The other week, we were approached with shuttling some of our content to a mobilized service. That service would basically take the RSS feed and then do some optimizations in order to make it work best for its platform.Well, we’ve got a lot of content here, and one of the items that came back to us was that we’ve got a lot of content and it makes it hard for them to figure out the best way to present our content. That’s a problem, but also speaks to the nature of the content here at MMM, and some of what has been happening behind the scenes to make the experience of reading the most relevant content more possible.
Developing The Firehose
Back when MMM got started online (April 2005), we had a model that was basically a copy of many of the high-traffic websites of the time: publish, publish, publish. I can remember at one point putting up 5-6 pieces a day, and many times unique pieces. For those not knowing what MMM was (amazing how folks stumbled upon us via a simple search), this wasn’t a bad thing. But over time, that got to be a bit much. We went to a single-post-a-day schedule many years back, and for the most part have been able to keep a consistent and constant stream of content flowing.
With that change in frequency came a change in the type of writing. I noticed from the analytics that the longer posts that we made had people stick around a bit longer. And not just to read that post, but they were most likely to go visit someplace else on the site. I shifted into making long-form content, best suited for contemplative reading – rather than quick skimming (other tech sites went this route) – but not to the length of what would be found on many theological sites (dissertations I tell ya). That change was also good for consistency, but a pain in the butt for organization.
The Battle to Organize Content
The move to WordPress from Blogger presented a chance to address some issues in terms of how content was organized on the site. At the time of that move, there were almost 3000 posts published and not quite a half of them were tagged/categorized. Google moved Blogger to a tagging system in the midst of our writing, and – well, its a lot of work to go back and retag content. I did a retaxionomy of the content based around some tighter editorial needs in that move to WordPress, and for the most part, its served us well.
What you might not have noticed is that some of those old posts from Blogger (see, http://archived.mobileministrymagazine.com) have been slowly making their way into WordPress. Unfortunately, the amount of content and structure of content wouldn’t import into WordPress, so each post has to be individually added to WordPress, retagged, and then categorized. That’s just something that will continue to take a while. In the meantime, there’s new content being produced that meets the current organizational schemes, in that long-form method, that’s usually quite unique, and generally posted on a consistent basis.
See the fun?
Steps of Manage the Firehose
Now, you would think that with some background in content management and information architecture that we probably shouldn’t be in this situation – but the fact of the matter is that MMM has changed over the years, as has its audience, as has the content. There are some streams of content not as often posted here anymore (direct software and hardware reviews), and there are others which tend to get much more the light of day (processes and UX matters). Where the content here becomes usable for you is in two offerings – based on the detail of the types of categorizing that happens here:
Search is probably the most important (and most used) functional feature of this resource. Mainly because it is able to not only deal with the content that we’ve organized, but also dig a bit more into what we haven’t organized (thanks Google and WordPress). One of the pieces that is (unfortunately) missing from our mobile website is a suitable search interface (this is present on the alternate mobile website however). Not sure how and when that could be addressed on the mobile site, but its clear – at least from those of you who come here via Internet Explorer/Firefox/Safari that its a needed feature in terms of getting around.
RSS is the quieter feature used to manage the amount of content here. The way its used is actually a crafty by-product of the tags and categorization system present within WordPress. Every category and every tag points to a page that has its own RSS feed. This means, if you are looking at a subject area (perhaps Mobile in Missions/Evangelism for example) and you want to just get the updates for that stream of content only as it is published here, then all you need to do is either click on the RSS (orange colored) button in your URL bar, or take the URL for that page (http://mobileministrymagazine.com/tag/mobile-in-missionsevangelism/) and just add “feed/” to the end of the address and you have just the data stream for that page. Nearly every page has that functionality built in – and I’ve just not done a great job in talking about it.
The Missteps in that Firehose
The problem with things comes on some of our static pages (Bible apps, Case Studies, etc.) of which there is a listing of content, but those items are merely just a listing. There wasn’t a design to that set of data other than just putting it out there, making sure it linked to the right places, and sat under the correct subheading. That’s now biting MMM in the butt. Especially with the Case Studies/Resources page, there’s just an increasingly deep listing of content, and outside of searching on the page (click F3 on your keyboard if you are on a laptop and you can search within any single webpage), you just will have a hard time of finding what you are looking for.
WordPress is a decent content management system. However, making it work for this application (a multi-contextual listing of resources) would be stretching it a bit – even with extensions. The goal for each page is to be available, but to also be easy to manage. Until recently, that’s not been a problem. The query from the mobile services provider poked at that crack in the wall and we’ve got to figure something to do around it.
One of the solutions is to republish every resource and link on those static pages as a posting with their own set of categories/tags, and then build a custom page that would be able to contain those items. For those reading the blog, that’s going to be a lot of content coming through – and while some might be good to see, there are a lot of links to republish there. Another solution is to use the Links feature within WordPress, and then create a series of custom pages that would display those links as organized. Some of the work to do that has been started (in the background), but I’m still not sure what the final result will look like – though it will be a breeze to manage.
How You Can Help
As you can see, we are indeed aware of the amount and level of content that’s published here. Contrary to some opinions, we are quite focused as to what gets published and how it stays relevant to the overall purpose of this magazine. What we don’t know is how you engage the content here? That kind of information would help us better address what comes out of this hose, and how to continue to make sure what comes out is valuable. With that said, a few questions:
- Do you use a mobile app to view MMM? If so, which app(s) and why?
- Do you use an RSS reader to view MMM (which, why)?
- Do you use either the normal or alternate mobile websites?
- Do you use the email subscription via Feedburner to read content? If so, how do you archive, organize, resource those emails?
Thanks for your feedback on this. And if you have other ideas on how we can better manage the amount of content that comes here, do feel free to chime in via an article comment, the contact form, or Twitter (@mobileminmag)