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Jan 26, 2015: testimonials

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Jan 26, 2015: testimonials

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Jul 12, 2013: What does instructional video mean for publishers?

Did you think that publishers were in the business of figuring out books? Hah! Well, you're only partially right.

I'm feeling pretty good about Rosenfeld Media's books these days. What's keeping me up at night is instructional video. Partially because people are increasingly turning to video over text for learning, and partially because it clearly presents a new opportunity. Just not an obvious one. I'm hoping that writing about it here helps me understand it better, and—more importantly—your comments shed even more light on it.

I—and our authors and experts—are constantly coming across new opportunities to produce instructional videos. Think Skillshare, Udacity, Udemy, YouTube, Lynda.com, and so on. They have very different business models, most of which are untested and, in some cases, unstable. It's a daunting space to understand—but looking at a medium through the lens of its tools is completely the wrong way to figure it out.

My job, as a publisher, is to take that step back and try to make sense of the medium. Does our content even make sense as instructional videos? If so, how do we package our content? Do we go long or short? Modules or full-blown courses? How do we ensure the same level of quality as we do with our books and other offerings? And what's a viable business model for instructional video, one that provides value to customers and publishing support to authors and experts?

If we can figure out how to reach that happy place, then we can determine which tools and platforms we should use.

But it's a tough journey.

For one, I keep thinking a format that is short-attention-span-friendly (5-10 minute), modular, and extremely practical makes the most sense: tips, how-to's, show-me's, case studies, and so on. We'd curate the topics, and ensure a reasonable quality through consistent branding and content guidelines. We'd eventually make them part of a Rosenfeld Media subscription service, along with our digital books.

But 5-10 minutes puts us up against the free stuff on YouTube. Would someone pay $5 for one of our videos when there might be something similar for free?

A longer format—60 minutes and up—can justify payment. But it feels too long to me. I know that companies like UIE do fantastic work here, but I worry that many people won't have the patience to sit through this longer, denser format.

Unless that longer video is part of an actual course. The motivation to achieve a credential is a big one, but courses have lots of moving parts. They take place over time, they generally utilize much more than video, and most of all, they need to be taught. By an actual teacher. There's a huge opportunity there, but I think that funded startups like General Assembly will be the ones to make it work. Not bootstrapped ventures like Rosenfeld Media. (And, sadly, not higher ed, which is highly unlikely to create viable new business models for anything.)

Put on my publisher's shoes for a moment (size 10, incidentally). Let's say you manage a brand known for quality books in a small but growing vertical. You also manage a growing roster of four dozen or so of your vertical's leading experts. You've got expertise—and content—up the wazoo.

Do you convert that expertise into a new video-based line of business?


What does your offering look like?

And has anyone figured this all out already? (If so, hats off!)

Thanks folks.

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Apr 22, 2013: The Benefits of a Train Wreck

Want to make an information architect squirm? Just ask this simple question: "Show me an example of good information architecture."

Chances are we'll stammer, mumble something about good IA being invisible IA, and slink away.

It doesn't have to be that way—if we're willing to turn the question on its head. Forget good IA—let's focus on bad IA. You know, the reason that information architecture got started as a practice in the first place.

Let's dig deep into the darkness of just how much life can suck at an absolutely fundamental level when people can't find and understand information.

Let's show—in a direct, visual, painful, and wildly engaging way—what happens when you blow off that IA stuff.

Let's tap the natural impulse to look—to stare!—at the horror of pileups on the information superhighway.

(There but for the grace of god go IA.)

These train wrecks will be quite instructive—in the same way as Jeff Johnson's GUI Bloopers, or as a mirror image to Peter Morville's far more constructive Search Patterns.

So I'd like to propose that some well-intentioned, communally-oriented, semi-organized group of information architects (like, say, the IAI) launch a new site devoted to examples of absolutely crappy, in-your-face, vomit-all-over-your-keyboard information architecture.

I suck at coming up with titles, so I'll offer this working name: The Journal of Fucked IA. (Crazy wild guess: domain's probably available.) Why not? The IAI already publishes the Journal of IA. What's one more publication?

Especially as this one wouldn't have to be peer-reviewed. Set it up as a community portfolio—a Dribble of what not to do. Anyone could submit their latest experience with frustrating findability follies and fuckups. The IAI could do some light curation. We could all tag examples by "search results," "contextual navigation," or whatever, and—voila—we'll have some useful IA anti-patterns. Better yet, tag by industry ("airlines") and organization name ("United") and then we'll start getting some great attention from outside our cocoon.

Yes, let's make those other bastards squirm for once.

Now wouldn't that be fun?

And wouldn't it be better to point people to train wrecks the next time they spring that godawful question?

PS: Maybe this would be a good use of the money that—hopefully—the IAI will start collecting. Soon. Right guys?

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