Intelligent Content 2011 in review

Following last week’s Intelligent Content 2011 conference, I’m now getting some time to reflect on both the big picture that I carried away as well as some trends I observed.

The idea of “Intelligent Content” is not necessarily anything new for content owners who have always seen their data as collateral with multiple streams of value. In a sense, what Scott, Joe, and Ann have created in this conference is an opportunity to get up to speed on what peers and vendors are doing to enhance the reuse and/or value of content, whatever its form may be.

Joe Gollner’s Wordle based on the conference’s program description may have cast DITA as an over-imposing theme:
Wordle: Intelligent Content 2011

That would be an unfortunate take-away! DITA and XML figure prominently only because they are very handy technologies for a fully standards-based approach to making content more intelligent. Docbook and even OOXML could leverage many of the same benefits. In fact, we saw that even Word-to-eBook workflows have an incredible array of tools to help maximize the value of that medium in its particular channels. So I hope that listeners were not intimidated by hearing “XML” or “DITA” continually, but instead caught the fact that all the other high-value words in the discourse were truly what the messages were about.

Incredibly, I don’t see “metadata” on Joe’s Wordle list. While I didn’t use the term in my presentation description, I certainly talked about metadata and showed interfaces for it in my editor demo, and metadata was discussed as the key to intelligent repurposing by multiple speakers. I hope that attendees caught the fact that, regardless of what formats they are working with, integrating the use of content metadata and description into the publishing workflow was time and again the key to “getting the right content to the right person at the right time on the right device with the right scope…” (and whatever else we can add to that mantra!).

One of the key trends seen this year was discussion of the impact of smart phones as end-use publishing devices. Even on the Android platform, different levels of SDK support and physical affordances lead to having to adapt the publishing process more than most of us expect, and it is clear that the problem is not going to get any easier as Pad Madness plays out this coming year.

The same can be said of eBook readers and the relative lack of commonness in content markup, presentation, and behaviors available in the readers. Dare I relate this dysfunction to the “browser wars” of early Web experience? I wonder whether things will settle down once eBook readers finally evolve into full-featured browsers so that they are competing more on the quality of available content than on how it is rendered.  I’ll be watching for more rifts in this landscape next year!

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3 Responses to Intelligent Content 2011 in review

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  2. Joe Gollner says:

    Nice summary of some of the themes that emerged at the Intelligent Content 2011 conference. On the Wordle word cloud generated from the program details, I too found the prominence of certain terms (like DITA) and the absence of others (like Metadata) to be odd. I questioned whether Wordle was behaving properly. In scanning through the program, however, it seems that it was working correctly and that what it was feeding back to us is the fact that the submissions tended to adopt certain language and emphasize certain points. One of the “take-aways” for me is that this further highlights the importance of a firm, if benign, editorial hand in selecting and sculpting presentations. This is not to say that the program was off kilter but rather that, in future, extra attention would be made to highlight balancing themes.

    I have prepared my own review of the conference or at least of the themes that seemed to emerge from my perspective.

  3. Don says:

    I wouldn’t sweat how the program descriptions are written. In a sense, comparing the program descriptions to the program content is like comparing ads about a home-repair show to the content of the show itself: the former is written to drive traffic to the latter, and will favor hooks over substance in how they are written. What might help the submissions next year would be asking writers to include keywords they feel are representative of the substance of the proposed presentation. Even so, the best part about a retrospective review is the opportunity to spot subthemes and trends that might not have been specifically emphasized by any particular presentation. In that vein, I appreciate your own insightful list of theme sightings.

    I can see a new tagline for consultants, Joe: if your content isn’t as intelligent as you expected, maybe you should hire a tutor!

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