• 2022 The Content + UX Community: This Must Be The Place
    What does it mean to be in community? This has been on my mind constantly over the past few years as I’ve focused on community building in various spaces in my life. One of those spaces is Content + UX, probably the largest and most visible group for content and content-adjacent professionals in the field...There are no easy or obvious answers. But I tackled some of them — and others — with Greg Dunlap, host of the thoughtful and ever-nourishing podcast, This Must Be The Place...
  • 2022 Defining the Working Relationship with My Client-Partners
    I've been noticing an uptick in conversations with colleagues about how we define the working relationship between clients and vendors. It's been coming up in several different professional communities, among content strategists, UX designers, researchers, and nonprofit managers and communicators. When it comes to my own clients, I believe strongly that business relationships are relationships first, that our work together can only succeed if it’s in service of a mutual goal, and that the work we do should lift people up, not harm them. I am explicit in asking all my clients to enter into our relationship with a genuine commitment to these ethics. For some time now, I’ve been sharing this set of working principles with prospects before entering into a formal relationship. Given the current professional chatter and overall state of the economy, it feels like it’s time to make these more public and open up a wider discussion about them...
  • 2022 Reflections on Bias
    Human perspective is impossibly biased. Yet we often believe our ideal state should somehow be neutral. That on either side of neutral, there are immutable states of existence or perspective, naturally oppositional to each other. I’ve spent an inordinate amount of my life pushing against one idea or another in an attempt to find that state of perfect neutrality. But this struggle to reach perfect neutral frames interactions between people with differing experiences as inherently oppositional: differing forces pushing against each other...
  • 2022 Getting Out Of My Own Way
    It has been a very long time since I’ve published with any regular cadence. As another birthday approaches and I’m reminded of the passage of time and of times past, I find myself occasionally nostalgic for the early web. I’ve become nostalgic for the giddy days when my ongoing discovery of new pockets of this new world set my brain off like pop rocks...
  • 2020 Making Meaning Through Community Mapping
    I did not expect to get emotional over maps on a wall. But there I was in the Oakland Museum right before the pandemic, face hot and eyes damp, overwhelmed by maps. I’d been working with the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project to provide narrative strategy and interpretive text for the museum’s "You Are Here: California Stories On the Map" exhibit and now here we were. And I kept thinking about my father.
  • 2020 Digital Disaster Response: Creating Tech-based Resources
    It’s been a surreal few weeks across the globe thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. And it’s only getting surrealer. One reassuring side effect is the surge of resources for dealing with the virus and its impacts surfacing from various individuals, collectives, and organizations. Produced in good faith by experts and non-experts alike, many of these resources are crowdsourced, allowing people in far-flung locations to collaborate in ways unheard of in previous global disasters. As a human with a social anarchist bent, I find this type of self-organizing incredibly reassuring. As a digital experience designer, though, I find a lot of these resources horribly broken in their user experience. With the stakes as high as they are, making these tools usable and ethical is critical. So I've compiled some guidance and caveats for those looking to create a digital resources of their own.
  • 2020 Digital Lessons From a Caucus App Debacle
    Regardless of party affiliation (none for me, thanks), no one should have been surprised by the recent Democratic debacle in Iowa. Media has been hard at work digging into the root causes of the caucus reporting breakdown. Turns out, there's an app for that. And where there's an app, there's going to be Kool-aid. In this case, the Kool-aid was served up by Democratic Party officials who insisted the caucus app was going to be a-okay. Given that it ended up resoundingly not okay, perhaps it's worth taking note of a few lessons we can apply in our own digital day-to-day.
  • 2020 Surviving the Greyhound Bus: Content Due Diligence for 2020
    Most of us keep our eyes pinned to the road immediately in front of us. Or we focus on the rear-view mirror, spinning our wheels over past experiences. But this tendency means we’re tuning out our peripheral vision. Peripheral vision, though, is what gives us context. It’s how we notice the unexpected sneaking up on us, the Greyhound bus drifting over the yellow line into our path. Spend too much time focusing only on what’s in front of you, and you lose sight of that stuff. The next thing you know, you’re running into a bus on a Vespa scooter while your best friend basks in the LA sunshine. So if it prevents us from crashing and burning one, two, or three years out, why is it so difficult for us to expand our peripheral vision?
  • 2019 Reduce Your Content Overhead
    How much time do you spend managing content? Do you spend all day fielding the same questions over and over? Are you scrambling to keep up with a voracious publishing schedule? For too many of us, busy work makes it a real challenge to cross anything off the to-do list. Here are a few ideas that can make space for the important stuff.
  • 2019 Don’t Fear the AI (Yet)
    When Chase announced it would be rolling out AI-powered copy across their marketing departments recently, a chill went down the spine of human copywriters everywhere. The global bank is using machine learning and natural language processing to generate ad copy aimed at highly-targeted market segments. But while UX and marketing writers have every reason to feel insecure in their corporate jobs, it shouldn’t be because of AI taking over.
  • 2019 Riding the Content Curve: the Four Stages of Learning
    Sometimes you learn about a thing and it completely shifts your perception. Years ago, while earning some kind of certificate in sustainable business management, I learned about the four stages of learning and it changed so much about how I approached, well, everything new. The gist of it is pretty straightforward: there are four phases a person can go through when developing a new skill.
  • 2019 Just Enough Docs: a Lightning Talk About Docs for Onboarding
    Do you actually enjoy writing documentation for your project? This post is adapted from the transcript of a short talk I shared at the Code for America Summit's Brigade Day. While this presentation is specific to brigade teams, it's relevant for any remote development team struggling to bring new team members up to speed.
  • 2018 WordPress 5.0 and Gutenberg: Get your content ready
    If your organization’s website runs on WordPress, the next upcoming release may be a shock to the system. After much ado and hand-wringing in the WordPress community, 5.0 will introduce Gutenberg, an entirely new interface for creating and editing posts. Not everyone is happy about it (with some even quitting their job over it). So should you be worried? The short answer is: no, but you need to be prepared.
  • 2018 Content Strategy for Nonprofits: An Interview
    Non-profits often stumble their way through content strategy. The tendency in the sector is to conflate content strategy with content marketing, which way too often focuses on the transactional at the expense of the experiential.
  • 2018 Finding a Place at the Table for Your Content Strategy Team
    Being a lone wolf content strategist can be...lonely. Hell, content strategy can be lonely even as part of a content team. I know, because I’ve been there. It tweaks my heartstrings when I continue to hear from content strategists who feel like short-order cooks turning out copy strings piece by piece, with no input on how orders are expedited or the menu is planned. In the words (and emoji) of one: “We're struggling to get beyond 'oh you guys just add in the copy at the end' 🙄.” So for those who are struggling, here are some of the lessons I’ve learned (sometimes the hard way) over the years...
  • 2018 My Father’s Archives
    A little over four years ago, my father died. He was, as many have said of him, a force of nature. Short and portly, with a dark shock of hair worn proudly wild, he told rambling, exaggerated stories. He overindulged. He played a passable clawhammer banjo. He sometimes alienated people with his strong opinions. But he was wildly creative, and the work he did in exhibit design left a permanent mark on his field. In the weeks following his death, I found myself wanting to document all this. So I built a website.
  • 2013 Exploring Nonprofit Editorial Calendars
    When I first joined Net Impact, the communications calendar was pretty darn straightforward. And then I blinked. Two years in, I was wrangling content for multiple social media channels, an active blog, various email newsletters, and netimpact.org. Coordinating nonprofit editorial calendars across so many channels is no easy feat, and our programming continued to grow. So I set out to rethink how we handled our communications calendar...
  • 2012 A New Kind of Worker for the Impact Economy
    Some call them competencies. MBAs call them skill sets. Fast Company named an entire generation after those who’ve reinvented them (Generation Flux). But it boils down to this: our economy is shifting dramatically, and the modern worker must adapt...
  • 2009 Information Overload: Tips for Creating Infographics
    Once relegated to academic textbooks and snooze-inducing PowerPoint slides, information graphics are suddenly everywhere. Here’s what you need to know to create effective infographics in an information-saturated world...