King Content

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Overfed and under-managed.

Back in the day when the word processor ruled the office application suite, before even Prince PowerPoint usurped the show-and-tell crown, knowledge management was a poorly understood practice (without even the merit of capital letters). Perfect-bound user-guides jostled with biblical-sized technical specifications on shelves and sometimes on shared departmental drives (which may or may not have benefited from regular backups).

This was around the time when Bill Gates wrote his now-famous “Content is King ” essay predicting the exponential growth of content on the (relatively) new internet, and the accompanying ascendance of content providers.

“One of the exciting things about the Internet,” enthused the youthless Gates, “is that anyone with a PC and a modem can publish whatever content they can create.”

At times it can seem as if whatever-content has been published by anyone ever since.

“In a sense,” Gates went on, “the Internet is the multimedia equivalent of the photocopier. It allows material to be duplicated at low cost, no matter the size of the audience.”

Copy-paste-edit, copy-paste-edit… That’s the sound of the king getting fat.

While the streams of media content (which was what Gates was really talking about) continue to fire-hose us with ever increasing volumes of news, opinion, and social posturing, so too does the content generated internally within organizations, particularly technically-driven organizations.

Now we have wikis for Knowledge Management (note the caps!). We have Content Management Systems, micro blogging and Instant Messaging, static websites, all-in-one project collab spaces. Sometimes we have more ways to communicate than interesting things to say.

It’s easier now than it has ever been to collaborate, it’s easier to contribute knowledge and share information with work colleagues wherever they are.

In fact there’s now no excuse, besides simple modesty, not to document for your co-workers’ enlightenment, that your morning coffee preference is a quad venti half-caf breve no foam with whip, two splenda, stirred skinny three pump peppermint mocha and 3 short sprinkles of cinnamon. (Try saying all that through a facemask.)

The point is, too much information is just as bad as too little. King Content has become obese, and a flabby king is no use to anyone in the age of agility, lean methods and short sprints.

The royal diet

What is to be done? How do we get the king slimmed-down and agile once again?

As with any diet, ruthless discipline and iron resolve alone are insufficient. Nor will a one-off crash-diet reap the full benefits. We must build good habits if we are to lock in long-term gains. It’s a life-style thing and, for technical content, the main benefit is delivered in the long tail of Technical Content Curation .

But if there’s no miracle diet, no magic algorithm to cut the fat, there are at least a few basic principles which, when observed, will start the cure.


Information cannot flow when it’s spread across local drives, private online repositories, wikis, and chat channels. Important technical content should be in one place, or at least accessible through a single point of entry. This helps not only information seekers but also those who need to contribute and maintain information. Consistency in location, clarity of structure, and a commonality of tools enhance the free flow of written knowledge. It’s worth noting that a dispersed content repository should also raise questions about information security and control.


There’s a tendency to flat storage in wikis and shared drives, as well as with many content management systems. This is often because contributors don’t know where to put the content they create, so they save it in the default folder. A logical hierarchy vigorously defended will clear the problem of the cluttered root directory. Alternative navigation channels using topic relationships and tagging can also help.


Only once you know where everything is and how it should be organized, can pruning begin. Purging technical content is the digital equivalent of the Japanese art of de-cluttering , but without the “spark of joy” requirement, nor the recourse to ritual salts. Gratitude to old documents before disposal is also unnecessary, but you should probably archive content in any case; don’t delete unless there are obvious duplicates.


The aim of curation is to keep the information artifacts relevant and current. It’s an iterative process producing small, regular improvements against the plan.

Plan? There is always a plan, of course, and the Technical Content Strategy is something in the nature of a recipe for the King’s all-you-can-eat salad. But perhaps that’s the subject of another post.