Related Event: Create Once, Publish Everywhere Applied—HHS Content Models and Portability, Tuesday, April 18, 2017; register here. Create Once, Publish Everywhere (COPE) The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) is sharing its content models and their related Drupal features for you to use on your sites. A content model is a representation of types of content and their inter-relationships. Content modeling takes content items and breaks them down into smaller structures, called content types.
We recently interviewed Sara Wachter-Boettcher, author of Content Everywhere: Strategy and Structure for Future-Ready Content. Sara, a frequent conference speaker, runs a content strategy consultancy, and is the co-author of Design for Real Life. She has extensive experience consulting with major brands, universities, agencies, nonprofits, and others to make their content more memorable, manageable, and sustainable. How would you describe structured content? Most content on the web is unstructured, meaning it’s just a page with blobs of text on it.
****We have previously written about microsites in the federal government. A microsite is a small collection of web pages—a subset of an organization’s full website. Partners can embed microsites that present curated information on a specific topic or campaign directly within their own websites. And perhaps best of all, microsites that are API-enabled are maintained and updated by the source organization so that when updates are made, those updates are automatically made on partner sites in real time.
The idea of portable content is nothing new. Content needs to be mobile ready, responsive, and readily consumed by tools such as the Internet of Things (IoT)—a proposed development of the Internet in which everyday objects have network connectivity, allowing them to send and receive data. Developers need to stop creating fixed, single-purpose content and start making it more future-ready, flexible, and reusable. Two significant factors assist in portability are information architecture (IA) and content strategy (CS).
As I begin to wind down my time at The Content Corner, I have realized that one of my biggest content concerns uncovered during my tenure is digital sharecropping. The recent announcement from Facebook that they will soon open their Instant Articles publishing capability to everyone was reason enough for me to revisit the topic of owning and controlling our content one more time. While I dislike the term digital sharecropping (coined by Nicholas Carr), I haven’t found a better or more succinct explanation for this ongoing drive for private companies and platforms to own our content (while we do all the work).
Here at DigitalGov, we generally focus on federal governmental digital efforts within the U.S. It is where we live and operate, so it makes sense, but many governments across the world struggle with the same issues and leverage technology as a common solution. When I came across an article where Australia announced its “government as an API” platform was available, it seemed like a great opportunity to see how another country is tackling structured and open content.
While January was about looking ahead, February is focused on content and many of the new possibilities and challenges that will face us as content creators over the next year and beyond. At the intersection of these two themes lies the genesis of my topic today: location-aware content. More than a Map One of the most common places where we have become dependent on location-aware content is navigation. This can range from a variety of Location-Based Services, or LBS, such as simply finding out exactly where you are, how to get somewhere else and where can you find a pizza nearby.
Open and structured content models assist in the dissemination of information to various devices and media types. In the age of smartphones, tablets, social media tools, syndication and websites, the need for modular content is growing. How can you make your content adaptive to all of these mediums? Open and structured content models can help you create content that is platform-agnostic, format-free and device independent. Because, as Ann Mulhay, ex-CEO of Xerox succinctly puts it:
Several months ago I discussed the concept of a world without Web pages and the importance of structured content and thinking about content, not pages. This week, I’m taking that discussion further by discussing the importance of modularity in Web design and how that complements our efforts to create more structured and reusable data. Break It Down One of the critical aspects of our current efforts in structured data and adaptive content is the reductionary process.
Over the past several years, DigitalGov has been extremely focused on structured content, content models, and their role in future-ready content (and rightly so). A shift of focus back to the content itself as opposed to where it will be published is critical for agencies as we aim to reach as many customers as possible, regardless of what device or screen they are using. Making the end user an extremely high priority in our content publishing is also important, but there are several other user groups that we need to make sure aren’t lost in the shuffle:
In May 2014, Sarah Crane discussed the importance of structured content, APIs and the development of a “Create Once, Publish Everywhere” (COPE) strategy at USA.gov via a three part video series. After my recent post about a world without Web pages, Sarah and I connected and we discussed the challenges she has experienced during the COPE project at USA.gov and some lessons to consider whether you’re at the beginning or early stages of a similar project.
Metadata for website content is usually managed as part of the editorial process when documents are created and published with content management systems. There may be another source for this metadata, especially in regulatory agencies: internal databases that reference Web content in support of record keeping processes. These databases may contain public and non-public information that were never meant to be published for public consumption. “Metadata” is not typically how the content is described.
Metadata, tagging, content modeling … they’re not identical concepts, but they’re driven by the same basic principle: when you structure your digital information, it can be more easily searched, reused, connected, shared, and analyzed. If you’re new to structured content, where should you start? Ideally, your metadata strategy will be part of your overall content strategy. In practice, however, a lot depends on your agency’s culture, its technical resources, its existing practices, and the state of your content.
Imagine a world without Web pages, only intelligent, self-assembling chunks of content waiting to respond to your needs. The page is irrelevant, there may be no context beyond what is included in your content. The content has to survive on its own, perform its goals on its own. Originally when creating content, you would take into account the things that surround it on that page; they give it additional context and relevance.
People consume government information in a variety of ways: through agency websites, of course, but increasingly through social media, search engines, and mobile apps, whether developed by agencies or third parties. To make sure the information is available seamlessly, accurately, and consistently from one setting to another, more and more agencies are exploring the use of content models. Content models create a structure to tag content in a standardized way and free it from any single format or destination, such as a Web page or PDF file.
Most of us in the DigitalGov community recognize that responsive Web design is one approach to mobile first and most of us have a pretty clear picture of what it means—a responsive website will adjust to different devices, and the content will neatly change its layout from one screen size to another. But do you know how it happens? Would you know how to implement responsive Web design in your agency?
Content models provide an opportunity for agencies to structure, organize, distribute, and better publish information in multiple forms and on multiple platforms. Federal agencies discussed why content models are important for future-facing content in our What Structured Content Models Can Do For You Webinars in May and June. The point—with good content models, a single piece of Web content becomes an adaptive information asset that can be leveraged anytime, anywhere.
Structured content and open content models can help you create content that is platform-agnostic, format-free, and device-independent. This was the theme of the “What Structured Content Can Do For You: Article Model” webinar last month. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kG25vyQ5Jps&w=600] Using a content model is less about how you are crafting your message and more about how the internet is going to react to your content or how you can manipulate it, according to Holly Irving from the National Institutes of Health, Russell O’Neill from the General Services Administration, and Logan Powell from U.
Smartphones, tablets, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, not to mention your agency’s desktop website, are all clamoring for information, but sliced and diced in different ways. How can you make your content adaptive for efficient delivery to all of these mediums? Structured content and open content models can help you create content that is platform-agnostic, format-free, and device-independent. We’ve created two open and structured content models that we want you to use and adapt.
Today we want to tell you about the federal agency trends we saw this year in the development of public facing mobile products. Digital Government Strategy drove Mobile Gov Development Digital Government Strategy milestone 7.2 required agencies to implement two public facing mobile products in May. The White House highlighted these agency mobile product implementations. Responsive Design Proliferated. During the summer and fall a number of agencies like the Department of State, Department of Commerce, Department of Energy, USA.
Structured content refers to the concept of organizing and treating digital content like data. It’s a way of publishing content as modular, discrete pieces of information that are tagged with machine-readable descriptions. Structured content has the potential to transform how people find, understand, share, and use government information. Why Structured Content Matters Most digital content published by the federal government is still found on static HTML Web pages. This unstructured content doesn’t always adapt well to smaller screens, and it’s harder to discover, share, or reuse the information.