People contribute more when contributing is easy. That’s true for posting to sites or forums as well as donating money.
That said, many sites make it surprisingly hard to post. Not excruciatingly difficult — but just laborious enough to be a barrier to some would-be contributors.
This week I’m experimenting with using different tools to post to Contentious.com. Here’s the first one:
I’m doing this because some of my clients use fairly complex content management systems, where each post requires a surprising number of steps.
Most commonly, here’s what site contributors must do…
- Visit a web page.
- Log in to the site CMS.
- Navigate to the appropriate place to write a post.
- Enter the post title and content in the appropriate fields (Including manually specifying links).
- Fill in other fields (categories, tags, byline, subheads, siderail copy, etc.) needed to integrate the post with the site’s format.
- Go through a separate process to upload and caption images or other media.
- Preview the result.
- Publish the post (or save it as a draft to be reviewed).
That many steps may be warranted if you have something substantial to say. But what if you just want to post a quick brief pointing out something interesting, a la Jim Romenesko?
Like Romenesko, I work with Poynter Online’s content management system on a daily basis. It does the job, but it’s very complex and labor-intensive. Each brief Romenesko post requiresÂ more steps than what I listed above. And for the posts on the E-Media Tidbits blog? All told, not including editing the copy, I must take about 30 steps to get a post onto that blog and integrated with the site. (Add another 5-10 steps if I’m including an image, which I usually do.)
…Which is probably why most of those “Tidbits” aren’t very short. Personally, I think ethat’s way too much work to do for brief items. But even given the length of Tidbits, on average, I spend much more time producing those items on the Poynter site than I spend writing or editing them.
I’m not complaining about the Poynter site or CMS. It does a lot of things remarkably well. But it’s no secret that it is labor intensive.
The same is true for other sites I work with based on customized versions of Movable Type and Expression Engine, among other tools. Posting there is probably more work than it needs to be.
Fortunately, there are interesting microblogging tools such as Tumblr, Posterous, Delicious, and even Friendfeed that might offer solutions, if they can be integrated with the sites effectively.
Here’s what I think is needed to make it work:
- Bookmarklet for posting, so you don’t have to go to a separate page. When you’re browsing a page you want to post about, just hit the bookmarklet and a little posting window pops up, pre-populated with basic information about the page or other content item you’re viewing.
- Simple interface. This tools is meant for posting quick hits — so don’t try to cram in tons of options.
- Mobile-friendly posting. That’s simply crucial to any online publishing tool these days. Too many CMSs don’t make that easy — but most microblogging tools are pretty good at it.
- Posts (or cross-posts) directly to the main site. That is, the content being posted becomes part of the main site’s archives, can be linked to directly, and can be found through the site’s search engine.
- 3rd-party interface posts are integrated with posts from the CMS. That is, I could post two briefs via a microblogging service, then one meatier piece via the site’s CMS then two more briefs via the microblogging service — and they would all appear in the blog in sequence, as if they all came from the same place.
So far, Tumblr is lacking on those last two point, as far as I can tell. I don’t think (thought I’ll check again) that the Tumblr posts syndicated to Contentious.com are getting archived here. And I dont’ think I could get them to post as regular Contentious posts, mixed in with the posts I do via WordPress.
The latest version of WordPress (2.6) did bring back the “press it” microblogging bookmarklet-based tool, which is excellent. But what about cumbersome CMSs that don’t offer that kind of option? Could a thrid-party posting tool fill in the gap?
I’m sure my readers collectively know far more about this area than I do. Please comment below to help me learn how to address this issue. Thanks!