Every archive has an intended logic, a day logic, with well-defined topics, alphabetical orderings, hierarchical taxonomies, or cross-referenced indexes. At night we see less of what is intended and more of what is there.
Having a family with secrets will turn a child into a detective.
Hello and welcome to our Dark Archives tour. Please make yourself as comfortable as you can.
This seems too simple to have to say, but sadly it has to be said: if you are in the business of selling fiction, your website should have fiction on it.
Every society fears a new technology, and when it eventually embraces it, it does it by declaring the death of the previous technology (which never dies completely) and adapts the vocabulary of the previous technology for its own uses. And yet, both in Socrates’ case, and in the case of the electronic technology, our active memory is threatened if we allow an instrument to do the memorizing for us.
In this kind of book club, you’re welcome any time, and there’s no “too late.” The Library at Night is a book for magpies and meanderers, so there are no plot points to spoil: the dinner party is distributed.
As writers, we research in-depth features, sure—but we blog to fill time between features, and we tweet to fill time between blog posts. As readers, we pull-refresh and pull-refresh again, awaiting the news like a child up too early on Christmas morning.
A digital collection still needs a story to support outside interest, something stronger than “full-text searchable.” Without curation, what’s the difference between a digital archive and the rest of the internet?
What if intertexts could be invisible unless you were looking for them, so you could read without noticing them or mouse carefully over every word looking for clues? What if intertexts could overwrite, fade, or push aside the text at hand? What if the text could fight back?
This exhibition of items from Miss Windhill’s personal collection is held in conjunction with the announcement of the first holder of the position of Windhill Storyteller-in-Residence.
What kind of archive emerges during an event? What kind of archive seeks to gather items largely already indexed by web crawlers and already accessible—or theoretically accessible—to millions? And what kind of archive includes holdings that may suddenly vanish?
This system, in outline, “starts” where the library is, in San Francisco, and “ends” in outer space. Its rough structure moves from place-based subjects to the made worlds of art, media, and culture, to abstracts like society and philosophy, to space exploration.
The real issue, of course, is that we need to convene and decide how deeply we want to connect culture and property. And when we’ve settled on a particular mix, we might think about whether it maximizes our freedom to speak, to learn, and to inquire—in short, whether it leads to the kind of world we’d want to live in.
The Appendix is a new online journal collecting documents, stories, and analyses that might otherwise slip away. We recently spoke with the editorial and creative team behind the journal about their choices and motivations, and what we can expect to see as their project comes of age.
In the Contents book club, we’ll be experimenting a lot, pulling in streams of highlights and commentary from Readmill, Kindles, tweets, and blog posts.
Our fifth issue of Contents explores the archive in formal and informal senses, with dispatches from library science and online publishing, how-tos on content strategy and governance, and features on both long-term digital preservation work and frantic rescue efforts.
Orbiting The Silent History are dozens of “field reports”—stories written by readers and connected to specific physical locations. To read them, you have to show up, device in hand, at just the right glowing spot on the built-in map. A reviewer on iTunes is planning a road trip to read as many as he can.
Issue No. 4 focused on evolving forms in journalism, publishing, and content strategy—how these changing patterns shape how we create, and how we absorb information and ideas.
Beyond these questions of design, digital production, and commerce, the book’s relationship to the world is changing—or perhaps simply resolving into view in a higher resolution.
The secret to surviving this next wave of mobile (and whatever comes after it) is adaptive content—content that has been created from the start with the intent that it might need to go anywhere.
On the web, it’s impossible to maintain the fiction that you can gather a single public together in one place. There’s always going to be one link further that you never explored, or one site that is totally different from you. And I think one of the things that the web does to journalism is that it gives lie to the notion that journalism can ever represent “the public.”
If you imagine every book with its own URL, every chapter with its own URL, then you can start to think about the information in books being truly connected in ways it can’t be with print books, or ebooks as we’ve conceived them so far.
In countless organizations, there’s precious little talk about these shifts in form—much less the shifts in practice they’ll require. Which means we’re in danger of leaving too many people behind as we, the already converted, whirl away into the future.
With innovation comes the extinction of things that are known, comfortable, and cherished. Case in point: As I write this column surrounded by shelves of beloved books, my Kindle lurks ominously beside me on the table.
Drop your CMS. No more WordPress. So long Tumblr. Come, trade shrines for community and see what we find.
Our work is made up of beeps and blips that can be endlessly reworked, so why are our design systems more rigid than ink locked on paper?
Stacks allow you to control the rhythm of an argument at the level of the sentence, the phrase, or even the individual word.
In journalism and publishing, in content strategy and editorial design, and in all kinds of spaces in between, the forms and patterns we’ve relied on are dissolving and re-forming.
Homicide Watch is one of those projects that stays in your head. If you tell or edit or assemble stories for a living, it’s also likely to change the way you see the narratives you’re making.
We’re constantly switching accelerations; we’re jumping between time frames. That’s what we’re asking people to do every time we make something new, some new tool or product. We’re asking them to reset their understanding of time. To accept that the sequence we’re asking them to follow is the right way to do a thing.
Issue No. 3 was loosely organized around intelligence: getting smarter about our work, learning from data, seeking more ambitious ways of documenting our ideas, and attending to ideas that matter. Our annotations for the issue collect essays and connections related to the themes of each article and form an eclectic reading list that ranges across disciplines and decades.
Confab 2012 was the second annual content strategy conference hosted by Brain Traffic in Minneapolis, and this year it sold out even earlier than last year.
I’m tempted to claim that hypertext empowers us to represent more complex conceptual topologies than older literary technologies, but I’m not completely convinced of that myself: consider the subtlety, nuance, and explosive range of interpretation embedded in your favourite poem. It’s more accurate to say that hypertext enables complex conceptual structures to be explicit—baked into the artifact, rather than emerging through reading.
It’s hard to fake being useful. You have to know what you’re doing, from your strategy all the way through your execution. But, when useful content is so important to your credibility as a source, it’s hard to justify anything less.
When we realize that ideas are, at least in part, shaped by the body and its interaction with the world, we’ve found the sweet spot for content work. We also open worlds of opportunity for creating work that can resonate, educate, and engage with audiences that we may never otherwise reach.
Online communication technology has shown the potential to shift the balance of power to a nation’s people. And we, the people who will shape the intelligent content and communication platforms of tomorrow, can play an important role in safeguarding this power.
All books live in a wider context. So do all interactive experiences. The context for an interactive experience doesn’t come from the site itself; it comes from what others are doing in the category and out of category, as well as all the information about the organization, its audience, and its objectives.
When you learn what your audience needs to know, it simplifies the problem of what content to create and when to create it.
During the last year or so, retailers have slammed headfirst into the future of customer communications. Tried-and-true tricks are not working anymore, and there’s no single, clear path forward. Luckily, trends are emerging that most businesses can learn from.
As the online editor, I sometimes feel like my job is to make something beautiful, just to hack it apart for kindling. Here’s the way I (mostly) think about it instead: any link to a fragment of LQ is a breadcrumb that can bring you back to the whole.
It’s an article of faith at Contents that we all need to get smarter, in practical and immediate ways. We need to know more about our readers. We need to better understand the systems that let them find and use the things we publish.
From intensely geeky close examinations of a single computing principle to descriptions of a working ethos or a personal battle with distraction, the articles in this issue attempt to reveal a little bit of the dark matter of our work—the things we don’t usually take the time to consider.
Ambiguity is the essence of metaphor, mystery, poetry and humor. Without it we couldn’t write songs, flirt, or tell jokes. It’s a magical aspect of communication. But try telling that to your laptop.
Let’s create the quiet we need. We’re makers. And we’re not making for the sake of adding to the pile. We’re here to make things better, clearer, and easier. We should add calmer and quieter to that list.
How we feel about something has a much stronger role in decision making and comprehension than we’d like to believe. No matter how analytical we are, the emotional brain still decides.
Instead of interviewing one person in this issue, we bring you seven, each focused on three simple questions about the principles that underlie their work.
Argo is a public experiment in developing technical and editorial frameworks for thoughtfully managed topical content projects that don’t require a huge team or a big budget.
People with low literacy skills have always been part of our audience. They’ve always needed their information presented clearly, plainly, and simply so they can succeed in understanding and using it.
Curiosity is tricky. It’s the first thing that pushes us forward, but it’s also one of the first to hold us back: to keep us from shipping good ideas because we’re too busy lusting after unachievable ones.
We don’t often have time to consider all the underlying stuff that gives our work shape, character, and meaning, and that time won’t ever appear on its own. But we can choose it. Even in the crazy spells—and maybe especially then, when we’re making so many important decisions.
As we end the year—and our first issue—we offer a final meditation on the information we inherit, along with this, our first set of topical annotations. Thanks for reading, and we’ll see you in 2012.
No one really owns a recipe. They get shared and disseminated through a love all humans share, of good food. Substitutions get made, volumes altered and flavors tweaked as the cook makes and remakes a dish.
Content wants to be messy. It wants to roll around in the mud. It wants to be gross. Our job is to pull it together—to take the guesswork out of creating and curating it—and to treat content work as something closer to a science.
We also have to make sure the stories for a particular feature knit together with stories from all the other features and apps on Facebook. Does this story make sense next to others in the news feed? Does it “feel” like Facebook when you get this story? These are all content strategy questions about framing and dealing with user-generated content.
With a constant deluge of new content channels, technologies, and demands, content crises are a fact of life in many organizations. These day-to-day crises aren’t just isolated events—they’re symptoms of a far bigger change: content is now a business asset, and that is rocking the foundations of the business world.
And just as our tent is expanding, so too are our ideas about what we do. A complete description of our work would begin to define what it is that makes this our tent: What brought us all here? What are we hoping to achieve? Of all the assumptions and ideas we’ve dragged in with us, which are the babies and which the bathwater?
It’s time to recognize that many of us in nominally separate fields and industries are working on the same problem from slightly different angles.