The Numinous

One of my favorite words is Numinous. Is it strange and child-like to have a favorite word? Then yes, I am strange and child-like.

All the same, I want to show you why this is my favorite word. It involves a story. And the story begins as most stories do — with a book.

The Book

I first encountered the concept of the Numinous when I read Contact by Carl Sagan. That was back in 2001. It was just a few months after I returned to the US after my Peace Corps service in West Africa. And it was just after I got my first job as a “webmaster” doing front-end development, design, and a little something called SEO.

I’m sure that you remember the opening scene from the film version of Contact that came out several years later. If not, give it a another look:

Contact by Carl Sagan

My step-father gave me the book. It was beat-up, wrinkled, dog-eared. He obviously loved it very much. He was a hard-core science/science fiction fanatic; Carl Sagan was one of his favorite authors. My step-father could go on and on for hours about black holes and string theory. At one point, he practiced astrophotography with a home-made kit.

That was when we were younger. But science wasn’t enough for my step-father; he had his own Numinous to seek. And so he gave in to his long-term addiction to prescription drugs less than four years after handing me his copy of Contact.

I haven’t seen him since. But I still have his book, so perhaps I’ll have the opportunity to return it to him someday. Truth be told, I don’t think that sort of luck exists, no matter what you believe in. Continue reading

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Why Our Content SUCKS

Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking at SearchFest by SEMpdx down in Portland, Oregon. I spoke on the “UX and Audience” panel with Susan Delz of Ion Interactive, moderated by Nathan Isaacs of 7G Media. My travel to SearchFest was partially funded by a generous grant from The University of Washington’s Information School, where I’m currently a graduate student.

I talked about Why Our Content SUCKS And How We Can Make it BETTER.

Why Our Content SUCKS. And How We Can Make it BETTER! - my presentation from SearchFest by SEMpdx on SlideShare

Slideshare promoted my deck to their “Top Presentation of the Day” over the weekend. So I wanted to take some time to break down why I told this story, what my inspirations and goals were, and share some insights in order to enhance transparency and understanding.

I also want to share a secret with you about how I approached this talk that makes it different from any presentation that I’ve ever done before. Continue reading

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Ignite! Seattle 19: How Introverts Can Survive in This Extroverted World

I’ve had a fun, challenging journey this year talking publicly about introversion and lifehacks for introverts.

I started by helping introverts and shy people become better public speakers. Then I followed up by interviewing Beth Buelow, The Introvert Entrepreneur.

And tonight I’m giving a talk at Ignite! Seattle titled How Introverts Can Survive in this Extroverted World. Here are the slides:

I'm speaking about 'How Introverts Can Survive in This Extroverted World' at Ignite Seattle 19 on February 20, 2013!

Slideshare Top Presentation of the Day - How Introverts Can Survive in This Extroverted World

What you may not know about Ignite! talks is that they follow a unique format: each talk is only five minutes long and contains 20 slides. Sounds pretty simple, right?

But here’s the kicker: the slides auto-advance. That means that a new slide is shown every 15 seconds regardless of whether or not the speaker is prepared.

Sound like fun? I’ve had a blast preparing over the past few weeks, but tonight is The Night. I’ll be challenging myself to put out a lot of extroverted energy during this talk while staying true to my introverted roots.

I’ve also got a fun trick up my sleeve (courtesy of the brilliant Zachary Cohn and Scott Berkun) that’s hopefully going to pay off BIG-time.

Thanks so much to the great team at Ignite! Seattle for all their help, hard work, and the time that they put into preparing the speakers and the show itself. We all hope to see you tonight!

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Interview with Beth Buelow: The Introvert Entrepreneur

Beth Buelow has become a recent source of inspiration for me. She is the founder and CEO of The Introvert Entrepreneur, a company here in the Northwest that “offers services for introverts and those who live/work/play with them.”

One of Beth’s main goals is to work with people and institutions to develop the sort of empowered, productive environments that help introverts to flourish. Beth says that the key to accomplishing that is for people of all types to understand and appreciate what it means to be an introvert in an extroverted world.

I reached out to Beth after writing about public speaking as an introvert and I’m thrilled that she agreed to do an in-depth interview with me about her work, her background, and the nature of introverts and introversion.

Want to stay in touch with Beth? You can become a fan of The Introvert Entrepreneur on Facebook and follow Beth on Twitter as well as visit her site to learn more about her background and services.

It’s not only about introverts as people; it’s about the needed balance of quiet to loud, slow to fast energy.
Beth Buelow, The Introvert Entrepreneur

JDC: Hey Beth, thanks for talking with me. First, please tell us about yourself and The Introvert Entrepreneur.

Beth Buelow, The Introvert Entrepreneur

Beth Buelow, the Introvert Entrepreneur
Photo © Beth Buelow

BB: Considering this question, it’s like I’m being asked, “What is the meaning of life?” That’s part of the proof that I’m an introvert at my core; telling you about me feels like a complex undertaking. I’m afraid I’ll either bore you or sound narcissistic.

So here’s the bottom-line version: I’m an entrepreneur, coach, speaker, author, wife, dog/cat mom, reader, sailor, photographer and thinker. Like many introverts, I spend too much time on social media and the internet. And I’m always — always — looking forward to my next long nap. If I could, I think I’d be like Linus from Charlie Brown, and carry a blanket with me everywhere!

My company, The Introvert Entrepreneur, exists to serve and celebrate introvert energy in our world. It’s not only about introverts as people; it’s about the needed balance of quiet to loud, slow to fast energy.

I coach introverts on how to find their natural voice, make the most of their strengths, live in alignment with their inner truth, and build a sustainable life, personally and professionally. Continue reading

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The Epic List of Content Strategy Resources

I’ve collected over two hundred of the best content strategy resources below. My goal is to make it easy for you to learn about the field of content strategy, find content strategists and blogs to follow, and, hopefully, start contributing to our community.

The people I mention are experts in the field of content strategy—I’m so grateful to them for sharing their ideas and experiences with us. But I’m even more excited for you to join our conversation. Let’s get started!

DefinitionBooksJournalsBlogs/WebsitesArticlesEventsForumsMore lists

A Definition of Content Strategy

What is “content strategy”? Is content strategy the same as content marketing? No, never. Is content strategy just a weak, watered-down form of design or information architecture? No, not at all.

The core components that Brain Traffic considers for every content strategy. © Brain Traffic

The core components that Brain Traffic considers for every content strategy.
Graphic © Brain Traffic

Kristina Halvorson (@Halvorson), founder/CEO of Brain Traffic, states in A List Apart that “Content strategy plans for the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content.

I think the word plans plays a key role in that definition. Planning is an essential skill for content strategists, who often do quite a bit of research within organizations to examine workflow, standards, governance, process design, publishing systems, and several other factors that go into the second part of Kristina’s definition: “…the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content.”

But content strategists do more than just plan. That’s why I love Kristina’s distinction between the words useful and usable. A content experience must be both in order to be truly successful. Making content (and content systems) both useful and usable is where content strategy turns to implementation.

Rachel Lovinger (@rlovinger), experience director at Razorfish, adds to this definition in Boxes and Arrows when she states that content strategists use “words and data to create unambiguous content that supports meaningful, interactive experiences.

Note that here she specifically references both language and data, which indicates that we’re talking about “big-C” Content, not just blocks of text. It’s also clear that we’re talking about holistic experiences and how content enables experiences that help people succeed at their goals.

Rachel adds that “content strategy is to copywriting as information architecture is to design,” which helps us dispel the myth that all content strategists care about is text. We care about content as experience, which is why we focus on standards, voice and tone, governance, content inventories and audits, workflows, service design, systems and processes, metadata design, content modeling, delivery channels, and so on.

Remember: useful and usable. This is why content strategists aren’t content marketers. This is why content strategy isn’t the same as (nor anything like) content marketing.

Furthermore, content strategists aren’t just “weak information architects” or “weak designers” as we’re referred to in some communities. Rather, content strategists often take care of the elements of infrastructure and experience that those disciplines tend to shrug off.

Content strategists use language, data, and systems to build better experiences for people than either IAs or designers can working by themselves. Ideally, all three disciplines work together as part of a user experience team that puts the Why before the How.

So yes, we’re designers. Yes, we’re information architects. And yes, we’re builders, too. This is what I mean when I say “content strategy”. Continue reading

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A Guide to Public Speaking for Introverted and Shy People

UPDATE: I was a speaker at Ignite! Seattle 19 and talked about How Introverts Can Survive in This Extroverted World. I presented five lifehacks that introverts can use to preserve and build their energy as they’re trying to get along in a world that values extroversion.

Man Speaking Into Microphones

What should introverts and shy people do when the mikes are shoved in our faces? Photo by audio luci store (creative commons)

I’ve been challenging myself to do a lot more public speaking over the past few years. In 2012, I spoke at 11 events, nearly doubling my previous annual total. That’s a lot of storytelling, Q&A, improvising, and (hopefully) learning. I’ve been speaking at technical conferences since 2006, and over the past six years I’ve learned a lot by watching others and being critical of my own work.

This made me think about putting together a post on how just about anyone can become a great public speaker. I was going to call it something pithy like How to Give Good PowerPoint. It would be stocked with platitudes on bullet points, sentiments on stock photography, and truths on storytelling.

But first Rand Fishkin, then Justin Briggs and Michael King (on the same day, even), and most recently Ross Hudgens all beat me to it!

Beyond the great ideas and tactics they shared, I was inspired by how they mixed their strategies on public speaking with honest, personal storytelling about their approaches and ambitions. So rather than just creating a tired list of bullet points already covered elsewhere, I wanted to aspire to their level of excellence and authenticity.

So I’m going to pivot off of something that Ross mentioned in his post: he’s an introvert.

Continue reading

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10 Things You Should Do Before The Mayan Apocalypse

It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel meh...
Photo by Anthony Citrano (creative commons)

In case you missed it, there’s an Apocalypse out there, kids. And it’s coming up soon: December 21, 2012 is right around the corner.

Dammit, why does the Apocalypse always have to happen on a Friday? Stupid Gods, won’t even let me enjoy my stupid weekend… On Saturday I was gonna go into Tosche Station to pick up some power converters!

And when am I supposed to find the time to gather up my sackcloth and ashes for some proper mourning before this supposed end of the world? Thursday night? Don’t make me laugh — that’s when Glee is on!

To be fair, the Mayans gave nearly 4,000 years to get ready. Not sure why we procrastinated so long, but I guess it’s time to start cramming before the onslaught of fire and brimstone arrives.

Here are 10 things you should do before the Mayan Apocalypse: Continue reading

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Dollar Shave Club: The Unboxing Experience is F***ING GREAT

Introducing Dollar Shave Club

I recently joined the Dollar Shave Club. You may remember their awesome content marketing video that went viral back in March. I loved it — after all, I’m just as susceptible to good branding and content marketing as anyone else. So I joined because it’s inexpensive and because you can quit any time without penalty (low switching costs)… but mostly because this video was just so damn good.

Come on, go ahead and click that “Play” button even if you’ve seen it before. It holds up just as well after a second or third viewing, and you’ll pick up additional details — like how Mike’s office is filled with model airplanes and the guy having his head shaved by the child is reading Eric Ries’ The Lean Startup.

I used this video in my talk for the Content Strategy Forum to illustrate the concept that great content doesn’t have to be reliant on SEO keyword research. My point was that writers should never, ever be beholden to the Google AdWords Tool as some sort of ersatz editorial director. Instead, writers should be beholden to what works best for their intended audience — and that’s not something that Google can tell you. Continue reading

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We Can Do Better Than This

UPDATE: Falcão Ruíz of WebMark SEO (follow him at @FalcaoNoMore) has translated this post into Spanish. How awesome is he for doing that? Extremely awesome. Gracias, mi amigo!

Esperanza by Edgar Rubio, on Flickr
Photo by Edgar Rubio (creative commons)

While prepping to speak at last month’s Content Strategy Forum, I reviewed a number of sites and blogs across the online production, design, architecture, and content strategy industries. Among other things, this made me reflect on the state of writing and discussion across the SEO and Inbound marketing blogosphere.

Which, in turn, leads me to ask: where are the SEO/Inbound sector’s equivalents of journals like A List Apart, Boxes and Arrows, or Contents?

These are the ABCs (ha, literally!) of the online creative/editorial/publishing world. You’ve probably at least heard of A List Apart, but the other two are just as fantastic, if not more so, depending on your area of focus. And they’re part of the canon for information architects, UX designers, online writers, and content strategists. Click through those links above and explore the writing you find there. If you haven’t seen them before, then I promise that you’re in for a real treat. Go ahead, I can wait.

What? You’re back already? If you only took a cursory glance at an article or two and then immediately came right back here, then something’s gone very wrong.

You were supposed to get lost in there! I mean, this is only the fourth post on this blog and the last one was just a big ol’ list of links. To be honest, I’ve got nothing but drunk poetry here, more than half of it written by #bestdogever on a kibble binge. But those sites have real words, written by real writers, edited by real editors, published by people with real passion.

You know… content.

Continue reading

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I’m Thankful for You

Update: I didn’t mean for this to turn into an Oprah post (“You get a link! And you get a link! EVERYONE GETS A LINK!”), but way leads on to way… or so they say. Remember how way back in my first post I said that I made a list of people to thank, but it got too long? Well, for this post, I took that list and made it even longer. And I know that I’m still missing people, dammit.

Thanksgiving 2012

You + Me = We by @Doug88888, on Flickr
Photo by Doug Wheller (creative commons)

So it’s Thanksgiving Day. Today I give thanks to:

  • Marja, for being so awesome in so many ways. Today she’s down in the Glass Mines (our basement) preparing for the EtsyRAIN Handmade Holiday show tomorrow and this weekend, so she doesn’t know that I’m writing this and brimming with energy and warmth for her. To know Marja is to love her and love her I surely do.
  • Prim (a.k.a., #bestdogever) for being so smart, so adorable, and so fiercely simple with her love. She’s had a challenging first year with us, what with getting used to a new home and having ACL repair surgery. But she’s had the patience to teach us about what she needs. She’s also pretty generous with her snorgles.
  • Continue reading

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