for off the wall crazy ideas.

Good call, Richard, because the good old faithful solutions (like eat less and exercise) fail again and again. Two off-the-wall crazy ideas follow, as requested.

Dave Couston says:

Semi-off-the-wall: what about setting up some kind of mechanical turk-like process where anyone or a specific subset of people within the organization can use a simple interface to pick up a piece of content from the stack of items that need periodic reviewing, and review it for freshness according to some simple instructions? In return maybe they'd receive some sort of fractional credit that would be worthwhile to them within the org - credit towards an extra day off, something like that? I guess it would only work if there's little expertise required to determine whether the content needs sunsetting or not, or if the pool of people acting as reviewers had that expertise.

Matt Moore of Innotecture offered a stomach-stapling solution with the following, though he was 'not necessarily recommending' any of the ideas:

  • Every 12 months delete everything. Unless someone actively nominates an item to be kept. And some else seconds that nomination.
  • Charge people a $ fee for each published item that they own. You can have as many items as you like, provided you pay for them.
  • Each month, the CEO will visit a page at random on the intranet. If the content is up-to-date, the content owner gets a small reward. If the content is lousy, the content owner has to perform some kind of community service.
  • If a page gets no views over a 12 month period then automatically cull it.
  • Add a "delete this page if junk" button to every page that any employee can use.


Adrian Howard described how a radical cull of wiki content was more acceptable when the process was at least partly automatic. Another upside:

There was also a nice side effect: Because we left the system running people felt able to experiment a bit more - knowing that unused stuff would be automatically culled. A sort of pave-the-cowpaths for content.

When Richard said he was stuck with a CMS that was a piece of junk, one member suggested getting a second CMS to manage the first one! Every intranet team faces some rough realities:

  • Every piece of content, in principle, is owned by a staff member (but the owner may not know it).
  • Staff move, resign, change jobs, forget, and have human weaknesses.
  • Some combination of technology and human control is required.
  • Culling content by humans alone is a time-consuming and sensitive task.

Hilary Marsh requested the following simple system from IT—but would it work for a 300,000 page intranet?

  • A "content expiration" field in the CMS (which didn't have any functionality associated with it). We filled in the field manually for each piece of content based on the rules we set for various content types.
  • A monthly report of content set to "expire" in the coming month
  • A way to archive content so it would remain live on the site but not be returned in general searches


As all intranets tend towards obesity by default, imagine the impact when social media is/are added to every intranet's menu.

Join contentstrategy at and follow the whole discussion.
Image of Mr Creosote (c) MontyPython?






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