Intelligent Content conference thoughts

Sarah O'Keefe / Opinion3 Comments

Palm Springs provides a spectacular setting for the Intelligent Content conference. But despite the beautiful scenery (and outside temperature!), conference-goers were more likely to be found in the chilly, windowless meeting rooms.

I’m overwhelmed by all the great information, but I think there are a few key points that already stand out:
Morning in Palm Springs

Technical communication (techcomm) and marketing communication (marcomm) need to start talking to each other. Techcomm has information that marcomm needs and vice versa.

Digital publishing and intelligent content are going to allow for interesting new information products. Nobody quite knows what they will be, but expect something that goes beyond ebooks. (Basic ebooks are really just books rendered in a new medium. The question is what will an information product look like that really takes advantage of what we can do in a digital context.)

Some books are not really books. I saw a presentation from Erin McKean a few years back in which she talked about how a dictionary is really not a book. It’s not narrative. It’s a collection of reference items, and those items can be presented in lots of different ways, many of which are better than the “book” paradigm.

Similarly, a data sheet should not really be presented as a multipage document with lists of specifications. A data sheet is reference information and the purpose of the datasheet is just to provide the user with those specifications. What if you can present them in a better way?

Here’s a five-minute mockup that shows how you could use data sheet information to filter what is presented to the end user:

Mockup of product selector that could replace a data sheet. Faceted search narrows down the product list, then click to see more about that product.

I have to acknowledge the power of personal interactions once again. In-person conversations over meals or drinks and in random hallway interactions are powerful. In our daily work, we are usually busy trying to get information out the door, so big thoughts and extended conversations are rare. We need conferences to give us a space where we can step away from deadlines and gain perspective.

Many thanks to the conference organizers, Scott Abel and Ann Rockley, and their dedicated support staff. I don’t think they slept during the event.

About the Author

Sarah O'Keefe


Content strategy consultant and founder of Scriptorium Publishing. Bilingual English-German, voracious reader, water sports, knitting, and college basketball (go Blue Devils!). Aversions to raw tomatoes, eggplant, and checked baggage.

3 Comments on “Intelligent Content conference thoughts”

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I was watching everything unfold on Twitter. It looks like it was an amazing event.

  2. Any suggestions for a person who would love to be in a bridging role between marketing and tech comm? I found my way to the marketing side years ago. Messaging, language, and “the big picture” suit me far better than the detail oriented work I found in technical communications positions. I find the strategic aspects of intelligent content compelling – urgent even. Do you know of roles firmly in the marketing world that involve talking to and planning for the technical side?

  3. Hi Barbara, I would suggest that you look for opportunities in your current organization to use the technical content on the marketing side. I don’t think that there’s any sort of standard role at this point, so you’ll have to get creative!

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