What I Learned at Info Camp

Word cloud of session descriptions for InfoCamp: Information, Design, Research, User, IA, etc...Last weekend, I attended InfoCamp, a community-organized “unconference” for people excited about information and how we manage and consume it.  This was its 4th year in Seattle, and I must say, it blew me away.

At first, I was pretty skeptical of the whole “unconference” idea.  There weren’t any predefined topics or sessions other than the keynote and plenary speakers and all the breakout sessions were run by conference participants.  I thought this meant the breakout sessions would be poorly prepared, and thus I wouldn’t like them.  As it turned out, there was a pretty good mix of highly polished presentations and more spontaneous ones.  The polished ones were good, and the spontaneous ones seemed to morph into enjoyable and informative Q&A sessions.

Overall InfoCamp gets an A in my book and I’m certainly going back next year.  And who knows, maybe I’ll even volunteer to run a session myself.  Without further ado, here’s a quick synopsis of the sessions I attended.

Content Management Strategy – More than just words

Vanessa Casavant gave a interesting & entertaining talk about how content management strategy fits into an organization.  The answer seemed to be right in the middle.  She explained that the role of a content strategist is to ensure that information & features being published by an organization have a clear alignment with the organization’s mission, and that they aren’t sending mixed signals about the organization to the end consumer of that information.

My key take aways were that content on the site needs to be in alignment with an organization’s strategy and that messaging should be consistent across the board, rather than a haphazard spray of content all over the organization’s website.

DAM Systems for Creative Agencies

Tracy Guza gave an overview of how creative agencies (mostly advertising firms) can employ Digital Asset Management (DAM) systems to manage their pictures.  This included file storage, searchability, meta data, and the whole nine yards.

I was particularly interested in this session because I work for a large stock photography company, and I wanted to learn more about how creative agencies use and manage the images they buy from us.  It was enlightening to learn some of the challenges facing a firm that manages 50,000 images, which are very different than the challenges my company faces in managing 14 million images.

Economics of Online Advertising

Jeff Huang led a discussion on how the economics of search advertising work.  This included the auction and fraud prevention.   Much of this was old hash to me, but it was interesting to get questions answered by an expert who has worked at all three of the big search engine companies.

Priority Inbox

Ario Jafarzadeh, one of Google’s designers on Gmail gave a talk about the design process behind Priority Inbox and all the iterations they went through to get to the current design.  It was pretty interesting to hear him describe all the decisions they made from what type of icons to use to whether they should use a video or a written document to explain it to users (turns out, they decided to make one of each).

This session was like manna falling from the sky.  I wrote a post about two weeks ago describing how much I liked priority inbox and speculating as to why it had taken so long for someone to do this.  I got my question answered, or least got his answer to it.  He explained that email is so personal that email providers have to get this sort of thing exactly right or else they’re going to upset their users pretty badly.  Apparently the machine learning (AI) behind this was so complicated that it took Google until now to build it. While I’m sure that’s true, I still think part of the answer is that nobody thought of doing that for email, or at least that nobody was willing to invest the time and money to make it happen until now.

If you’re interested in the keynote and plenary speaches, which were both good, you can find out more here.

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