CT No.55: The tools I trust to mind my business

Along with a review of Markup.io, thinky longreads, and an update from Minneapolis

Hello from the Midwest U.S., where resentment is boiling. This newsletter has an international readership, but I want to clarify what I’ve seen in Minneapolis because it’s important to match up national media stories with what you actually see and hear when you talk with others.

I am not frightened of or upset by looters or riots because the racial inequality is so stark in Minneapolis, and it has only gotten worse this summer. People are angry, people are suffering, and there have been very few solutions offered from those in charge. Despite our city council’s promise to defund the Minneapolis Police Department, we have seen no meaningful change since George Floyd was murdered, only small concessions around police reform that I (and many others) don’t trust the MPD to enforce, given their history and support of a racist police union.

What I have seen:

  • White-owned and white-operated media replaying every video of graphic violence that hurts our Black neighbors, then handwringing around even the idea of making a change to the police department because of their “safety,” refusing to quote anyone who has actually studied police abolition, editorializing “there isn’t a plan” when they haven’t taken the time to listen to people doing the work of abolition. (Individual reporters have done good work, but the billionaire-owned newspaper and television stations continue to double down on the untenable status quo.)

  • The MPD not really doing much of anything to prevent or solve the recent rise in shootings, even though they are still just as funded as they were in January.

  • School boards and institutions cutting ties with local police departments but still hiring armed security officers, many of whom used to be cops, for “protection.”

  • On Nextdoor, in the neighborhood where George Floyd was killed, white residents posting pro-cop and pro-gun propaganda with no shame, no hint of “moderation” on their end.

  • A growing unhoused population being shuffled from one city park to another, supported by volunteers but not the federal, state or city government.

  • Grassroots groups like MPD150, Black Visions Collective, Reclaim the Block, the Minneapolis Sanctuary Movement, and Minnesota Teen Activists providing the foundation for true justice and (hopefully soon!) the redirection of resources away from military-backed law enforcement and toward people who are productively rebuilding the community.

  • My neighbors surviving, thriving, supporting each other in spite of it all.

After Kenosha, where people were shot for 1.) breaking up a fight and 2.) protesting the first shooting, the pain is raw. (For those unfamiliar with U.S. geography, Kenosha is about 5 hours away from Minneapolis, in the neighboring state of Wisconsin, which shares many of Minnesota’s worst characteristics, especially around racial inequity.)

The violence in response to protest is outsized. It is dangerous. It comes from outside the city, from the suburbs and the outstate, from those who have always had the perception that the cities were dangerous and now feel the need to bring their ideas of war into our neighborhoods and escalate violence.

I’m frightened of the people who believe they are keeping the peace with guns. I’m more frightened for my Black neighbors who have historically been the target of that “peacekeeping.” The “second amendment people” who show such callous disregard for human life, the ones who do not even live in the city, who escalate from social media comments to shoot-to-kill in a matter of seconds. Who see someone breaking a window or stealing from a giant corporation or a liquor store and believe “that person is worthless and should be killed.” People who have been taught that property, goods and ownership are more important than ensuring others have basic food and shelter.

I’m frightened that feds will show up this weekend. Frightened of the MPD who drove around my neighborhood last night brandishing their assault rifles “to enforce the curfew.”

If you are in the U.S., please read Josie Marie Duffy’s case for abolition, which was published in Vanity Fair this month.

Also sending my heart out to those affected by Hurricane Laura and those in Kenosha, Chicago, Portland, Oakland and everywhere standing up for change.

Onto this week’s newsletter:

  • My tech stack - second annual update

  • Editing text on a live website: Markup.io review

  • Three big-thinker content tech links of the week

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The Content Technologist’s stack update: 2020 edition

For comparison, check out 2019.

In my first year of business, I’ve mostly worked on content and migration strategy for website redesigns, with lots of SEO research included. I’ve incorporated some tools I reviewed in the past year and changed my tune on some others.

As with all reviews, I do not collect any affiliate commission, but I will share links for referral credits for tools that I already use. If you were already thinking of signing up for that tool, then feel free to use my referral and we’ll both get some credits.

Here’s where I’m at, with links to previous reviews where applicable:

  • SEOSEMRush (especially the Keyword Magic and auditing tools), Google Search Console & Screaming Frog. I’ve ditched Moz mostly for cost reasons, but I’m so annoyed with SEMRush’s constant display ads and upsells that I may switch back to Moz, even though I’m not as big of a fan of its keyword organization tools.

  • Client collaboration: Mural.

  • Sitemapping and content planning: Flowmapp.

  • UX design and wireframing: Figma (free version).

  • Content and audience research: When applicable, I subscribe to BuzzSumo and SparkToro for in-depth content and social research.

  • Database for tool reviews: Airtable. (Referral code)

  • Forms: Typeform.

  • Visual asset creation: Canva. (Referral code)

  • Measurement: Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager.

  • Project management: Bella Scena and Toggl, plus whatever PM tool my client is using.

  • Transcription and notes: Otter.ai premium (which recently added meeting notes and continues to amaze me — referral code)

  • Writing: Evernote for mobile notes; Ulysses for desktop notes and long-form writing.

  • Saving links: Pocket (recently switched from Notion)

  • Video meetings: I use both Zoom and Google Meet, depending on what’s most convenient.

  • Website CMS: Ghost

  • Newsletter: Substack, for at least a little while longer because I really love the authorship experience, but I’m looking at shifting entirely to Ghost because right now I’m essentially entering content into two separate CMS, and that’s why the content-technologist.com is never up to date.

  • Business management: 1Password, Wave and Bonsai.

I’m always testing and trying out new tools, and I review the best that come across my path. If you have a recommendation, reply to this email and I’ll put it in my queue.

Eliminating the vagaries of web and image feedback: Markup.io

Have you ever had this digital conversation?

CONTENT STRATEGIST: Hey, you know the Featured Feature page? Can you maybe center the H2 in the second section submodule? I think it might be more impactful centered.

FRONT-END DEV: The one that says “About This Feature”?

CONTENT STRATEGIST: No, that one’s on the Feature Introduction page, not the Featured Feature page. [drop in URL] The second one down from the top left side. The one that reads “Why this feature is the bestest.” That one. I’m thinking we could also change the words to “Why this feature is the funnest” but I want to see how it looks.

Describing the location of content on a webpage has long been a part of web content life. (Admittedly, the above example is a bit ridiculous, but I’ve described feedback that way, and I’m willing to bet you have too.)

We use spreadsheets and emails for QA describing the location of our feedback, in addition to providing the feedback itself. Designers spend half the time trying to decipher what a stakeholder is talking about before even making the change to the text.

I have often wished for a tool where I could just write my comments on a website, the way I can just write design feedback on a piece of paper. And finally, all these years later, we have a solid tool that lets users pin content feedback to any live website: Markup.io.

Markup.io at a glance

Markup.io is a collaborative visual feedback tool created by designers to simplify feedback processes, owned by interactive content company Ceros (reviewed here). Markup users can enter in any project URL or upload an image and receive pinned feedback in real time.

The pinned feedback commenting system is similar to those in Figma, XD, and InVision, with teammate tagging and comment response. Markup.io also features:

  • Options to leave feedback on desktop, tablet and mobile versions of the website (without leaving the desktop browser)

  • Toggle from commenting mode to browsing mode while leaving feedback, so you can cover all pages on a website at once.

  • Publicly sharable links of feedback so that an entire team can view and respond to feedback on a certain image or website (I’ve made a few self-deprecating comments on my own website here if you want a preview of how Markup works)

  • Replies and resolution for all comments

  • Live updates for websites — so if a change has been made, it will appear in each project upon reload

Released in April 2020, Markup.io is currently free and usable for any live website (including dev sites) and uploaded images. Its website promises integrations with third-party tools in the near future, along with more project management features. (I also very much dig their simple but explanatory website.)

Many tools are entering the live website feedback/commenting space, including some similarly named, but Markup.io certainly has made the biggest splash since its launch, especially in our sudden transition to remote work.

I would recommend Markup.io for designers, content strategists, and developers having challenges communicating visual website feedback, especially among multiple teams.

I’d also suggest it to content strategists or agencies for their new business processes — with Markup.io you can comment in directly and clearly what you would change about a website without alerting the current creators or stepping on any toes.

Did you enjoy this review? You can


Content tech links of the week

  • Have you ever wondered what tech-oriented minds think about when they build algorithms? Avinash Kaushik (Digital Marketing Evangelist at Google and the thought leader behind many of our digital marketing standards) walks through a hypothetical content evaluation algorithm in his newsletter and, boy howdy, it’s enlightening. It’s always fascinating to me when engineering-oriented folks break down content because they focus on completely different evaluation criteria than my editorial training would guide me toward. But I agree on the result of which of the infographics is best!

  • How is Facebook still peddling discriminatory advertising? The Markup (not to be confused with this week’s tool review) has a good story, but anyone working in the ad/data space should deeply consider this common circumstance:

Things that Facebook may consider innocuous data points may correlate so strongly with age or gender or race that “the algorithm sees the circumstances of older black women, which are the result of systemic discrimination and inequity, and misinterprets those circumstances as preferences,” David Brody, an attorney at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said in an email.

“So the next time the algorithm encounters a user matching the qualities of an older black woman, it is going to impute those so-called preferences on to that user and in the process reinforce the pattern of systemic discrimination,” he said.

How do we determine the difference between preferences and circumstances? (There are ways and they have everything to do with opt-in, which will be the subject of an upcoming newsletter.)

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