I’m really glad I read this tweet this morning:
“Content” is like “art” or “weather” or “traffic” or “sex.” Useful words to describe large phenomena, but less useful the more you zoom in.
– James Callan
After spending most of the day discussing digital publishing I’ve come out the other side feeling …. well, underwhelmed.
Despite discussing an issue that has vast implications for the organisation, and has specific value for the work I do, I don’t really think we achieved anything. The meeting started off quite well – quite a bit of disagreement while we started to establish terminology and reach some eventual consensus that this is quite a difficult and complex area. After that initial back-and-forth though we fell into the kind of conversation that lulls you into a false sense of security. We discussed things in such broad way that we kept glossing over the cracks, the inconsistencies, the half-truths and the half-facts. When things bordered on being difficult we backed away. When we met something that needed to be tackled, we sidestepped it. Maybe this illustrative of groupthink or symptomatic of coming together to have a conversation about something, rather than a conversation for something.
I’ve annoyed myself because despite going into the meeting with a clear perspective, a vision and concept of what we were dealing with I let my self get caught up in the constant pinch-and-zoom between generalisations and stereotypes then down to tiny granular details. That way of discussing a topic has a way of disorienting everyone, there is no forced perspective and so eventually you just resort to discussing things at that zoomed out level where everything seems simple.
The devil is in the detail. The problems and complexities inherent in something as generic as content are vitally important. Variations between context, system and workflows when zoomed out don’t seem like issues – but at the granular level they are deep and wide canyons that cannot be traversed let alone glossed over.
There is this human tendency to back away from what is difficult and threatening – and I think in some ways that’s what happened today. Things get put into the “too hard” basket to be dealt with later, and preferably by someone else.