Videos and reflections from the 2014 Intelligent Content Conference
While at the Intelligent Content 2014 conference, I interviewed 10 different people about their presentation topics. In addition to this compilation post, I posted all of the interviews as separate posts (mainly to simplify linking). The list of interviewees include:
- Tobi Crabtree
- Val Swisher
- Noz Urbina
- Rahel Bailie
- Mark Baker
- Kyle Wiens
- Theresa Putkey
- Don Day
- Sarah O'Keefe
- Marcia Riefer Johnston
- Tom Johnson
As a compilation, I put the videos into a Youtube playlist and embedded them here:
If you prefer to listen to the audio only, I compiled all the MP3 audio into one file below. It's about 2 hours in length.
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Download MP3 (right-click, then Save Link As)
The audio file also broken up into individual files for each interviewee (in the individual posts) and integrated into my iTunes podcast feed.
A company called Busivid, which makes branded video apps, was at the conference, and Ray Gallon acted as their roving reporter, catching 2-minute responses to questions. Other attendees contributed their “aha!” moments on video, with the lure of a raffle for prizes.
You can view all the conference videos (both mine and Ray's) through Busivid's Intelligent Content Conference video app, which you can find by searching for "Intelligent Content Conference" in your iTunes store or Google Play. The videos are organized under the "Thought Leaders" section.
In other notes, the food at the conference was excellent, and overall there were about 400 attendees, which is a great sign of the economy's resurgence.
I didn't present anything at the conference. I just attended. (And in full disclosure, I did receive free tickets for doing the videos.)
I interacted with a lot of people at the conference, many times skipping sessions so that I could either chat with someone whose insight I valued or so I could do the video interviews.
My Aha! moment?
Scott Abel tried to get everyone thinking about their "aha!" moment at the conference. What was my “aha” moment of the conference? Personally, I thought it was interesting to see Scott and other conference organizers try to converge marketing with tech comm. Although there were far more tech comm people than marketing people at the conference, some program topics reflected and obvious push to try to break the silos between these two groups. For example, Joe Pulizzi, a well-known content marketer, delivered the opening keynote.
Joe noted the difference between content strategists and content marketers by explaining,
Content strategists answer the why; content marketers answer the how.
Joe said marketers talk about email marketing, landing pages, campaign management, marketing programs, CRM integration, SEO, etc., but none of the marketing is possible without content. And when it comes to content, marketers are not tech oriented. They aren't talking about structurally rich content, metadata, content re-use, single sourcing, semantics, etc. Content marketers should be able to leverage rich content from tech pubs to achieve their business objectives, he explained.
During the coffee breaks, I chatted with colleagues and asked what they thought about this convergence of tech comm and marketing. Honestly, I don't interact with Marketing very much in my current role. What I do contribute is usually a blog post for our community site. The blog post details what's new in our latest release. We also contribute release notes that are sent out to customers.
But the heavy stuff of marketing -- the webinars, the conference booths, the articles appearing in consumer magazines, the general marketing collateral, and the strategic initiatives of marketing -- mainly remain in the domain of marketing, just as the corollary to all of this in tech comm remains in tech comm.
One person I was chatting with related his experiences in trying to share his tech comm content with marketing. Although he explained that he could dynamically generate the DITA-structured content into an output specifically for marketing, they didn't understand how it wouldn't simply involve copying and pasting the content into InDesign.
I think it is really ambitious to design a conference that appeals to both tech comm and marketing crowds. I say ambitious because I don't attend (nor can I even name) any marketing conferences. And just as I wouldn't spend time and money to attend a marketing conference, I doubt marketers would attend a tech comm conference.
One question is why marketing tends to get singled out as a silo to break. If we're talking about merging and integrating with other groups, the most obvious starting point is Training. There are also integration points with Support, Quality Assurance, and Engineering, though these groups don't necessarily produce “content” in the same light as content from Tech Comm, Training, and Marketing. However, I work with these other groups far more than I work with Marketing.
Perhaps the main reason to target Marketing above other groups is that both groups usually produce externally-facing content. With the production of content, all the strategies for enriching the content with the right semantics and metadata come into play. Except for Training, my interactions with the other non-Marketing groups don't necessarily result in shared content. Instead, these other groups are inputs to my Tech Comm content.
The story of how Scott and Rahel created The Language of Content Strategy shows a perfect mergence of both tech comm and marketing. Crowd-sourced and single sourced, this book was also given away free to conference attendees, it was the focus of a keynote, and it was the focus of several video interviews. Plus, when you involve 52 experts in authoring a book, you instantly have 52 promoters with a wide reach. That's instant marketing!
A few months ago I wrote a post called Creating Good Content Requires Cross-Department Collaboration. I detailed ways to integrate with QA, Product Management, Support, Engineering, and Implementation. My Aha moment of the conference was to reassess how I should be integrating with other groups, particularly in terms of produced content.
I should note that I may be overemphasizing this point about integrating with marketing. There were many dimensions to the conference, and this was just one. Many tracks had other focuses, such as on metrics and analysis, content engineer, content matters, and more. There was an even a “Big Ideas” track.
If you integrate with Marketing, I'd like to know how. Also, if you attended the conference, I'd like to hear your thoughts on the convergence of tech comm and marketing topics. Please add your feedback in the comments below.
Additionally, if you have feedback on any of the videos, let me know. One drawback in doing video is that I always have to ask someone to hold the camera. Sometimes I don't even know the camera-holder's name. I'm not so good at judging lighting and always positioning the microphone in the right place, so forgive the quality. Near the end of my interviewing, Marcia taught me a great technique for positioning people at an angle so they look more at the camera -- this is a technique I'll implement next time.
Finally, I should note that I was one victim among many who were punked by Mr. Doubletalk, or Durwood Fincher, who gave the closing keynote.
I still can't believe I didn't call him out earlier. At any rate, lots of people laughed hysterically at this video, especially the part with Mark Baker. I can only say that April Fools is just around the corner, and I will have my revenge...
About Tom Johnson
I'm a technical writer based in the California San Francisco Bay area. In this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, visual communication, information architecture, writing techniques, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out simplifying complexity and API documentation for some deep dives into these topics. If you're a technical writer and want to keep on top of the latest trends in the field, be sure to subscribe to email updates. You can also learn more about me or contact me.