Ecosystems and origins on The Content Strategy Podcast

The boss had me as a guest on her new podcast about content strategy, The Content Strategy Podcast (great name).

I can’t bear to listen to it but I hope you will. There’s a transcript, too.

Behind-the-scenes: I went home to record from my apartment so we wouldn’t have to mess with a multi-mic set-up or echo. We talked to each other on the Zencastr service which worked great as far as I could tell.

From the notebook: Maps and stories and journeys

Been developing a new workshop to help orient practitioners to all of the various tools available for being user-centered in their content strategy work. It’s been interesting and maddening at the same time. There’s a good deal of semantic diffusion across the various tools and methodologies. And many were blatantly misnamed to begin with. In practice, at the individual project level, it doesn’t matter what you call things. But all of the mish-mashed terms can make it hard to find the right thing in the first place.

It’s all confusing as hell so I’ve been making lots of little diagrams and putting things into tables to sort it out for myself so I can make some sort of sense of it for the attendees. Story and storytelling is not a regular part of my own design vocabulary (though in practice it’s not so different from many of my methods) so I’ve had to do the most learning on that front. Donna Lichaw’s book on storymapping has been excellent in that regard.

Letterpress printing at MCBA

The first phrase set and ready for printing.

Took a one-night class on letterpress at MCBA recently. There were about 10 people in the group. Ruby, the instructor, had us start by making exquisite corpse poems based on the loose theme of “circus”. We picked the best two, divided into teams, and got assigned words to pick out letters for from the trays.

There was a group of young designers from a local agency there together who did a lot of fine-tuning of the letters and layout, which was fine by me. I was content to touch all the things and ask questions about how the press worked and is maintained. (Mostly a lot of scrubbing and WD-40.)

By far the most satisfying thing is when the rollers are re-engaged after applying ink and watching it smooth out and blend together. Downright hypnotizing. I wish I’d gotten video of it. Actually rolling the print is fairly magical itself, though.

I’m considering adjusting my schedule in June to take the one-week intro class. I found letterpress to be more interesting and satisfying (and less fussy) than screenprinting, and it suits my skillset a bit better anyway.

A very useful iPad button

In case you‘re as unobservant as me, I thought I’d point out this useful button on the iPad keyboard. I didn’t notice it for at least a month:

A quick tap in the bottom-right minimizes the on-screen keyboard. This is essential in making stuff work in your web browser. Form fields and the like are frequently hidden under the keyboard in mobile Safari.

A tap-and-hold of this button lets you undock and/or split the on-screen keyboard. I don’t find undocking useful on my 10.5” iPad (there’s not really anywhere for it to go), but splitting is nice for handheld usage when it’s implemented correctly.

Notes from Close Encounters with Humankind

Finished reading Close Encounters with Humankind recently. The writing is not great but it did contain several interesting facts I’m still mulling over, so hey.

A few favorite notions:

  • Some of our earliest tools were used to break open bones so we could eat the marrow.
  • One reason humans may have lost our “fur” was so we could hunt during the hotter parts of the day when lions were sleeping.
  • The real game-changer in bipedalism (walking upright) was that our hands were now free to use tools.

I wrote a poem to help remember the first one:


Now What Workshops in Sioux Falls

Check-in for the workshops, day one.
Check-in for the workshops, day one.

Made my first trip out to Sioux Falls and to Now What Workshops last week to talk about writing tools with some lovely folks. I wasn’t able to stay as long as I’d have liked but I did get to sit in on Laura Creekmore’s morning workshop on content modeling. I sketched a few notes:

These quotes also caught my ear:

I write in spreadsheets because it forces me to structure things.


In a lot of cases, exposing our structure to users just confuses them.

The city was lovely. I explored quite a bit on foot, as I do, and stopped in to a few shops and restaurants. I like traditional main streets, with a density of shops and bars and a low-speed road with angled parking and lots of stop signs. Reminded me a bit of downtown Ames, and of Valley Junction in Des Moines (though hipper than both).

A view down main street in Sioux Falls.
A view down main street in Sioux Falls.
Buffalo imagery everywhere.
Buffalo imagery everywhere.
Got a burger here. Just noticed the clock(?) is missing.
Got a burger here. Just noticed the clock(?) is missing.
Now that’s a sign.
Now that’s a sign.

Sometimes I don’t really grasp where a place is until I’ve spent time there. Sioux Falls felt very familiar and homey. I overheard all kinds of conversations about Nebraska and Iowa and Minnesota, and there was Twins gear everywhere. In a certain sense it felt like a place I’d already been.

Thanks to Corey, Ashley, Karla, and everyone from Blend and the team and sponsors that made the event go. A+ would visit again.

Recent Acquisitions | 2018-04-29

Things I’ve recently bought, downloaded, stolen or scavenged — and what I think about them.

Blade Runner 2049 and Star Wars: The Last Jedi in 4K

I do not own Bourne nor Austin Powers on purpose. It was some sort of promo.
I do not own Bourne nor Austin Powers on purpose. It was some sort of promo.

I’m starting to ditch physical media. So my latest movie purchases were both digital. I bought them through Vudu, which was the only service that made it clear I was actually buying the 4K versions. Vudu is connected to Movies Anywhere, so I have them on iTunes and Prime Video, too. Both are gorgeous. I like to put on long beautiful sci-fi movies in the background when I’m working in the evening.

Splatoon 2 | Nintendo Switch

Dan recommended this on Back to Work recently and I thought I’d check it out. Splatoon is a cute and fast-paced team-based shooter that I find great for a quick break. Rounds are only a few minutes long and you can get a lot of gaming in in 20 minutes or so. The controls are a little fussy and make the combat feel random compared to a traditional PC shooter, but all of the tactical team-based elements I enjoy from games like Team Fortress 2 are there.

Pinner for Pinboard app | iOS

I’ve been using Pinboard more now that I’m back to blogging, and Neil’s guest list for 7×77 convinced me that I should add full archiving. There are some instructions on the Pinboard site for bookmarking from mobile Safari but it was kind of fussy. So I got the 3rd-party Pinner app and I’m glad I did. All I really wanted were good action menu shortcuts for bookmarking, but I’ve found myself using the main app a bit to manage my bookmarks as well.

Leda medium sketchbook

It’s a soft-cover sketchbook with pocket and band. No bookmark, though. (Also, inception!)
It’s a soft-cover sketchbook with pocket and band. No bookmark, though. (Also, inception!)
Interior. The paper is great and crisp. (Double inception!)
Interior. The paper is great and crisp. (Double inception!)

I don’t bullet journal anymore, but I still wanted to carry a sketchbook for sketching and illustrations snd quick diagrams. My old go-to, the Baron Fig Confidant, doesn’t quite work for me as a sketchbook.

I have a heavy hand and like markers and such so I tried to find a good balance of price, number of pages, and paper quality. This Leda medium sketchbook is working well so far but is a bit overpriced. $12 would be perfect. If anyone has a recommendation for something similar to try out I’m all ears.

MCBA Membership

I took off on my bike recently with the intent of stopping somewhere new. I happened in to Open Book, a place I’d always ignored because — this is completely true — they have an ugly sign. It’s just bad. I had the vague impression of it being a book store? At the speed of a car I’d have never noticed that there’s a coffee shop inside, which drew me in. Long story short, I’ve been several times in the past week and the whole place is my new favorite thing.

I discovered that Open Book is a multi-occupant center for book-related arts (e.g. bookbinding, zines, letterpress, writing). One occupant is the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, who have a class catalog I am drooling over. I bought a membership (only $48!) in my excitement and in anticipation of taking some classes this summer.