Turning Users into Producers

By Marc Solomon posted 03-06-2012 22:09


It hardly seems worth the fuss?

If all firewall-dwelling professionals did in the information-seeking moments of their work days was to consume content, why bother with firewalls? After all, after hours when we leave our real jobs we beat our networking wings in order to swell the activity streams of our social media updates. No one incentifies us to blog on about our bugaboos and celebrated causes.

Most of us don't have day jobs that value self-expression so much as the delivery of work product. The manufacturing of rationales designed to encourage, satisfy, and/or resolve transactions -- the business of bringing buyers and sellers together.

For many of us this is the justification for the systems we manage and the roles we manage. No surprises there. What's baffling is the notion that our peers are passive, disinterested consumers of the assets we manage. Actual experience teaches us that our systems cater to an energized user-base when our efforts favor the same outcomes our colleagues are paid to bring about.

How do we transition them from idle users to engaged producers? What does it mean for information architects, intranet designers, and community managers that we build systems around the needs of producers instead of users? And if success boils down to producability, how do we define this goal or measure up to it in credible ways?

Here are a couple of groundswells to get our roadmap bearings:

1) Task-based search -- Our colleagues are no more blank slates than their calendars are wide open with all the time needed to soak in an insurmontable number of serach results. The goal is not to clutter up the interface so it resembles the double-booked demands on our busy colleagues but to anticipate those demands through the results screens we configure.

2) Action-based taxonomy -- According to SEO authority Mark Sprague 92% of all keywords passing through Google's search command box are nouns. A thing-centric interaction is a special challenge for taxonomists and catalogers trying to expose the usefulness of the content they're coding. The key is anticipating how their internal customers will fold these findings into their own projects and priorities. This means moving away from "things" to "actions" or from "the what" to "the how" of producing results.

3) Format-neutral process flows -- It takes more than configuring search and organizing content to transform users into producers. We need to nudge our system outputs in the direction of format neutrality. This means our colleagues can integrate search results into their work product and business proposals without format irregularities and coding errors that distract from the presentations they're developing.

How do content managers repurpose our system assets so that search results conform to the business outcomes our colleagues are striving to produce? Don't just follow the money. Watch the verbiage. In particular, the verbs.

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