The Annotations: No. 1

Lineages & Generations

A welcome to Contents and an introduction to our core propositions. We think it’s time to smush our brains together and make things better.

In the margins

  • Issue No. 1 was loosely organized around the idea of lineages and generations. Our writers approached the subject from angles both theoretical and practical, and offered perspectives inflected by backgrounds in publishing, community management, design, and business strategy.

    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.

A keen-eyed and lovingly unsentimental examination of what can be saved—or looted—from the publishing practices we’ve inherited.

In the margins

  • Represent, by Mandy Brown (

    “Belonging to a community means participating, observing, and generally being in attendance (either physically or virtually). But being an advocate requires stepping forward and helping to articulate that community’s needs, or advance their interests, or—when necessary—protect their rights.”

  • Markup, by Mandy Brown (

    “WYSIWYG editors are fine for amateurs, but if you are an editor, or copywriter, or journalist, or any number of the kinds of people who work with content on the web, you cannot afford to be an amateur.”

An introduction to Melissa’s column—which will collect and analyze relevant business statistics, trends, and methods as they relate to content strategy—plus a bonus reading list on the history of business strategy.

In the margins

  • A Brief History of the Corporation: 1600 to 2100 by Venkatesh Rao (

    “Europe may have increased per capita productivity 594% in 600 years, while China and India stayed where they were, but Europe has been slowing down and Asia has been catching up. When Asia hits Peak Attention…absolute size, rather than big productivity differentials, will again define the game, and the center of gravity of economic activity will shift to Asia.”

  • Maybe We SHOULD Go To B-school by Tiffani Jones Brown (

    “Nothing makes me want to throw down $70,000 more than the prospect of marketing, art, and comp lit getting in bed together. And looking at my own odd career trajectory, I can say an open relationship between the three might actually work out…”

…bacteria increased their mutation rates dramatically when confronted with the “stress” of low energy supplies. When the living is good, Rosenberg’s research suggests, bacteria have less of a need for high mutation rates, because their current strategies are well adapted to their environment. But when the environment grows more hostile, the pressure to innovate—to stumble across some new way of eking out a living in a resource-poor setting—shifts the balance of risk versus reward involved in mutation. The risk of your offspring dying from some deadly mutation doesn’t look quite as bad if they’re going to die of starvation anyway.”

Where Good Ideas Come From, Steven B. Johnson

An Interview

Tiffani gets into the complexity of doing content strategy for a service with 800 million users.

In the margins

  • Why Facebook Likes Content Strategy, by Arienne Holland (

    “I think Facebook has been pretty remarkable at sustaining that culture as long as it has. I hope we retain a lot of that hacker influence long into the future. It has been healthy for us.”

  • The Social Graph Is Neither, by Maciej Cegłowski (

    “In other domains, a big graph would be good for recommendations, but friendship is not transitive. There’s just no way to tell if you’ll get along with someone in my social circle, no matter how many friends we have in common.”

“Language shapes the way we think, and determines what we can think about.”

Language, Thought, and Reality, Benjamin Lee Whorf

DIY methodology for people who do content work for a living, including a resource list longer than your arm.

In the margins

  • “Iteration” (from New Liberal Arts, by Robin Sloan (

    “Making things is a circle. You start the arc with an idea about the world: an observation or hunch. Then you sprint around the track, getting to a prototype—a breadboard, a rough draft, a run-through—as fast as you can. Your goal isn’t to finish the thing. It’s to expose it, no matter how rough or ragged, to the real world. You do that, and you learn: Which of your ideas were right? Which were wrong? What surprised you? What did other people think? Then you plow those findings back into an improved prototype. Around the circle again. Run!”

  • Content Strategy Methodology: A DIY Project, by Melissa Rach (video)

    “By and large, strategy is a frontier sport. And when you talk to management consultants, they’ll often say that strategists have ‘frontier skills,’ Those are things like innovation, creativity, being able to think on your feet… so not repeatable, not specific methods.”

“My sword I give to him that shall succeed me in my pilgrimage, and my courage and skill to him that can get it.”

Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan
We are all making content all the time: videos, family photos, recipes, and these fragments and snapshots mean more than the bits they’re made of. Relly wraps our first issue with a cookie recipe and a reminder that inheritance can’t happen without stewardship.

In the margins

  • Why and How to Back Up (

    “There are a number of ways a hard drive can fail. A head crash is exactly what it sounds like: when the read / write head (the “needle”) crashes into the hard drive platter, ruining the drive. The actuator arm can break, so that the arm can’t move around and read data. The electrical components inside can fail, the drive could become corrupted etc.”

  • Sync Files and Folders Outside Your My Dropbox Folder, by Adam Pash (

    “The popular cross-platform file-syncing application Dropbox is a hit among Lifehacker readers, but it has one major drawback: It only syncs files placed inside the My Dropbox folder. Here’s how to get around that limitation.”

“When treasures are recipes they are less clearly, less distinctly remembered than when they are tangible objects. They evoke however quite as vivid a feeling—that is, to some of us who, considering cooking an art, feel that a way of cooking can produce something that approaches an aesthetic emotion. What more can one say? If one had the choice of again hearing Pachmann play the two Chopin sonatas or dining once more at the Cafe Anglais, which would one choose?”

The Cookbook of Alice B. Toklas, Alice B. Toklas