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TCW: Rahel, thanks for taking time to chat with us today about your upcoming event, Content Convergence and Integration 2008 (Vancouver, BC – March 12-14, 2008).

RB: Thanks for helping us spread the word, Scott.

TCW: You’re welcome. Now, let’s dive right in. What is convergence and why did you think it would make a great theme for your conference?

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RB: When I adopted the term convergence in respect to our conference, I was thinking of all the new demands on content. It’s not just the way it gets created, which is something that the writer has to think about and has control over. It’s also what happens afterwards, the splitting up of the content into chunks, putting it into a content management system perhaps, syndicating it out, where it then gets integrated into sites with similar content, and perhaps re-syndicated and re-aggregated in a number of ways.

What bothered me, at other conferences, was that delegates came away with the sense that having a way to process content was the goal, that having a successful content management project was the end point. It reminded me of the late 1990s when companies would ask about their websites, “When can I stop investing in this?” What I wanted to address was how to look as far forward as we can, and reach for that reality.

TCW: Convergence is definitely a good descriptive word for what’s going on in the business world today. Can you give us some examples of the types of convergence you’re talking about and why these examples are important?

RB: An obvious example is a content-driven organization that uses the web. Where you have established standards for content formats – events, jobs, news releases, and so on – a writer creates content, which gets submitted for publication. It could be that an event goes onto an organization’s site and gets picked up by an external event aggregation site, or perhaps the event is put directly into the external site. Then, depending on the city, dates, keywords, categories, and other factors, the event could be picked up by a number of sites – perhaps even the organization’s own site – for publication. There could be a mix of content that includes editorial content, commercial content, and social content that needs to be organized, prioritized, and architected in ways that make sense for each business. One organization that does it well, Tourism BC, will be sharing their success story at the conference.

Content convergence isn’t just about the web, though. It also means looking inside our organizations and giving up on thinking about “our” content, as in content that belongs to our department or our division or our enterprise. Content needs to be portable enough that it can be re-used within an enterprise or, in other cases, between partner organizations. Content needs to be usable between documentation and training and technical installation and maintenance, and maybe with an outsourced customer service center, as well. The challenges of getting content to converge in the ways to make business run more seamlessly are still huge; for most corporations, we’re just starting to scratch the surface. A number of speakers will address this in the XML publishing track, but Ann Rockley, of The Rockley Group, and Joe Gollner, of Stilo e-Publishing solutions, stand out as visionaries in this field.

TCW: What types of industry-specific content challenges will presenters at Content Convergence and Integration be discussing? Can you provide a few examples?

RB: We are very excited to have examples from a range of content-driven industries, but for our inaugural conference, we decided to showcase the travel industry. While doing some work in this area, I saw the incredible potential in the travel industry for content convergence – between travel partner sites and so on – and not just written content. There is tremendous opportunity to share digital media (photos, videos), as well, and we are bringing speakers who can share their experiences. As well, we’re rounding out the program by giving delegates the opportunity to discuss issues that are part of this new reality – for example, copyright issues for portable content, brand consistency, and global communication issues. These all have new twists when you’re dealing with content that is subject to convergence and integration. One of the notable speakers is Magan Arthur, principal consultant for InfoSys Technologies Ltd., who has been dealing with complex digital asset management situations for years.

TCW: The 2010 Winter Olympic Games will be held in Vancouver. Hosting such an event is a massive undertaking for a city and its businesses. What parts of the conference program are designed to address the needs of those folks responsible for communicating with the many foreigners who may visit Vancouver for the Games?

RB: That’s a great question. Obviously, localizing content is not as simple as translating and clicking Submit. And in a portable-content world, shoring up content in the source language becomes critical, as does understanding the target market. We tackle content from a few angles. Berry Braster of TedoPres International discusses the aspects of standardizing language for easier comprehension, Kent Taylor, of acrolinx, explores ways that organizations can benefit from content consistency, and James Romano, CEO of Prisma International, looks at making your message effective in the target market. These topics go that step beyond the basic “let’s talk translation” topics that are too often the staples of conference fare.

TCW: Who are the keynote and featured speakers at the event, what will they be speaking about, and why did you select each of them?

RB: We’re doing things a little different than other conferences when it comes to keynote speakers, which I believe will make for a much stronger conference experience. Each conference day has a focus, and begins with a plenary speaker who kicks off the day with a keynote speech that sets the tone for the rest of the day.

The first day’s focus is on content, and we have Liz Danzico, Editor Emeritus of Boxes and Arrows and Bobulate, kicking off the day talking about Content 2.0. She’ll discuss what the demands are for content in a portable-content world, and the tensions between portability and context. Liz is one of the few speakers who has cast the topic of portable content in this particular light.

The second day’s focus is on technology, and Salim Ismail of Yahoo’s innovation arm, The Brickhouse, is starting the day with a discussion of the future of XML publishing. He explains, in lay terms, what you need to know about the technology required to prepare your content for a world of convergence and integration.

The third day’s focus is on consumer relationships – once you get your content zipping around the world at the speed of light, what impact will this have on your audiences? Michael Fergusson, Chief Product and Innovation Officer at Uniserve Communications, starts off the day discussing the intersection between culture, commerce, and consumers.

TCW: Who should attend Content Convergence and Integration 2008 and why?

RB: This conference is meant to appeal to a broad audience. We have an XML publishing track for content developers in technical communication, a Web publishing track for marketing communicators, a management track for the strategists who need to figure out how to put it all together, and a tourism track to demonstrate how this all works in a content-driven industry. But when it comes right down to it, the tracks are artificial boundaries, and I say that because if your content is converging, it doesn’t matter which side of the fence you’re sitting on. If you’re active in the content production and distribution stream – from creation to editing to content management to translation management to consumer-relation management – then you will benefit.

TCW: What have you done to help differentiate Content Convergence and Integration from the rest of the conferences in the content space?

RB: I think we’ve done two things. First, though it’s a content management conference, it’s not a technology-focused conference. The technology bolsters the role of the content, instead of focusing on software features and value streams. Second, we’ve taken a more holistic view of the way we discuss content; it’s not just the text in the database cells that gets moved around by the magic of a CMS. We’ve included topics from content findability to copyright to customer relationship authenticity – all the related issues that you generally find out about once you’re knee-deep in alligators.

TCW: Are software and services vendors allowed to participate in this event? And, is there a vendor exhibition hall?

RB: We do have a vendor exhibition. We’ve invited vendors to participate who we felt embodied the spirit of the conference. And we have included software vendors in the event. One of the conversations I end up having in conference hallways is between me, a vendor, a practitioner, and perhaps another consultant, where we’ll be debating how to approach some thorny problem. Sometimes those conversations teach me more than anything I learn in a session. So I decided that these would be great conversations to move into the conference itself – after lunch, we’ll have multi-perspective panel discussions where vendors, consultants, and practitioners can debate an issue.

TCW: Are there any discounts available for readers of The Content Wrangler?

RB: Definitely; we think that readers of The Content Wrangler are likely the types of people who are nodding at their monitors right now, thinking: yes, they’ve hit the nail on the head, and how can I fit this into my schedule? We’ll give ten percent off to readers who request the discount code – they can get it by contacting you, Scott, or directly from us, if they prefer.

TCW: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

RB: When you come to the conference, count on staying right until the end, because we’ve packed every session full of great information. And for those who have never been to Vancouver, you should know that in March, you’ll only need a raincoat in the city, but a 15-minute drive can get you onto some pretty fabulous ski slopes. So be prepared to stay an extra day or two, and take advantage of the extended discount at the hotel (PDF).

TCW: Thanks again for taking time to share with our readers a little bit about Content Convergence and Integration 2008. We really appreciate it.

RB: My pleasure, Scott, and I look forward to seeing you at the conference, as well. I always look forward to your presentations, and the one you’re preparing for us promises to be one of my personal highlights. And I’m not going to say what it is here, because I want people to come check out the conference site to look it up! (and, for you metataggers, the conference tag is cci2008).