Shepherding Content Strategy Forum
Introducing the new Content Strategy Forum (CSF). Now more than just a conference, CSF is a cooperation among the world’s content-minded.
If you attended CSF Helsinki, you’ll know the announcement for CSF Frankfurt was not made in the closing remarks (location was still being worked on), rather a hint to this new CSF initiative was.
In the time since, a handful of people — CSF’s coordinating “crew” — have been working in off hours to build this website and map a new strategic direction for CSF. The main goals being to:
- manage scouting and coordination of future CSF events, and
- create a distributed network of tools and resources by which content strategists (and those interested) may interact, brainstorm, and collaborate throughout the year.
No doubt the Forum is our biggest asset to date, but the conference is no longer the only focus.
The Forum is an event that takes place for three days in a year. Sometimes more than twelve months goes by between each event. There are at minimum 362 other days in between during which the world’s content-minded can work together for the good of themselves, their employers, and the industries they play in. The industries we play in.
In other words, Content Strategy Forum means more than just a conference now, it means a community, and the resources community members create together to better themselves, their collaborators, and the field. As our tagline suggests, we call this a global cooperative, because it’s open, international, and community-driven.
Changes like this raise a lot of questions. I’ve tried to anticipate a few and the rest of this article is a response to those ideas.
There are several reasons why we’re doing this, but most pressing was the fact that each CSF event up to now could have been the last one. A reality that existed because there’s been no formalised stewardship operating above the organiser level that coordinates the continuation of CSF affairs. See our About page and the section, How we got here, for more insight on that.
We also identify a need for more community interaction beyond annual conferences, mail lists, and regional Meetups. Those activities and resources are certainly valuable, but we could be doing so much more, and it wouldn’t take a lot of effort, necessarily. It just takes coordination and a willingness to contribute. We can accomplish a lot by collaborating on the development of resources, and have fun doing it.
We are not taking over the organisation of CSF conferences. Regional organisers will continue to design and manage their own events. Our role is to find future organisers, work closely with them, and ensure the CSF brand and principles remain in tact. The situation should improve for the conference and its yearly organisers through more collaboration between them and us. Read our Organise a CSF event information for more insights on this relationship.
A few words on “CS Forum” before moving along… First, you’ll see us using “CSF conference” now in copy like this, or sometimes just “Forum”. The reason should be evident, and it will take some getting used to. Our domain name doesn’t help matters, and that’s something we may try and address if it really seems necessary. We even have our own semantics sheet that defines the entire line of cooperative structure to help us keep things straight. Maybe we’ll make that public later.
Second, we’re now approaching the fifth consecutive CSF event. The fact it has happened in major cities across two continents with no overhead assistance from year to year is a testament to the spirit and ability of our community to pull together and make spectacular things happen.
I’d like to openly thank Together London, August Sun Projects, and Vapa Media for their efforts in creating memorable events for all of us. None of them had organised an international conference before organising a CSF event. You’ll find that hard to believe if you attended their programs.
I’d also like to thank SCRIPT Communications for taking up the baton this year in Frankfurt. I’ve seen what they’re cooking up. There will be deep takeaways for the times. Content connects! Remember that. If you’re in Europe and work in communications or any aspect of experience design, you can not afford to miss these international events. See you in Frankfurt.
I know “community” is increasingly becoming a buzz term (“collaboration” too), but when we talk about community, we mean everyone remotely interested in the value of content strategy: a collective of supporters, advocates, practitioners, and learners. When we talk about a global cooperative, we’re talking about that part of the world’s content strategy community that interacts in relation to CSF.
Content strategy resources are spread across the digital universe. Little is centralised, or even reasonably grouped, unless you consider Google centralised. That makes those resources harder to find and use. The distributed information also amplifies the problem of redundancy, as everybody and their brother seemingly has to have their take on the same thing under their company brand. It makes it difficult to determine what is a reasonably authoritative source of information versus those sending the wrong messages or confusing the right ones.
Discussion groups are another issue. There are three noteworthy discussion groups around Content Strategy: the Content Strategy Google Group mail list, the principal Content Strategy Group on LinkedIn, and our well-moderated Content Strategy Community in Google+, which continues to grow at a steady clip.
A fair number of people belong to all three, but most tend to choose one location over the others. Conversations are often redundant across the board. No doubt the nature of these platforms play a role in where people choose to interact. Those with big email signatures like email. Others prefer LinkedIn for its proximity to contacts. And still others go with G+ for the restriction-free editing and ranking advantage with father Google. Preferring a given tool is okay, but the disconnected conversations between them isn’t ideal. How many times have we seen the same question asked by different people (or the same person) across all three platforms? Maddening. Are we content strategists or aren’t we?
Further, the aforementioned groups and community are really just social media networks, and social media networks are inherently driven by individualism. Sure, you can belong to groups of some title (misconstrued by half the members), but social tools encourage the individualist behavior by all the silly awareness and self-validation features built into them — likes, pluses, favorites, follows, circles… Add brand accounts into the mix and the point of having an online community quickly goes by the wayside. Instead it becomes a link-dropping free-for-all.
CSF wants to try and do a step better, at least with respect to what it controls. Our G+ “community” (Google’s use of the term) merges with conference aims and each benefits from a closer bond with the other. The community continues to be a public area for Content Strategy in general, attracting an ever growing number of people, but orients around being a collaboration area for CSF resources and projects. One such project will be to produce a new discussion board system for the global community that’s private and goals-oriented.
Our new website here will give more attention to these collaborative efforts, as well to members of the community working on them. This is a positive feedback loop — products get more attention, they get better through revision, and eventually used on a wider scale because of their value.
Our community dynamics are key in how we source new articles too. The Article contributions information covers that more.
And with that I’ll leave you to explore this new site to get a feel for what we’re about. We’d love to know what your immediate reactions are. If anything resonates with you, please consider how you might like to get involved.