Take good care of content

Way back in 1985, in the infancy of online media, I helped build a kind of web site. I say kind of web site because the internet as we know it had not yet been developed. A colleague and I at British Airways built what we called an electronic brochure in Prestel, the BT videotext system. Like Ceefax and Oracle but far more responsive, we created 7,000 screens, or pages, of information uploaded into this early system.

Much of my contribution was to summarise every air fare charged from the UK to 140 destinations and to describe the features and benefits of the classes of service, eg Economy, Business, First and Concorde. I also published the complete USA Flydrive holiday brochure online and each month changed the Concorde on-board menus. At that time 95% of UK travel agents used Prestel and I seem to recall we achieved some 500,000 page views a month.

Then I obtained another promotion and moved department. Unfortunately, Prestel was ageing even then and was being superseded by more sophisticated computerised travel reservations systems and, ultimately, by the internet.

I suppose one day those 7,000 pages of information were turned off and discarded. They were customised to fit the 40-character x 22-line screens with no photo facilities, primitive graphics and limited colour choices. Compared with the simplicity of technology like WordPress, it could be excruciating work to fit everything on to one screen with no scrolling.

This brings me, after meandering via 140 destinations it seems, to my point that content is invaluable. While learning to use social media services such as Twitter, Facebook and Google+ is important now, how long will we use continue to use these? What will we use in two or five years? How will we maintain our changing online presence, develop our brands, port our important content to new formats, evolve our messages and presentation, and keep it all fresh, compelling and useful?

I’ve often wondered what happened to those 7,000 pages when Prestel’s screens went blank. Did they just fade or float off into the ether?

It’s all change in social media

The Google+ redesign is the latest change to shake up social media users. Some like it, some don’t, but what matters is whether people continue to use Google+ and more people take to it. It’s the same with other social media services.

It’s surprising that many people still don’t take change in their stride. I admit to being able to remember when, in the mid-1980s, some travel agents objected to having their dumb terminal travel reservation systems replaced by PCs. They had become attached to these boxes and didn’t want new boxes to replace them.

Since then we’ve gone from DOS to Windows, seen the Mac OS, Linux and mobile operating systems arrive, flocked online to build html web pages, then abandoned them for content management systems and are now immersing ourselves in social media services.

I’m sure social media won’t be the final development or change we see. Computing and communication change daily: a new feature appears and a familiar one disappears. Changes are not always for the better, but those who make them hope they are. Where these make life easier and are useful, people tend to go along with them; where they make usage impossible, people can respond by abandoning that service.

Do I like the new Google+? I liked the clean design of the previous version, but I’ve just written a workshop on using Google+ and find I am now using it more. For me, it is becoming more usable.

I’m glad that the new version was released before I wrote the workshop, but it has reminded me that the material I’ve written now will soon have to change to reflect future developments. Nothing stays the same.

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