Thursday, June 30, 2011

Deepening Context and Content (cont)

For instance, here is an application I've talked about before, which one day I would like to build, what I have called a Content Engagement System, though I don't know if I really like this terminology. As with a standard CMS platform, a logged in user would be able to create a textual context, with associated images, video, documents... Within this textual context (which I will start referring to simply as 'context' since this translates roughly as 'with text', right?), another user can identify a phrase, and rather than linking out, the way a standard hyperlink works, link in. Sounds kind of odd, but this is essentially like adding a comment, except the comment is associated back to a phrase within the original context. In HTML terms, this is similar to a link to an anchor within the same page, and in a textbook we would identify this as a footnote.

Okay so far. A blogger posts something, which is then considered canonical, after which anyone else can add footnotes, and these offer an alternative view. A use case then: say I am writing a novel, which is serialized in weekly installments. The math is something like, 1000 words/week = 52,000 words/year, which then gets bundled up into EPUB or PDF and flogged off on Kindle, Smashwords or whatever. The idea is to create demand through serialization, then capitalize on the demand with the actual content.

But, and here's the thing. I want to engage my audience. And but, I want to entertain my audience. And but, a vocal minority within this audience typically demands something edgier; or racier; or, well, smuttier. Which, for the purposes of illustration, let's assume is not really my style. So what I want to provide is the canonical safe version of my novel, and a mechanism, a backstage, which allows the audience created by the canonical story to add (share) their own non-canonical additions to the story, which can then be linked to from within the canonical context as an alternative or supplement. This is similar to a literary parallax (events viewed from multiple vantage points).

More on this at some point. This is an idea I really want to pursue... but it is hard to articulate, so bear with me.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Deeper Context and Content

I've posted several times now about what I consider the differences between context and content, and why the word "content" kind of annoys me. It's okay, I don't mind being annoyed, and in the right context, content is fine. What I find annoying is that the two terms augment each other, but, so often, one is used when the other is more appropriate. For instance, if I have a web page that you can use to download a PDF of an article I have written, and this web page contains an excerpt of the article - the PDF is the content. Everything on the page, as far as I am concerned, is the context for your act of downloading. Of course, this is important if I am concerned about monetizing, since I have no problem with requiring a specific digital signature or some sort of payment; and I feel that everything else, the context, is like a smile. Why not give this away?

It's quite simple really. People require, create, digest and absorb context. But people like stuff. They like content, because it is something they can grasp onto, whether it's a PDF, an MP3, JPEG, AVI. Something "file-ish." The reason I bring this up, I suppose, is because, well, these things are easy. You can set up a microphone, you can use Prince, DocBook or FOP to turn your words into something more portable in a document format... then you can shade down your context a bit, broaden it, focus attention on the page content. Everything else is really just part of the transmission wrapper. The rest is just part of the vector.

I mean really, is a platform like Blogger or Wordpress actually a Content Management System? No, at best, these are discontent platforms. They separate us from content by masquerading context as content. It's not a bad thing, but I feel it's something we need to move past. You take good pictures, make a commodity out of your pictures. You tell good stories, make a commodity out of your stories. Allow people to focus through the context.