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It's not about documents

​More and more I find I have to explore different ways of sharing information, imparting knowledge and raising the bar with supporting training. I struggle to find effective ways to do it. I find I personally fight:

  • Old formats that are tired

  • New formats that are not really new

  • Tolerance for sub-par content and (readily) refutable information

  • Poor delivery, or badly structured content

Worst of all, as I have been trained in old ways of articulating and imparting information I find I repeat the failings I won't tolerate!?

What's going on?

Some claim that attention spans are shorter, but I don’t believe that. It's our tolerance for rubbish, and our ability to rapidly switch to something else, that mean we no longer have to put up with poorly constructed and badly delivered content.

You'll notice I don’t just talk about DOCUMENTS through this article, but I'm very interested in the transition from traditional document formats and our perception and tolerance. Traditional self-contained documents are becoming less relevant, with modern mash-ups of formats.

The biggest constraint isn't expertise, experience, or my ability to articulate my thoughts. It's hours to readily capture, and simply impart it without generating gargantuan, pointless documentation that is never read - not even as a reference; or rambling videos with sub-par audio or direction for my attention, or becoming a wiz with modern interpretations of presentation tools.

So is the answer "new media"? Do new tools offer the way out?

I'm a passable writer - if a little long-winded. I am not a web developer, a game animator or a modern day Spielberg - but its increasingly obvious that you need a degree of vision and some experience in all of these areas ...and a bit of a creative streak in order to build and tell the stories to convey your information as useful Content.

- If you are going to produce something which has relevance and longevity that is.

So does video publishing to the web cut it?

Err no. Your output will be dismissed quite quickly, and be easily lost in the likes of YouTube and Vimeo (there is more than 24hrs of footage loaded to YouTube every minute…)

I need to learn about production techniques? And video editing! I'm not Spielberg?!

Well unless you have a rudimentary knowledge of pre and post production techniques, and a reasonable quality tool like Camtasia, why would you think your output will survive the popularity stakes with that ever rising tide?

What about modern presentations, take a PowerPoint and see it published into a service like PowerPoint online? All my old glories now played back in a browser!

Possibly, but this is just making old and potentially weaker formats more accessible - but doesn't change the fact you need to be good a constructing the story-arc and creating the presentation structures. ..and then add some relevant imagery.

So - no then.

How about blogging…?

No this is the modern day equivalent to writing your homework and leaving it on the bus. Sorry but it is. Yes I know that is what you are reading, but as you will see from my typo's, and poor sentence construction: it's year 10 home work sprinkled with 25yrs of observations and experiences.

So traditional formats need work.

Yes. Modernising formats them makes them more accessible, but not necessarily better at conveying your message for people. Even modern formats, like blogging, do not offer a credible alternative without skills practice and some coaching - even then you will be hard pushed to get high-traffic.

What about more modern formats?

How about concepts like Slidedocs, Prezi or Sway?

Well maybe, but here's where the rubber hits the road. To make any of these work better than traditional documents (be it reference manuals, guides, training or authoring journals), you need to be somewhere between entertainment, presentation and document.

My belief is that the content needs more than it did previously.

You need:

1. to be good at writing and structuring information (like a document),

2. a level of creativity that knows restraint, but is engaging

3. basic video construction and simple image association techniques

…don't annoy your audience with bad, irrelevant or irritating animation and transitions (...You know the ones).

In fact you need a team, or a buddy system with skills in different camps and personality types. Link knowledgeable subject-matter experts, and pair them with creative (but tolerant) design people. …or ex-designers. ..or visual thinkers

Writing a book is a significant skillset, it takes years to perfect and we all acknowledge it's not an everyman who can be Chip and Dan Heath, Paul Culmsee and Kailash Awati or Allan and Barbara Pease.

Creating a movie takes vision, direction and coordination - I'm never going to get the ratings of J.J. Abrams movie for my video on publishing content using SharePoint, Word and PowerPoint.

So why do companies persist trying to convince Joe public by changing format to "Sway" they can be the next picture interactive book person. We all would like to think we could be! ...But we aren't.

What's missing? How do I generate something with the right pace and manner that is awesome to use by others?

Well here is the secret!


  • Read and view lots and lots of examples. Lots. No I mean it, lots.

  • Read the historical stuff by the people you like.

  • Read more. Read widely *but in the same form & format* you want to create


  • Write, and create - lots. Repeat. Every day.

You might not have the start, but you probably do have a comment? - Write it down

  • Publish ...even if you only publish every week

  • Actively seek feedback. Don’t worry - you will be rubbish at the start. Everyone (normal) is.

  • Pick out patterns of success. Try and use 1 which you think works on your next 3 publishing's

  • Get friendly with someone who sits in that other camp and can understand you

I.e. I need two things:

  • a creative person to help inject colour and (quality) imagery in my narrative,

  • an editor to help me cut my waffle down

  • Write and create more

  • Try same content in a new format.

  • Write more

  • Publish it

  • Repeat.

….hmmm that sounds repetitive?

It is. Do it anyway.

It takes 100's of hours to become proficient at a new skill. It takes 10,000+ hours to become an expert. You don't need to be an expert, but proficient with good support… that's do-able. Don't be afraid of constructive feedback - and ignore the pointless criticism. Both sting, but one gives you options the other needs a kick in some painful parts of the anatomy.

So with that in mind my next posting will start my journey in to more modern forms! And that training content I'm working on? Well I think I will make a change to the framework and make it multi-dimensional, as well as a more modern approach. More on that another time. Wish me luck!


All logos, trademarks and brand names are the owned by their respective companies: Slidedocs is owned by Duarte Inc., Prezi Is owned by Prezi Inc. and Sway is owned by Microsoft Corp. YouTube is owned by YouTube LLC, a Google company and Vimeo is owned by Vimeo LLC.

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