Collaboration is the Key to Content Quality

It’s no secret that quality content is often the result of collaboration among varied groups, most often content and customer experience professionals.

We’re delighted to feature Gerry McGovern as a guest author on the Brain Traffic blog. Gerry is a leading expert in digital customer experience, author of several books on the subject, and founder and CEO of Customer Carewords.

How many scientists does it take to estimate the mass of the Higgs boson? 5,154. In 2015, a physics paper on the Higgs boson set the record for the largest number of contributors to a scientific article.

That’s a lot of scientists, but it’s a complicated subject, as are most things these days. Our world certainly isn’t getting simpler. Unfortunately, the way we work still remains fairly simplistic. When it comes to content, we’re working largely on our own, and our performance is measured based on what we produce.

Sure, we might be in an office surrounded by people, but creating content is still seen as a relatively solitary task. Our content will probably plug into something bigger, but generally, we’ll produce it in a production-line format.

Why is so much content still created on a production-line basis? Is it the best way to do it? Is there a better way? I think there is, and science can help us shine a light on that better way.

The need for collaboration over the years

At the beginning of the twentieth century, practically every scientific paper had a single author. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, it was an average of four authors per paper. Over the last fifteen years or so, there has been particularly rapid growth in papers with more than 100 authors. As well, international collaboration has grown very quickly.

There are two main reasons for all this collaboration. The first is complexity. Complexity drives specialism, and specialism drives collaboration, because no one specialist can hope to solve complex problems. The second reason is the internet. The internet is a network, and a network is about connectivity, and connectivity is the air that allows collaboration to breathe. Those that are not connected cannot collaborate.

Bridging the gap between creator and consumer

In the world of content, it has been fashionable to be solitary and disconnected. We hear often about the myth of that lonely, troubled genius in a garret, cold and hungry, searching for the spark that will help them set forth on the conquest of the great novel. Writing has historically seemed to attract solitary types, and solitary types do not thrive in a complex web, a vast and expanding network. (Sorry.) Solitary types just are not good at solving the complex problems we face today, whether in science, digital design, or customer experience.

Digital is a bridge between production and use. That is the first bridge we must build: between the content creator and the content consumer (the customer). Design today occurs through use. Content must evolve through use. We must work ever more closely with our customers and create a virtuous circle of feedback. To do that, we need to actively collaborate with customer/user experience professionals. We also need to get close to support/service professionals—often the best source of customer interactions and insights.

Content, though critical, is just part of the overall design. Content people often ignore navigation. Navigation is made up of words, so we need to work closely with information architects to design clearer menus and links.

We must work with interactive designers who can create and tweak the prototypes within which our content proves itself. To turn our prototypes into live sites, we must collaborate with our technology peers. The more time you spend working with people in other disciplines—the more you allow them to contribute to the content creation and evolution process—the better it will be for everyone, particularly the customer! 

Gerry McGovern is the Founder and CEO of Customer Carewords.

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