Can I just give a shoutout to all the working parents out there who have suddenly become teachers in addition to having jobs? And to our actual teachers, who are struggling just as much?
You’re wonderful. Let me (and other similarly minded colleagues) know how I can help, from a distance.
All the clothes piled up
My top priority today is not this newsletter. It’s laundry. Every ten days or so I lug my laundry down to the basement, and I ask myself why? I have so many clean clothes in my closet. All my pretty dresses and skirts, my blouses, highlights from a year of Stitch Fix orders, colors aplenty. I could probably go a month without doing laundry. Instead I’m washing the same marketing tshirts and sweatpants, jeans and cotton, running leggings and deacade-old racerbacks.
Why laundry? Why the neverending chore of dirtying and filling and cleaning and emptying?
Clean pajamas are better than dirty pajamas. That’s the mantra. And let’s be realistic: it’s all iterations of pajamas these days. A band tshirt and jeans, athleisure, actual jammie jams, repeat ad nauseam.
Yesterday I put on a fresh white blouse for a video client meeting. It felt glorious and alien, like looking back at my vacation photos from seven weeks ago. When my ten minutes of speaking were up and I logged off, I hung the blouse back in the closet. Changed back.
Those of us lucky enough to be safely quarantined are not only reckoning with the state of our world, but also the reality of our person. Our daily activities feel both meaningfully stripped down and hella grungy. We work in our pajamas, we leisure in our pajamas, we exercise in our pajamas, and then we sleep. Piles of pajamas overflow from our hampers. Our pajamas, our selves.
Pajamas are opt-in, what we choose, our organic. I’m skeptical of any non-organic or sales content now; to me, it feels like profiteering in a massive public health crisis. I’m even skeptical of the ads for pajamas!
Regardless of what your ad agency tells you, yeah, maybe you should chill on the paid media for the next little while. Brands seem to be reading the room well and pulling back; the programmatic ads I’m served are either really terrible or illegally hawking gouged PPE. Even those of us maintaining our incomes (as I am lucky enough to be able to do for the time being) are apprehensive about buying anything at all.
In this visual metaphor, I am Geoffrey and the Fresh Prince is an advertisement.
But spend the time and effort considering organic activities, the information-seeking ones, the ones that get lost in the flurry of production: even if your audience is not ready for your brand or activity now, prep your content to be ready for them when they feel better. While we can’t predict future digital behavior, we can reexamine and clean up how we’re positioned.
Organic content is always a long play, since it takes search engines several weeks to process new content. Creating organic content forces you to examine who you are as a brand, as a storyteller. Your organic content should your essential band tshirt self, even if plan to put on a blouse later in the day.
So here’s some content laundry tasks that might make you feel a little better, if you’re in the place to create communications and stare at info right now:
Content performance audit for web, email and social
Revising and considering content creation pillars
Understanding the intent of how, why and when people are searching for your content
Reevaluating a start-to-finish customer journey, especially in your current empathetic mindset
Taking time to understand the unknowns in your process: the measurements you don’t get or processes that have always baffled you.
Cleaning up your databases, your automations, your metadata (seriously, how many tags do you have on your blog, how did they get there, and is anyone using them?)
Creating a style guide or pattern library if you don’t already have one
Fix all your broken links and lingering 301s
Figuring out how to pay and protect essential workers fairly and equitably instead of just thanking them or throwing temporary donations at them (had to throw this in there)
Not every activity right now needs to be meaningful, but if you are wondering how you can make it through the next month, remember: clean pajamas are better than dirty pajamas. And you’re still gonna wear pajamas once this is all over.
Please only launder your jimmy jams and your content and not your money, thanks.
Software reviews return! But for a few weeks, I’m seeking content creation apps or platforms that spark joy, rather than the purely get-my-job-done variety. Have any recommendations? Send them my way.
Playing with new(ish) technology: content tech for fun
Entertainment technology is always light years ahead of the unsexy tech of marketing and publishing for grown-ups. Our toys are more advanced than the useful tools.
I tend to prefer nights out and movies for my entertainment, and I don’t have any teenage children, so I’m late to a lot of gaming tech. I know that Steam is a thing, live video game streams are more of a thing, and on occasion I download arty games for my phone. (Current distraction: Valleys Between).
Last night I joined my friends for the second time on Tabletopia, accompanied by live chat on Discord, and it was delightful: the internet! What a fucking cool social place that’s not a place! I can play a board game and it’s 75% the same as playing one in real life.
(Here is where I shout out my friend Jeremy Ward, who introduced me to this wonderful platform. He is also a software developer presently for hire.)
Tabletopia is a way to play those complex, beautiful, nerd-out strategy games online. It’s about five years old, but feels new to me, and I enjoyed and thought I’d share.
Considering that this week I also had a minor conniption when I discovered that Mailchimp has literally zero options for the html 1995 standard “text area” form field in its native form builder, using sleek interfaces like Tabletopia is far more enlightening than anything remotely related to a web form. So this week I’m reviewing Tabletopia, a content technology.
Tabletopia at a glance
My usual review dimensions are a stretch here, but:
Tabletopia enables digital solo and group play of contemporary and classic board games. Aside from setup of the game moves are automated; each player picks up their own cards and pieces. Essentially, you’re reenacting the tabletop game experience, except on a computer. It’s basically the board game equivalent of one of those horrid digital flipbook magazines — but quite a cool experience, instead of a lame one! Coupled with a Discord channel for voice chat, it was a good way to spend a couple of hours.
It’s a subscription service to play with more than two people, but only one member of the group needs the premium subscription ($10/month).
We played Viticulture, a worker-placement game about winemaking in Italy, which my partner and I own in real life. Using Tabletopia means that you should already know the rules of the game somewhat, since again: it’s just physical board game, optimized to be played on a laptop.
It’s tricky to get the camera angles just the way you want them, and getting used to the interface takes a bit of time. Once I got it, I was impressed at how smooth and bright the graphics were, at how fast gameplay went with very few glitches.
Mostly my experience was awe, about all the things we’re capable of building with software, of content experiences in general. And frustration, because I’m still having trouble with webforms, and there are people making beautiful platforms like this.
Content tech links of the week
Every COVID-19 themed brand video: a parody.
The Outline folded last week, which is not surprising. But I always liked that the design was intentionally different, even if the content was pretty standard angry leftist blog fare (birds of a feather). The Outline’s creator, Joshua Topolsky (also responsible for The Verge, many other innovations), wrote a lovely appreciation of the internet in quarantimes for another publication, Input.
What went wrong with the media’s coronavirus coverage? This Recode story was a fantastic outline, although it left out one of the core story points: In North America, we were not severely affected by the bird flu and swine flu and SARS and those epidemic… so for all the (nationalist, xenophobic) reasons bundled up with that, we thought we had immunity this time. Now we realize we were just lucky.
Joshua Benton’s kicker in this Nieman Lab piece hits the nail on the head: “For the record, L.A. Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong is worth $6.9 billion. Any cuts to the L.A. Times newsroom will be a choice, not a necessity.”
Speaking of, here’s Poynter’s running tally of news organizations that have made operations cuts and furloughed or laid off staff.
But new worker-owned media operations like Means TV? I’m into it.