Energy issues: reduce, replace, get stuck?

“The human body burns energy at a rate of about 100 watt.” Just recently I read an article in which this was stated. I already knew it – at least, I had read it before – but I’d forgotten. The author also pointed out that a modest car (I forgot which model, but definitely no SUV, pick-up truck or anything like it) uses energy at a rate of 50.000 watt. That’s 500 times as much.

Ever since then I’ve had this, well, mantra stuck inside my head buzzing by every now and then:

“A car burns energy at the rate of 500 humans.”

  • 100 watt, that used to be as little as one 60-watt light bulb plus one smaller 40-watt light bulb. You couldn’t even light your house with that energy. One human, one room with the lights on. Heating not included. Unless you count the heat generated by those inefficient ‘light’ or rather ‘heat’ bulbs.
  • 50.000 watt, that means the energy of 500 humans to propel your miserable behind to your job and back. I commute by train so I’d need to calculate a bit to find out how many human energy units my commute costs. Still, it paints a really odd picture, those 500 tiny humans (TH) powering the commute of one person.

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Value for time – what content is worth your while?

In any shop it’s always been like this: you’d be looking for value for money. And nowadays big online and offline stores are trying to give you (the impression you’re getting) just that.

But what about the content we consume? We don’t pay for that as a rule – or do we?

Apart from the whole “you’re paying with information so advertisers can zoom in on your unspoken needs” on the basis that your (online) actions speak louder than your words.

(If it comes to that, I need to do more online because frankly, the image of my age group plus gender I get through the advertisements vying for my attention is depressing. Apparently, as a 40+ female, I’m supposed to hanker after skin peelings (no thanks!), to be overweight (not even close), and like knitted clothes (well – okay. But I blame at least one, white, romantic bordering on cute knitted spring vest that’s been hanging in my closet for 6 years now on early pregnancy hormones).)

Value for your time?

The biggest sum we pay is the time we spend. It’s a combination of click-through (time to open a page on any website) plus actual ‘dwell time’ on the page. Mark Schaefer mentioned just this week on his blog that:

  1. people still find time for long reads (long form articles)
  2. that these long texts actually get shared more often than short ones
  3. that people are more likely to view content shared by their friends.

From my own experience (that is one person, I know) I agree that long texts are more shareable.

If you’re to click on a link and wait for a page to open, you expect that whatever you find is going to be worth your while, right? So if, after viewing any kind of content, you wonder if you should share it, what exactly are your criteria? I would expect content to be any of the following:

  • funny
  • beautiful
  • cute
  • interesting

If that content ticks several boxes at once that gets us into the Owww, Wow, what? or Awesome! mode (severely funny may also do it, but that might also sound like Ewww – yuk!).

This is probably why sunsets and kittens and people doing silly things are right up there with the must-have long reads (whether that’s neurology, climate, poetry, or fiction. Personally, I’m just about to finish re-reading a very long text on paper, which is in fact a book by Terry Pratchett).

Delivering on a promise

More time spent, the more you expect some kind of reward for the trouble you’re taking. After all, you could be spending your time on something much more fun or useful (rewarding) than reading this stuff, right? That’s what I try to tell others whenever I feel their content just doesn’t deliver. And it can be such a small thing. Sometimes there are just two or three lines missing that would wrap the whole thing up nicely instead of leaving the reader hanging (in suspense, possibly. Or, perhaps, in some measure of anger). You don’t want anyone to end up feeling cheated. So you share stuff that is worthwhile in some way. Because if you waste your friends’ time, that doesn’t help your online street cred one bit.

So… do you keep your friends amused? Informed? Or awestruck by the beauty of nature? It truly doesn’t matter. Relevance (like for example beauty) is in the eye of the beholder.

More from me to be expected in between gardening in my garden, in my sub-rented bit of an allotment, and the nearby park and our windowsill greenhouse. The offline green stuff keeps growing!

Communication or information?

In my two years as a content manager, my earlier suspicions have only been confirmed: even though I like content, and I know a bit about marketing, the two put together don’t make a content marketer. For that I’m just too much of a ‘content’ person. If I hadn’t been, I might have called this blog ‘marketingrambler’ and found myself rambling about the connection between marketing and gardening. Hmm. That doesn’t really work for me at all. Content gardening, however, has made it into my blog several time.

On to another topic: that of the connection between communication and information. Or really content, communication, and information.

  • Communication without information is … well, answers tend to range from impossible to politics to smalltalk I suppose.
  • Information without communication is just stuff sitting on a shelf.

Information is basically what people communicate. They might steer away from sharing one bit of information and convey another bit, but not communicating anything is… erm, the result of true dedication?

So basically, we communicate in order to transfer information from A to B. I think I saw something like that in a book about communication once.

And that means a communications professional views both communication and information from a very different angle than an information professional. (which is my preferred angle, whenever I get to it).

Communications teams may view communication as part of a project. However information professionals look at the transfer of information as part of a process within the organisation. When faced with tasks resembling those of communication professionals, they’ll probably view the project at hand as a process, wonder where information should enter the process, and where the process results in new information. And although information professionals are able to ‘do communication’, their hands will probably itch to improve and streamline the process, define all the information gaps, get some governance on the whole thing, …

In short, they’ll want to make structural changes whereas communication professionals will probably focus on the stuff that needs doing for that particular project.

Just my thoughts on a Friday (evening…). I’m getting seriously distracted by Gardeners’ World now, so more next time. Meanwhile, any thoughts on communication, content, or information? If so, just let me know in the comments section (or possibly Twitter).

Content: relevance before cats

Christmas or end-of-the year musings… In the past year I’ve spent a lot of my time managing content for a website and making sure sufficient amounts of content get published. Over the year, I developed my own approach to that content. What happened?Christmas (warm filter)

As I got more familiar with the visitors of ‘my’ website I started to get a feel for the kind of content they consider worth their time. As it happens, the website aims to serve small and medium-sized businesses. A quick scan showed me that we were also serving a number of professionals in our own line of business (and that’s fine).

I’ve heard several times over the past five or so years the statement that content needs to be (more) attractive or even ‘sexy’. However the few times anyone got the chance to publish content considered attractive, that content somehow failed to live up to expectations. Newsletters were opened by far fewer readers.

Why wasn’t the attractive content working for us?

The persons sharing content published content they thought was interesting. However, they were not entrepreneurs. As a result, they were showing cute kittens to, in some cases, people with a cat allergy.

It’s not that entrepreneurs have no fun. It’s not that they don’t like cats. It’s just that they don’t need them in their business mailbox (unless they’re in the feline business).

Now, personally I dislike talking about buyer personas because I’ve come across way too many articles about the topic. People talking about buyer personas seem to indicate that you’re supposed to have descriptions of your different types of customers hanging on every wall. Unfortunately I studied art history a long time ago and my association (if any) is with ancient Christian icons. I do not intend to kneel before the image of my prospects. I’m hoping the ‘buyer persona’ buzz will blow over.

However you do need to take into consideration what an entrepreneur’s life and even a single day might look like. If business is good, they’re working for their customers. If business is not so good, they’re visiting potential customers. Either that or they’ll soon be out of business altogether.

So exactly how much time are entrepreneurs going to spend reading content unless it promises a return on the investment of their time?

That is why the title of this post is: relevance before cats. Because publishing horrible but relevant pieces of content (editing them when possible for greater readability) has proved itself over and over again. Making relevant content more attractive to your intended audience… now there’s an approach that is more likely to succeed.

This video from Mark Schaefer offers some useful insights into the measurement of your (PR/social media) activities. When small change starts to count in a business, you need to show results – either to your customer or your manager!

One last thing: I added a warm filter to the image above. These are the Photoshop settings:Christmas (warm filter settings)

Below is the original photo. We’ve been saving a lot of electricity in our house using LED and the like. The human eye gets used the difference after a while. But the difference does show itself in photos. Which version do you like best?

Merry Christmas!Christmas 2014

After strawberries come plums… already?

For the past week we’ve been eating plums for dessert almost every day. It’s come as a bit of a surprise to this urban person! The label said “harvest in August” and yet I found myself wondering why a couple of plums had dropped from the tree at the start of July.

plums

After rescuing a couple from the gentle critters that would have cleaned the fruits up – woodlouse in English, they also tend to eat strawberries when they can get at them in wet weather, and slugs – I washed them, cut them open to check the inside, smelled them, and ate them.

These plums are ripe.

Wow. They’re ripe – over a month before they were ‘supposed to be’. So out I went with any kind of bowl or pot I happened to have. And picked about fifteen plums. And told my husband, and put our son in his bed. When I came downstairs said husband had picked another dozen.

After having gained that little bit of knowledge about strawberries “strawberries don’t ripen after they’re picked”, apparently, I was a bit alarmed by the fact that some of the plums looked decidedly unripe. I needn’t have worried – plums do ripen rather well if the temperature is high. Which was probably what had led to our early harvest.

Do you happen to have a good recipe for plum pie?

So we’ve eaten a big bowl of plums by now and I know that for next year I really want a good recipe for plum pie. I’ve had some wonderful pies in Germany over the years. The cherry pie I once decided would make a great lunch (cherry layer: two inches) wasn’t bad either! But I don’t think we have room for a cherry tree as well. Oh well.

For now we’ll just have to munch our way through our harvest. So far we’ve combined plums with strawberries (from the shop, unfortunately – ours have run out), and yoghurt. I think they’ll be great with banana. All in all we have been having more fruit than usual. And that’s our first harvest from the plum tree!

There’s still some fruit on the tree and there must be around twenty plums on the ground and in the box hedge near it. They’re already half-eaten, so I’ll leave them where they are expecting that the nutrients will end up back in the soil at some point.

P.S. Looks like the peas want harvesting. Investigate tomorrow. I hope. Unless we get another month’s worth of rain pouring down – again.

Blogging impressions: content editing to content creation

The odd thing about blogging is it’s so easy. In a way. You just start typing along and words come out. They’re not always the best words, though, in the best order, so editing is a big part if you’re critical of your own writing.

Content editing

Edit or create

“After the edit” | Laura Ritchie on Flickr

So what’s it like editing other people’s texts? I’ve done so for a while now and it’s a nice way to make a living, if you don’t mind putting the dots onto other people’s i’s. But there’s a risk. There always is.

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Content propagation: pruning and cuttings

I’ve read (and witnessed) how writing one long-form piece of content, for example in the shape of an e-book, can be a source of fresh content for a long time. In gardening terms, you’re propagating your content.

It’s like taking box clippings (late September is supposed to be a good time for this, or so I was told by “Gardener’s World”) and turning them into new plantlets. This typically takes a bit of time and care, but it’s easier – and cheaper – than starting from scratch.

Which begs a question from anyone who takes box clippings or other cuttings.

Plant nursery

Nursery in Ruyigi | Trees for the Future | Click to view on Flickr

Where is your content nursery?

In content creation (or content curation, whichever you like best) you have a spot where you gather any potentially useful ideas and articles that gave you these ideas. It may be the inside of your head (if you have a reliable brain), a notebook, or even a batch of drafts in your blog itself.

You then tend these ideas: you take another look at them, and select the ones that seem strong enough to take root with a bit of help. Water them, feed them, make sure they get their share of sunlight…

Tips for creating, curating, or editing

As luck would have it, Stefanie Flaxman just published a useful post on Copyblogger for editing content in which she distinguishes three stages:

  1. Pre-revision rituals. All of these put a psychological distance between you, the author, and your content.
  2. Comprehensive cutting and pasting. This is where you get systematic about editing: using several editing sittings if necessary, focusing on your goal and on how you’re helping your audience, eliminating anything confusing… And doing it again, until there is no single paragraph or sentence you can find fault with.
  3. Razor-sharp proofreading. This means you look at your content from the viewpoint of someone who’s never seen your content before (your audience).

If you’d like to read the entire post, here it is – enjoy your editing process!

And in case you’re wondering when I started my first content gardening post