whitelisting web content

The true cost of content: New Thinking: Gerry McGovern: In an age of information overload, content management must be more concerned with what you don't publish. It is easy to put everything you have up. It is easy to take a print document and save it as a PDF. But that's not management, and those who take that approach have no future as content managers.

This is a concept we're pushing hard at work at the moment - don't publish something just because you have it. I think the problem stems from peoples' enduring misconception that websites don't cost anything. Unlike print, there's no obvious cost associated with throwing another page online; so people don't give as much thought to publishing more web content.

Publishing everything also tends to indicate that the website doesn't have a set of clear objectives (ie. business goals). Defining your goals should be Step One for a web publishing project, but frequently it's not done at all. People tend to skip straight to discussing what the page will look like; or what technology will be used; or what content they currently have online - making the assumption that it should all stay.

We need to take a whitelist approach to web content. Instead of saying 'yes' to every bit of content, we should start out by saying 'no' to everything then add specific items which fulfil some kind of need. That could be a hard-nosed business need or just 'interesting to the readers' depending on your page; but the principle works pretty much across the board.

Even personal pages can benefit from the odd reality check. Publishers often feel pressure to keep posting or you'll lose all your readers. Thankfully this isn't quite so true anymore thanks to syndication. As Jeff Veen notes, I can maintain a healthy audience by simply turning bold in their aggregator once in a while. (The Rhythm of Blogging, by Jeffrey Veen).

I guess it's true... more is not better, more is just more.

Labels: ,


  1. Anonymous Cam, May 17, 2006 10:13 a.m.: 

    Interestig idea, and something that we're grappling with at work at the moment as well. I completely agree that just because you have stuff, doesn't mean that you should publish it.

    I'm not so sure of the 'no' approach, although I see the reasoning behind it. One of the things we've been trying to cultivate is the idea that the web is a low-cost, low barrier medium, but at the same time trying to educate people on what is appropriate to put online.

  2. Blogger 200ok, May 25, 2006 11:53 p.m.: 

    @cam - I think the mistake was when people thought NO cost, instead of LOW cost.

    The 'say no' thing isn't so much a draconian approach as a methodology base. Start with nothing and add in the essentials, rather than starting with the whole catastrophe and trying to work out what you can part with.

    Just a way to encourage clarity and brevity.