What is content?

Robert Mills

Today I was asked the question, what do you mean by content?

The conversation that led to that question involved me talking to my pal Ed about an event where all things content related are discussed and shared (more on that soon!).

That chat was several hours ago as I sit here and type this post. The reason I felt compelled to blog is because that question stopped me in my tracks. I actually struggled to answer it without pausing and contemplating.

In my head I knew what content...

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Tone of Voice Continuum

Robert Mills

When I did a talk on tone of voice at Revolution Conf last year, I spent a little time talking about using a continuum. This was in relation to going through the process of defining your own tone of voice and the tools and activities that can help with this.

A continuum is defined by Oxford Dictionaries as:

A continuous sequence in which adjacent elements are not perceptibly different from each other, but the extremes are quite distinct.

With a continuum in relation to tone of voice, you have two opposites at...

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Tone of Voice Guidelines

Robert Mills

Last week I was talking about tone of voice guidelines with someone doing research into how companies communicate. I referenced a few examples and thought it might be of interest if I share those here. It’s a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine to read tone of voice guidelines because they give a good insight into how others talk and this can be interesting, especially if you have engaged with that brand. Do their guidelines match your own experience of that brand, for example.

It would also be insightful...

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Community Journalism – Week 5

Robert Mills

The fifth week of the community journalism course was also the final one. It offered a good round up of the previous weeks and plenty of practical advice for those who want to jump straight into getting their hyperlocal/community site up and running.

At the start of this week’s course material we looked at how we could judge the success of a hyperlocal site. Measures of success we have been thinking about a lot at Bluegg recently, in relation to client websites and how we can evaluate the...

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Community Journalism – Week 4

Robert Mills

Week 4 of 5 was full of practical info for people to get started setting up a community site using WordPress. This is stuff I have previously been involved in when working with clients at Bluegg and when working on my own blog so the most interesting part for me this week was the audience focused information.

It started with an overview and discussion about the importance of mobile and tablet usage in relation to content. Figures from the Reuters Institute Digital News Report in 2013 show that...

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Typewriter Posters

Robert Mills

Whilst looking for another typewriter to adopt, I stumbled across some rather lovely old posters advertising typewriters when they were a staple of many a business or home. Here are some of my favourites, all for the Olivetti brand who seem to have been pretty good at promoting their products in a beautiful and artistic way.

 

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Community Journalism – Week 3

Robert Mills

I was looking forward to getting stuck into week three of the course as the summary mentioned that we’d be looking at the essentials of a good story.

The start of the week’s content included a video of Alun Edmunds, Editor in Chief at Media Wales. Edmunds talked about the incredible ability to break news on the web and the new opportunities to engage with an audience in a two way conversation. He also delved into the audience to Media Wales’ online content. They have two million unique...

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Community Journalism – Week 2

Robert Mills

Another great week of content and discussion from the Community Journalism course. Here’s a summary of the bits I found most interesting, useful and thought provoking.

A Director from Ofcom stated that 90% of people in the UK access local news on a regular basis. The most popular method for this is as expected, television. A third of people access local news via the web and this continues to increase. Not exactly surprising stats there but good to reaffirm what we already know.

The video that outlined these stats went on...

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Community Journalism – Week 1

Robert Mills

Last week I started a free, online, five week course with FutureLearn on Community Journalism. The course has been put together by Cardiff University, the very place where I graduated in 2003 with a degree in Journalism, Film and Broadcasting.

I’d been wanting to study something related to my degree but would also be relevant to the day job. This was the perfect opportunity, distance learning I could complete at leisure. Rather than make notes that are lost over time and lose context, I...

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Letters of Note

Robert Mills

Last week I arrived home to a rather heavy and large parcel. I knew what it was and proceeded to conduct an un-boxing ceremony that the Apple devotees I work with would have been proud of.  It was the gorgeous book from Letters of Note.

Here’s a summary from the inside cover:

That summary of content should be enough to convince you just how incredible this book is, but it doesn’t end there. I’ll write about...

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Examples of Storytelling on the Web – Part 2

Robert Mills

A while back I published a post to share some digital storytelling examples. A few more have been brought to my attention since then so here is part 2.

New York Times – The Russia Left Behind

Google’s The Story of Send

Interactive Resume of Robby Leonard

The...

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My Story of Inside the Story

Robert Mills

Inside the Story Magazine is ‘about designing and building better stories in a digital world.’ There have been four issues and the content so far has been intelligent, inspiring, helpful and presented in a beautiful way. You can find out more about why the magazine started and its purpose over on the Inside the Story site.

I had been following Adam Westbrook on Twitter for a while, interested in the content he shared on storytelling and as publisher of the magazine I knew...

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Screenwriting Gems: The Shawshank Redemption

Robert Mills

I’m currently spending a lot of my spare time reading, listening and watching anything related to screenwriting, storytelling and narrative. This is for a personal project I have resurrected (more on that one day soon. Maybe). So on my commute this morning I listened to an episode of The Story Maps Screenwriting Podcast.

Here the two presenters discuss and dissect the narrative of a well known film and I chose to listen to their analysis of The Shawshank Redemption. I’ve always loved...

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Story Cubes

Robert Mills

I have a very on/off relationship with writing even though I love it. The thought of sitting down to write something results in procrastination. If I have to write something then my house is spotlessly clean. The correlation between the two is no coincidence. When I do finally sit down to write, usually because my deadline is by now looming, I enjoy every second and tell myself that next time I will get straight into it and not faff about. Then the cycle continues.

In my quest to find out...

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Revolution Conf: Talk Summary

Robert Mills

This post is a summary of a talk I gave at Revolution Conf in Shrewsbury on September 27th. I’ve tried to link to as many examples as possible and have included some of my slides where appropriate. This post is mainly for those who were at the event as the slides/content will lose some relevance out of context but if you weren’t there, I hope it’s still interesting and useful.

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After discussing my two caveats and introducing myself, I started with an example....

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Understand Your Audience

Robert Mills

Before I entered the design world I was an Audience Research Executive at BBC Wales. This gave me a valuable grounding in the importance of audiences, research and having data to support any decisions you make. It also taught me that there’s a big difference between knowing your audience and understanding your audience.

Knowing is associated with top level data such as having 23,000 unique visitors a month to a site. Understanding your audience is about finding out as much as possible about the people behind the numbers including...

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Dylan Thomas Boathouse

Robert Mills

This weekend I made the short journey to Laugharne in Carmarthenshire. It’s a pretty little town on the estuary of the River Taf known mainly because Welsh poet and playwright, Dylan Thomas, lived here between 1949 and 1953.

From the car park at the foot of the castle there is a short walk to the steps that take you to the house. It’s only a five minute walk but already the views across the estuary are inspirational.

After we climbed the steps it was another couple of minutes...

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Digest

Robert Mills

I’m lucky that as well as exciting projects in my day job at Bluegg I also get to work on some pretty incredible things as a freelancer. This post is about one of those freelance projects.

My pals Keir and Elliot were kind enough to ask me to be part of Digest and next week we get to share it with everyone. I have worked with the guys on some other things relating to Insites the Book...

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Content & Context

Robert Mills

I had an email today that made me smile and also think about content and context. Last week I ordered a Domino’s pizza online and had it delivered to my house. Earlier they emailed me this:

Hi there,

We hope you enjoyed your order and that there wasn’t too much squabbling over the last slice.

Next time you order from us online be sure to click on our Meal Deal Wizard button to conjure you up the very best of deals we have on offer. Just pick what you fancy, click the...

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Colour and Storytelling in Films

Robert Mills

Colour can have political, religious and cultural connotations, represent gender and as believed by Kandisnky,  have emotional and physical effects on us. Colour can also improve our memory, influence buying decisions, indicate meaning and tell stories.  It’s that very last one that interests me most.

In this post I want to focus on the use of colour as a storytelling device in films.

My inspiration for this post came when I recently watched Oz the Great and Powerful. This film was released earlier this year and IMDB sums...

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The Fourth Wall

Robert Mills

The fourth wall is a term that I became familiar with early on in my media studies and is one of my favourites. Traditionally, it refers to the imaginary fourth wall at the front of a theatre stage, where there is of course a back wall and two side walls. The first known use of this term is in 1807 so it’s hardly a new concept. Actors are not meant to cross this boundary and acknowledge that there are people beyond the wall, the audience.

Breaking the fourth wall is...

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Star Wars & Fairy Tales

Robert Mills

I recently stumbled across an old media studies essay I wrote when I was 16. It’s a bit cringeworthy to read it back now I’m 31 but I have decided to preserve it on my blog so you can read the essay in full below, if you so wish. I haven’t edited it or corrected any mistakes. Although I am slightly annoyed with my 16 year old self for the quality of the essay, it was my first steps into discussing the media and I was reminded that...

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Narrative & Story

Robert Mills

Storytelling and the web is a topic I like to talk and write about, mainly because a lot of  theory and discussion about storytelling is concerned with more traditional media like books and films. We can apply this knowledge to the web and the result will be more engaging and targeted stories for our users. I’ve recently worked on some digital storytelling projects where we have a story and have had to design the story and construct the narrative. It has reminded me of some confusion around these two...

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My New Blog

Robert Mills

If you’re reading this, then you are looking at my new site. I’m so excited to be able to share it with you and wanted to write a quick post to thank the man who made it happen, the very talented Chris Allwood.

I decided a few months back that I wanted a new site. There was nothing wrong with the old one as such, it did the job and was exactly what I wanted at the time it was designed and launched. That said, I found...

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Tone of Voice: Natural Trust

Robert Mills

I love a well written sign, especially when the tone is perfect for the brand/service. I have previously blogged about tone of voice at the Eden Project and Darkened Rooms but this new example from the Natural Trust is even better.

Taking the traditional warning signs of keep off the grass and the like, these signs at National Trust properties are fun, informal and a great way to make visitors think twice.

It’s also a genius marketing trick, whether it was meant to be or not, because these signs have been...

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Speaking & Me

Robert Mills

It was January 2012, at the New Adventures in Web Design conference in Nottingham, when I first mentioned to people that I was seriously thinking about public speaking. I had alluded to this prior to then but it was starting to seem nothing more than crying wolf as I never followed through by actually doing it.

I had spent the few years before working hard to contribute to an industry I loved. My network slowly expanded, I pitched article ideas, had some rejections (still do) but I was also...

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(R)evolution Conf

Robert Mills

I’m really proud to be part of a stellar line up at (R)evolution Conference in September this year. Held in beautiful Shropshire, I’m one of 8 speakers and I’m just as excited to see the others speak as I am to be speaking myself. Organised by the Shropgeek team, the conference look set to be a full day of learning, fun and inspiration with the likes of Jonathan Snook and Elliot Jay Stocks taking to the stage.

All of the early bird tickets have been sold but there are regular...

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Silent Storytelling

Robert Mills

The slide above featured in my recent talk at Second Wednesday in Nottingham. That sentence is lifted from my book and although it’s a hideous case of blowing my own trumpet, I love it. I was talking about how we can tell stories on the web but we don’t have sound so we have to communicate in other ways. We need to find an alternative dialogue.

“Great storytelling doesn’t come from dialogue alone”

Three examples I used on that slide are recent film, The Artist, silent film icon, Charlie Chaplin and...

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Colour Me Organised

Robert Mills

Colour is one of my favourite topics to write about because it is such a powerful device when it comes to design. I dedicated a whole five chapters to it in my book including how colour can communicate cultural and political values subliminally and how colours can evoke emotions in people. I also wrote about how colour can be used to organise content and contribute to a wayfinding system, using theBBCGuardian and Carsonified websites as examples. This latter topic is...

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Second Wednesday

Robert Mills

Next week I will be talking at an event in Nottingham called Second Wednesday. Ahead of the event the guys sent me some questions and turned my answers into a rather lovely interview.

Here’s a snippet:

 

You can read the whole thing here, should you so wish.…

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Looking Around

Robert Mills

Last night I went to watch The Phantom of the Opera on stage. It was a stunning show that was incredibly well adapted for my local theatre in Cardiff, having moved from its home in London to embark on a UK tour. The reason why the show is such a brilliant experience, aside from the talented cast, is because every tiny detail has been considered in relation to storytelling and the audience. It was only when I was pondering this after the final...

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Besquare: Content Talk

Robert Mills

Last November I took to the stage at Handheld Conf in Cardiff to spend 15 minutes talking about content. The talk covered the importance of content, working with clients and a content first approach to projects. Divided into three sections, creating content, managing content and using content, I was able to share my experiences of all these with the audience.

You can watch the whole video over on Besquare.me

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Priming the Pump

Robert Mills

Way back in 2008 when I was new to Twitter, I happend to send a direct message to Stephen Fry, caught up in the excitement of being able to reach people who I admired. This was around the time he was very active on the social network himself, following as many people back that followed him and replying to questions when he could. He replied to mine! I asked him how he combats writer’s block and his reply has stayed with me since, and has indeed gotten me over...

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Examples of Storytelling on the Web – Part 1

Robert Mills

This week I’ve tweeted a few links to what I consider to be good examples of storytelling on the web. I’m always collecting examples and since using Pocket I have decided to share as many as I can. I thought I’d feature the ones I mentioned this week on this blog, along with a few extras. These 10 sites lead the user on a journey and in my humble opinion, offer immersive and engaging experiences, embracing storytelling in a digital world. Click on any of the images below to experience these...

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New Adventures In Speaking

Robert Mills

This year I took a few tentative steps into the world of public speaking. I now have three talks under my belt, all at local events in South Wales and ranging from audiences of around 30 up to 170.

Outside the zone

It’s been scary but I thrived on being challenged and outside of my comfort zone, somewhere we all need to be from time to time. My motivation for trying my hand at public speaking has simply been to share my experiences, talk about topics that I love and maybe...

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Speaking Human

Robert Mills

I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking about what makes some content better than other content.

On one hand this is a  hard question to answer because copy has a specific purpose. It exists to inform, engage and help people complete a certain action such as buying a service or product. Without knowing the context of why that copy is written the way it is, perhaps we can’t judge. Maybe we aren’t the target audience or we lack an understanding of a sector or organisation to appreciate the copy...

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The C Word

Robert Mills

Yesterday I gave a talk at the inaugural Handheld Conf, here in Cardiff. Here’s a summary of my talk.

The C word in question is of course, content.

There are three instances where we might encounter content during a project lifecycle:

Content can be created by a variety of people. The client might provide it themselves, depending on the structure of your team you may have someone in-house who can assist with this, or a third party might be involved such...

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Content First FTW

Robert Mills

Today I gave a little talk at an event called Port80 LocalHost, a free event organised by Joel Hughes of Port80 fame. There was an impressive bunch of attendees and I spoke about content first, what it is, why it is a good thing and how we have introduced it to our project process at Bluegg.

This post was scheduled to go live as my talk ended, clever that innit (if it worked).

He’s a summary of the talk and some...

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Achievement Unlocked: Write for Smashing Magazine

Robert Mills

Last week I finally made it onto Smashing Magazine. It has been a long time coming, but my first article went live on Tuesday and so far the response has been brilliant. I wrote about tone of voice, a subject close to my heart but one that is often overlooked.

If you’re kind enough to have a gander of my article then I’d love to know what you think. Tone of voice is also a topic in my book,

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My New Typewriter

Robert Mills

I’ve been hankering after an old typewriter for a while. There’s something very appealing about owning something that has been around long before me.

I spotted one in a local antiques market here in Cardiff and after weeks of deliberating I finally brought it home on the weekend. It’s in such great condition for something that was made in the late 1920′s.

I opted for an Underwood Standard Portable Typewriter. They also had some from the...

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That’s the Tone I Love

Robert Mills

It’s no secret that I think the tone of voice on the LOVEFiLM website is bad. It’s a real bug bear of mine and despite trying to speak to them about it, it’s no surprise they don’t want to hear the opinion of a Monster Munch crunching writer from Wales. After moaning about it on Twitter every so often though, I thought it was best I show exactly why I think LOVEFiLM are missing a trick when it comes to their tone of voice.

My issue is that their tone...

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Tone of Voice – Darkened Rooms

Robert Mills

Last week I came across another smashing example of a fun tone of voice and approach to getting people to turn their mobiles off. There’s a brilliant new concept here in Cardiff called Darkened Rooms. They screen great films in unusual places. They started with a screening of The Shining in a hotel and last week I attended a showing of Alien at a science discovery centre.

This is a concept free from film studio politics and restraints so they are able to create their own slides and...

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Designing the Invisible – Paperback Available

Robert Mills

Today is a special day for me as the paperback version of my Five Simple Steps book has just been released. It’s a dream come true, cheesy but that’s a fact. The eBook of Designing the Invisible was released on July 19th last year and it has been an incredible 11 months since then with great feedback and support for the book, overwhelmingly so.

There’s something extra special about the paperback release though. I love printed books, something to hold and settle down in a comfy...

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Tone of Voice – Eden Project

Robert Mills

The photo above was brought to my attention by Andy Davies via Twitter. Isn’t it a nice approach to getting people to respect their surroundings without being bossy or rude? Here it is in full:

Eden Project

This sign is from The Eden Project and is a nice take on the standard ‘Keep off the grass’ type signs that we so often see.  It’s a friendly and fun tone of voice that makes you smile and certainly...

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On or Off?

Robert Mills

This weekend I spent a few days at the Hay Festival, an art and literature festival held annually in Hay-on-Wye, Wales. I’m going to summarise the talks I went to in another post but I wanted to digress here about the tone of voice at the festival. Before each event they had slides with news and info on. One in particular caught my eye as it said:

Please turn your mobiles back on at the end of the session and tell your friends about how fab it...

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Knowing Vs. Understanding

Robert Mills

Albert Einstein is quoted as saying ‘any fool can know, the point is to understand’.

He’s right of course because there is a huge difference between knowing and understanding. Here are some examples:

  • I know how to drive a car but I don’t understand how a car works
  • I know what the holographic principle is but I certainly don’t understand it
  • I know you’re upset but I don’t understand why

Knowing something is just that, knowledge. Understanding something is being able to act on that knowledge and use it practically.

Here’s another example:...

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Good Read: Colour – User Experience And Psychology

Robert Mills

Articles on colour are a dime a dozen. Most rehash the same old info about colour but now and again one comes along that is actually worthy of your attention.

The content in the article Colour – User Experience And Psychology by Jean Karl Izzo isn’t new either, but I quite like how he has included the logos of some big brands to further explain his thoughts on what different colours communicate and the meaning behind them.

For that reason alone I recommend this as...

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Say What You See

Robert Mills

One of my first blog posts here was a recommended reading list. This week I started reading one of those books again and was reminded of how great it is. I just had to dedicate a blog post to it because I think if you are reading this now then chances are you would get a lot from this book to.

This Means This, This Means That by Sean Hall is billed as a user’s guide to semiotics. The introduction is a...

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Voice and Tone

Robert Mills

Ask anyone who works with me at Bluegg and they will tell you that I’m obsessed with tone of voice. Particularly the fact that we seem to have reached saturation point with Innocent type copycats and also with companies, like LoveFilm, who have tones that aren’t best targeted at their audience or representative of their brand.

It was with much delight then that when reading Redesigning With Personality by Aarron Walter over on Smashing Magazine I...

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