I have gone back to basics here and just tried to record my thinking process with the idea of maximising on content and its production.
I am still trying to figure out the best way of maximising content. Maximising its production, usefulness, reuse and value. Now it looks like there is a lot out there in reusing content and I have seen plenty of articles and videos that go into this but only in a superficial way. I really want to get to the bottom of this question and apply it. I suppose it comes from many years of doing things the wrong way that make me really keen on tackling the issues, I have spent way to long on the creation of the content and often end up with many original ideas never being completed.
My goal for this project is to find a way of producing content quickly, easily and consistently even during those moments when I am researching a subject. The time I have spent on research as opposed to producing content is always haunting me. How do you create something even when you are learning but maintain usefulness?
Content Reuse thoughts
Thinking about reusing content I think of the original piece as a jumble of concepts that have been placed in a syntactical order. I can easily reorder and spin this content in different ways and still maintain the concepts written but it doesn’t necessarily add any quality or usefulness to the articles that have been output.
One primary idea I see in many blogs and I guess especially in the article marketing area is the use of templates. This enables structure to be created that can be reused to cover many ideas and these range from the most simple, introduction – detail – summary to a vast proliferation of templates. Though this sounds useful, in that it helps you rapidly create content that meets a word count very quickly the work needed on working on the templates has to be done up front. I suppose you could go round quickly and make a list of the most popular articles and attempt to create templates from them but the variations here will be quite vast. Many writers have different styles and ways of putting information over and although this might be useful in examining the styles that apparently work, it is nonetheless a major task.
I have seen many simple structures created by the rapid article manufacturers but they do seem to be a little simplistic and reading the end results I feel makes them boring. The positive side however is that structured articles, although less interesting, are easily read by a greater audience because of their simplicity.
This makes me wonder about the exact difference between rewriting and article and writing an article from scratch. What addition tasks are needed? Coming back to concepts, it is the information gained in the written article, the concepts it holds that is simply spun in a different way, whereas research or writing a new article means the addition of new thought or data.
From a high level view this can be thought of having a database of facts driving a set number of relationships which are then presented, through style or template to a written piece of content.
The more I think about this the more I love the idea of having a database of facts that are spun through a set of template relationship ideas to present the information in a certain way. In a real basic way I am thinking of a simple example, like the weights of widgets in the database of facts having a relationship compared template that would come out with the text that the X widget is the heaviest of its kind, or widget Y is of average weight, or more informatively if used with thought out relationships , the weight of widget Z is a little heavy for widget usage. But now with this I am entering into automatically generated content.
In trying to look deeper into the structures that are used by many articles that I see on the web I am becoming more and more frustrated by how much superficial and unnecessary content actually gets produced in an article. Many times the sentence structures are way too complicated and do not communicate the idea being presented efficiently at all. Is this author style? Is it just conversational? Often I feel it is unnecessary weight. Though looking back over my own work I can see I fall victim to the very same problem. It seems we do this when we write naturally.
When I think about the process involved in writing I am reminded of the unstructured nature of thinking and the process of putting thoughts into sentences. It is like a form of ‘pin the tail on the donkey’ where one thought which has followed a number of others needs actually to be pinned in the right place. However, this isn’t how we write is it. We write in a serial fashion where one thought must follow another in a reasonably logical fashion. This isn’t how the mind works though. Well, this isn’t how my mind works anyway.
In the process of thinking through an idea then we have this lovely unstructured form that takes place, where a suggestion gets fired off in one area of the topic and then a new suggestion in another, together with the unrelated jumble that make up the wallpaper of the mind – the stuff, the connections that get fired off all over the place driven by events of the day, subconscious thoughts, memories of events, music that doesn’t want to vacate the wallpaper and many other causes.
At this moment I am drawn to thinking about mindmaps and how useful they are in connecting these thoughts together in a beautifully constructed and sensible whole. However, again, although they may be closer to how the mind works they do have a major fault. They do assume that this structure is visible to you at the time of the thought occurring. How often have I been in a rush to put loads of ideas and concepts floating around in my mind into a mindmap and had to falter at the very step of where to put the thought. Quite often I do not know where exactly on the map I should place them, after all they didn’t arrive in my mind with an address. This process will often destroy the line of thought by making me stop and think of where I should exactly put them.
So how should this whole process occur? I feel that if I could answer this question adequately I can somehow resolve the issue of how to write ‘useful’ content as I am thinking it. The alternative is this … a long rambling of prose that somehow needs to get placed into a lovely structured mindmap with all the missing elements and connections worked out. As it is the result of this process here is probably unbearably impossible for anyone but myself to work through and even for me later it would be quite a chore. So I have in one instance used a way of creating content as I think about a subject, but in no way made it useful, readable or of use to anyone but myself…
Now I have become interested in alternatives to just writing and mindmaps. I am intrigued to see if anyone out there has come up with any useful alternatives.
Well I find there is something called Rico clusters. At first glance it seems like an unstructured precursor to mindmapping that lets you free form ideas. Then when you are happy you have placed the words that have occurred to you go through a phase of removing the irrelevant and structuring them. I like Dustin Wax’s angle on this method and agree with some of the conclusions he has made. It seems this idea needs an app to drive it with drawing all the connections or just simply and being rather retro use pencil and paper to use it. I am uncomfortable with this as it adds a number of steps I would need to actually produce something. I will give it a go though…
I created one quickly and one fault with having a pencil and paper is space. You do not know how much space you should allocate to an idea when you first produce it and you may quickly run out of places to put things. Also relationships may start appearing that make you final drawing a spiders web of connections.
Thinking about it this is probably just a graphical extension of my ramblings here… just squeezed into a word.
I know Tony Buzan likes the word to appear in his mindmaps – don’t go placing sentences there. This apparently allows the map to be more conceptual allowing you to explore the relationships more. The Rico Cluster looks like it has the same premise. One which I still feel doesn’t work for me when I want to write a line of text to explain my thought and not leave it imprecise or organic as just a word. After all I know what I was thinking when I created it and may not wish to explore all of the relationships that might occur when looking at the connection of two words. Thoughts are not words, well not all of the time. We do not hold a precise vocabulary in the mind that can be translated directly into a word – there are so many concepts in there that are not represented in this way. Can we one day work on a more structured language that would suit us all – I know English is painful to both learn and use. Though in that pain comes beauty I know…
Idea mapping looks like a free form association exercise that looks like an organically styled mindmap. I was unsure of any benefit with this method at all other than having a colourful image that might be useful for remembering your map. Something I know which Tony Buzan already states as useful in his mindmaps, if you follow it closely enough. Maybe I missed the point there but I didn’t see anything new in this idea at all.
To be continued…