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

 

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Content harvest: apples, pears, completely bananas?

Now that I’ve started adding a dash of gardening to my content, more and more ideas pop up. Let’s see if there are useful weeds among them 😉

One question that occurred to me was:

Is there something like harvesting content?

Content harvest: apples

I suppose it’s what you do in an organization with a lot of content creation going on in outlying regions. It’s also what you do when you’re scouring the internet looking for interesting bits of information you can then share through whatever means.

There are a few issues at harvest time of course.

  1. Some apples rot or get eaten while still on the tree. Unless you spray anything you don’t like into oblivion. But I’d like to eat apples, not chemical residues.
  2. Some apples fall before you get to them and get pecked by chickens and devoured by ants or other insects (one minuscule bite at a time).
  3. Other apples just seem to laugh at your efforts by not being worth picking. Even thought they started out looking quite promising, they haven’t ripened the way you’d like them to.

Once you’ve harvested your bits of content, you want to keep them dry and snug for a while to use when you’re ready.

So compare this with ideas for your blog. Sometimes you get plenty of ideas, sometimes it’s as though you get none at all. Jot down any idea when you have it and store it for later. In my case it really helps to get a few lines written so that later on, I won’t end up wondering why any specific idea seemed so interesting. You probably won’t use every single idea you had – some topics are too newsy to keep for a long time. But that’s fine, because you’ll have your ideas stacked all the way up to the ceiling and you’ll select anything you want to work on – when you’re ready to do so.

What do you do with all that content?

Well, that’s a bit of a luxury problem… one that anyone with a mature fruit tree will recognize.

  • Part of your ideas will be fine as they are. You’ll need to add very little to your initial idea.
  • Other ideas will need more work, especially if you left them for a while. You might end up with the content version of stuff like apple pies using your favorite content curation recipe.
  • Another part may have to go to your neighbors… you’ve got too much! This is when you consider sharing your ideas by going guest blogging – provided you also have the time and energy for that 🙂

Content lifecycles: cut flowers to annuals to perennials

How long does your content retain its original usefulness?

Looking at different websites I would say you can distinguish at least three types of content based on their longevity. Let’s liken them to plants, since the weather was still fine while I first drafted this post (no longer, alas).

Perennials in content Continue reading

Why all great content is useful

I’m convinced that all great content is useful in some way. But how would you define ‘useful’ in an everyday context?

Is a cat useful content for your garden?

Would you consider a cat useful content for your garden? Photo on Flickr | Chris Waits

Take a look around you. What could be useful about the things you see? In the garden (where I’ve spent some time of late), useful could take on any of the following shapes Continue reading

Content management for small gardens

This post is about gardening. It’s also about content management. Let’s see how we can fit those two into the same yard.

Planting trees

Garden management and content management results

Last week I planted a tree. It’s not hugely expensive. Still, I worry about it. Sometimes I suspect I read too much. Has the following ever happened to you?

You know you need, say, a new pair of trousers. As luck would have it, all the stores sell the wrong type (the one that doesn’t fit or that makes a size six look like an overweight hippo). They do have nice shirts though, and you end up buying one of those.

Continue reading

Blogging impressions: the muse of desperate bloggers

Since I started editing and publishing content produced by others in our company, I’ve found it harder to create my own content here on my blog. Spending a lot of time doing content-related tasks like editing, tagging, and the like, uses a lot of the available ‘content energy’.

Blogging is… work? Continue reading

How to become the go-to expert for go-to experts

How do you become a go-to expert while still getting some work done?

Experts

Who do experts turn to? Image by Mai Le | Flickr

For individuals and organizations alike, having a wealth of knowledge sure helps if you want to be an expert for other experts to turn to.

However if you really know your stuff you may end up filling your days answering very similar questions – without getting to the bottom of a topic that has your genuine interest more than once every few months.

Add structure to your knowledge-sharing

There are a couple of ways to enhance your expert status in a more structured way:

  1. Organize networking and knowledge-sharing events. David Gurteen’s Knowledge Cafes come to mind – as part of a community.
  2. Provide training to experts
  3. Share your expertise online starting, if you’ve been answering questions for quite some time, with a couple of FAQs. There is no end of experts blogging themselves silly 🙂
  4. However, mind the amount of time you want to invest. You might want to get someone to interview you instead.

The advantage of documenting your knowledge in some form is that you can share it while you’re doing something else with your time. Like run a business based on your expertise. Or perhaps you could use your time listening to other people. Expertise should not be allowed to rest on its laurels.

Ultimate content: being the go-to expert for go-to experts

The ultimate expert is the one the experts turn to – the one who provides content they’ll happily recommend to anyone who will listen, because they really can’t add much to your overview. If this is your aim it means you need to get all of your facts right.

Mistakes ruin your reputation as an expert (need I even say it?)

Mistakes, even if you copy-pasted them from another website to save time, render your content useless and could turn your visitors away for good – because you lose trust when you mix facts with fiction. This is something I realized years ago: if you’re wrong about one fact, then it doesn’t matter if you’re right about all the other facts. (I also learned that people who can’t work with absolute accuracy should not be allowed to go near a database).

People can’t refer to your content as the ultimate source on the topic if you leave in a single mistake. Get your facts straight.

So review every detail with care. Content from obscure sources should be checked against not just your own knowledge but also against, say, your biggest competitor’s opinion or even several other websites. If they contradict one another, apply your own expertise, do more research, call in another expert, or leave that particular ‘fact’ alone.

What else would you recomment doing?