By Mark Lewis | STC Fellow
In the content world, metrics can be used to prove a business case, communicate value, or predict costs and savings. This column explores new thoughts and ideas in the area of metrics and ROI. Please send your ideas, comments, and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dear Content Tribe,
I’d like to take you on a journey about metrics resources and responsibility and ask you to brainstorm with me.
I founded the DITA Metrics group on LinkedIn in 2010. The goal of the group is to provide a vehicle for discussions about metrics, for sharing knowledge and experience. In addition, if I find a good resource on content metrics that is not DITA specific but applicable, I include that resource.
Are resources on metrics important? They are according to the 2017 DITA Satisfaction Survey by Scott Abel. In this survey, two of the top five “Biggest Challenges to DITA Adoption” were related to funding and ROI. Both topics require metrics.
I’ve always thought of LinkedIn as being far more than a “résumé” website. The amount of knowledge that is shared in LinkedIn groups and blogs has always amazed me. But as an active LinkedIn group moderator and participant, I’ve noticed some ongoing challenges:
- Finding information in LinkedIn groups when we need it and finding LinkedIn groups.
- Retaining the vast wealth of knowledge of LinkedIn group. members long after it appears in a group feed.
Let’s dive deeper into these points by using the DITA Metrics group as an example.
Challenge 1: Finding Knowledge in LinkedIn Groups and Finding LinkedIn Groups
I’ve been concerned for a while that knowledge in my LinkedIn group might be difficult to find. This concern surfaced again recently when a member asked the group about “metrics for DITA topic reuse.” My first thought was, I know there are multiple posts on this subject. Oh No! Are those posts hard to find? That was the whole purpose of DITA Metrics group, to share knowledge.
Maybe the member simply tried scrolling and looking at titles. If the member searches for “topic reuse metrics” within the DITA Metrics LinkedIn group, ten posts display in the results. Are these the best posts for “topic reuse metrics”? No, not exactly. I tried this search and did not see one of the relevant posts that I was expecting.
At the bottom of the search results list, I could select the Load more command, and the next ten posts displayed at the bottom of the list. After I selected Load more, I still did not see the relevant post I expected.
Is there a solution? Before we look at possibilities, let’s back up one level—awareness of a LinkedIn group’s existence.
Finding LinkedIn Groups
Does “everyone” know that the DITA Metrics LinkedIn group resource exists? I wonder. It may be hidden within LinkedIn. I’ve posted in the DITA Awareness group to raise awareness about the metrics group. But if you are not a member of the DITA Awareness group, then those posts are probably hidden from you.
If you Google search for “DITA topic reuse metrics,” does the group occur in the results? Not in the first few pages of search results. And there’s no result with the title “DITA Metrics LinkedIn Group.”
Keith Schengili-Roberts maintains a popular DITA resource at DITAWriter.com. His site mentions the group as a resource, in the prominent blog roll on the home page. Thank you, Keith. But in the DITA Awareness LinkedIn group, only one in ten members are also members of the DITA Metrics group. Is the lower membership because people don’t realize the importance of content metrics, or is it because people don’t know that the DITA Metrics group even exists?
So, how can we make it easier to find the DITA Metrics group? Here are some things I can do:
- Post again in the DITA Awareness group about the existence of the metrics group. It’s been a while. I try not to spam.
- Add keywords to the group description: “content metrics,” “XML metrics,” and “business case.” I don’t know how the LinkedIn search feature works, so I’m not sure if this will help.
- Create a Web page outside of LinkedIn that’s easy to find when someone searches for metrics-related resources for DITA. To do this, I would give the page a title, such as “DITA Metrics LinkedIn Group,” that stands out in search results. Even if you don’t follow the link in the results, you will see the title and know that the group exists.
I know these are simple and small things, but I feel a responsibility to make this resource as findable as possible. Hopefully these will make a big difference in findability.
Should we do this for other LinkedIn groups to raise awareness?
Handling Clutter in LinkedIn Groups
Now that we have some solutions to make the DITA Metrics group findable, let’s return to the content/knowledge within the group and another issue that can occur within a LinkedIn group or similar forum: clutter. When I say, “clutter,” I mean non-metrics related postings.
This group is metrics specific. I’ve stated that as the purpose of the group and reminded members in a recent post to that effect. When someone adds a post that is about DITA, but not metrics related, I encourage them to add their post to the DITA Awareness LinkedIn group. Then I delete their post. If someone adds a non-metrics post, I delete their post. I do this to maximize the findability of the valuable knowledge posts within the metrics group. This applies whether members are simply scrolling the list of posts or are using the search feature.
Another form of clutter is obsolete posts. For example, if someone posts about a relevant webinar, and after the webinar there are no recordings or slides that can be added as a link in a comment, then I delete their post. Otherwise, I keep the post.
Some posts grow old. But does that mean they’re no longer relevant? I don’t know, so I’ll keep them until I know for sure. I mention this because one member assumed that any posts more than seven years old must not be relevant. Please don’t make this assumption. Some of these posts are about core DITA 1.1 features that are still relevant or are about methodologies developed years ago that are still relevant.
Delete the clutter. If you are the owner of a group or forum, you have a responsibility to your community to “maintain” that resource. Your community is depending on you. That’s my opinion. Thoughts?
Improving Findability without Keywords
So now, we’re back to searching and finding the content/knowledge within the DITA Metrics group. Recall that in the earlier search example for “topic reuse metrics,” I discovered that the findability of a given topic within a group is low. As a group owner, I can’t add keywords to someone else’s post.
Does this mean that I need to create a website that exists outside of a LinkedIn group and provides an index? This website could be a type of eBook with a table of contents, index, and search to maximize our ability to find a post within the DITA Metrics LinkedIn group. Several thought leaders that I asked agreed that this may be the solution. Thoughts?
Challenge 2: Retaining Knowledge in LinkedIn Groups
Some LinkedIn posts are self-contained and include all the pertinent knowledge directly in the post. However, most of the posts are “teaser” posts that describe valuable content and then provide a link to the source that is stored external to LinkedIn. The external content may be in the form of a PDF, webinar recording, blog, or other Web page. The problem is that over time, some of the external content has been moved or removed, the links from the group posts are broken, and the knowledge may be effectively lost.
To ensure this valuable information isn’t gone forever, I will contact the owners of the lost knowledge and request an updated link or find the moved content myself. I will also ask for permission to host a copy of the content on my website and add that content to the index.
You might wonder, why is Mark writing about this topic in a Metrics column? Because I HATE LOSING KNOWLEDGE. Members of our Content Tribe have worked very hard to create valuable knowledge. And other members benefit from this knowledge. We are a community.
Compared to other content topics, there are relatively few resources on metrics. Yes, there are metrics in several books, such as:
- Enterprise Content Strategy: A Project Guide by Kevin Nichols
- Content Audits and Inventories: A Handbook by Paula Land
- DITA Metrics 101: The Business Case for XML and Intelligent Content by Mark Lewis
But there are few digital articles on metrics. I created the DITA Metrics LinkedIn group to provide a vehicle for sharing metrics knowledge. To ensure the findability and preservation of metrics knowledge, I will commit to creating and maintaining a metrics website.
If you are the owner of metrics knowledge, I ask your permission to host a copy of that knowledge on the metrics website. If that is not possible, then I ask that you notify me if you move your content so that I can update my index.
By the time this article is published, I will have created, at a minimum, a Web page containing a list of links (repaired) to all the metrics knowledge in the DITA Metrics LinkedIn group. See DITAMetrics.com.
But I am open to suggestions. Is there a better way to help members find valuable knowledge and store knowledge? Please send me your ideas.
We are a community. We need to share knowledge to thrive. So, as I often end my blogs and articles…
Share. Learn. Grow.
Sincerely, Mark Lewis
Thanks to the following tribe members for brainstorming with me on this topic: Joe Gollner, Val Swisher, Sarah O’Keefe, and Cheryl Landes.
“Measuring the Value of Content” is the theme of the September issue of Intercom. I am the guest editor for that issue, and I have begun designing the list of topics that I think should be covered. I want to make sure we cover the topics that you are interested in, so please email me your requests at email@example.com.