I’m in a slower period right now, so I’ve been digging deeper into my always-growing, rarely-addressed techcomm book wishlist on Amazon. The first one that I tackled was Rick Yagodich’s Author Experience: Bridging the gap between people and technology in content management. I admit that I purchased this book more out of curiosity than anything else: it was highly rated, and I wasn’t sure entirely what it would be about. Sold American!

But, even the short introduction from Noz Urbina had me intrigued:

If your strategy in the content world is “Just do the basics and plug the worst leaks,” you’ll quickly find yourself neck deep in issues. The market’s evolving too fast for a keep-up strategy.

Yes! Yes. Too often I find myself fighting this particular battle, especially when Agile development encourages teams to plug-the-holes-and-move-on.

So many parts of this book resonated with me — the points made about how the quality of author experience relates to the quality of content, for example. I’d say that a good 90% of the book is applicable, really, to software in general. It’s a good read for any writer working in software development, because so much software, really, is content management software in some form or another. In an age where everyone is a content creator, making a good author experience is making a good user experience.

However, attempting to put these theories in practice, one realizes that these are problems that only a content manager (not a writer) can solve. (I find it interesting that this theme recurs so often in techcomm topics. Mark Baker’s recent blog post and some of his comments over at Tom Johnson’s blog, do far more to describe this issue elegantly than I will here.) I can’t help but wonder how much good it really does to delve too deeply into these topics as a writer? Seeing the myriad problems in a CMS without the power or ability to change them seems like a sure path to frustration, and not much else. How ironic that the author (writer) themselves might be seen as powerless in the field of author experience.

Understanding the thought processes behind a good author experience, though, can be helpful to get out of the box:

If you are trying to solve a content problem and the CMS forces you to think in a way that does not make sense to you, you cannot be productive. 

— Author Experience, p. 14

Sometimes it’s worth it to step back, realize that your writing problems are really CMS problems, and figure out how you would do it without the CMS’s constraints. You might not be able to solve all of the problems, but it might lend a fresh viewpoint that helps in finding a workaround.