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Karen McGrane - Thriving in a World of Change - DrupalCon Portland 2013

Check out the DrupalCon Portland notes hub page for notes from other sessions at DrupalCon Portland.

Keynote: Thriving in a World of Change: Future-friendly content with Drupal

Day - Time Slot: Wednesday, May 22 - 09:00am–10:15am

Karen McGrane

Twitter: karenmcgrane
Web site:
Karen’s Notes: Drupalcon Keynote Video, Slides and Talk Notes

Session page


Karen McGrane’s talk was very forward thinking and focused on content. This talk more than any other made me think. Content Blobs vs. Chunks is central to this talk.


  • Print (old)
  • The web (Only 20 years old)


  • Mobile Has forced us to realize that we do not have control over layout
  • We can’t make assumptions anymore
  • The Web is fundamentally different than print
  • Smart TV’s show us why we can’t make assumptions. Mobile interfaces on TV’s don’t work.
  • Audio interfaces will one day transform how we interact with computers(Siri is only the beginning)
  • Structured content becomes even more important on an audio interface.
  • Emphasis vs Italics. They are not the same on an audio interface
  • Google Glass. The Segway of mobile?
  • Watches?
  • How do you structure your content so it works on a small screen and as audio?
  • How would your content look on digital signage
  • The goal is to manage the content in one place and distribute to diverse platforms
  • Digital Refrigerators. Would your content work on a digital stove top.
  • What about the new items we haven’t even considered or haven’t been invented yet

The Problem

  • This is not just a front end problem
  • It’s a CMS problem
  • Separation of content from form
  • We need new tools (Get your HTML out of my content. Get your Peanut butter out of my Chocolate)
  • “The future of content management systems is their ability to capture the content in a clean, presentation-independent way.” Daniel Jacobson, Netflix
  • Blobs are limiting. WYSIWYG is Dead
  • The problem with wysiwyg is not the toolbar.
  • Creating web content is not like printing a word doc
  • Content Chunks! BLOBS vs. Chunks

Structured Content

  • Break out of page based strategy
  • Amazon: Not every object from the desktop works on the mobile
  • Text used as headings are used as navigation on mobile
  • Responsive won’t fixed your content problem

Semantic Metadata

  • Replace styling choices with intent(metadata)
  • TV Guide forced creators to create content with meta data
  • The Guardian: Forced editors to rate 1–5 for priority
  • This forced them to develope an app that figured out priority from visual queues
  • Content creators arbitrarily style content. Intent is not clear
  • “Metadata is the new art direction” Ethan Resnick, @studip101
  • “Metadata is a love note to the future” Jason Scott, @textfiles

Content Packages

  • Stop thinking about pages and start thinking about content packages
  • Create chucks of content and control which chunks appear on which platforms
  • Each platform can choose which chunk it uses
  • Content creators choose which content goes to a platform
  • Manage content packages not pages

Author Experience

  • Target content to multiple places
  • Editors hate all the fields
  • Microsoft Word WYSIWYG is what they understand
  • They want faster horses but need cars.
  • Give them what they need not what they want
  • Graphic designers have had to change because of the web. If they can change so can content creators
  • Quit making faster horses and build them a car

In Place Editors

  • Not the silver bullet
  • We need a new model but the in place editor is forcing them to think the REAL version of the content is what they are seeing on the desktop
  • In-place editors looks easy to use (sales feature) but do not solve usability problems. Users have to understand their content must be structured to work on different platforms.
  • The in place editor is going to cause UX issues.

Future of Drupal UX

  • No perfect author experience
  • The future is YOU.
  • Can’t be solved in Drupal core
  • You are a content strategist
  • You are a information architect


What We have

The Web isn’t print

  • It’s time to recognize the techniques we used in the past do not work any more.
  • Content can’t be tied to the page metaphor
  • Content will live on many platforms
  • The Drupal community in a position to solve these problems
  • We can invent the future

Q & A

  • WYSIWYG and inline editors. Is this a mistake?
    • We need to get a new mental model. WYSIWYG and in-place editor is a old model
    • Not a panacea.
  • How do we handle content without WYSIWYG
  • Not opposed to toolbar
  • We just can’t think that the content is a page.
  • Preview button. It’s a fallacy.

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Published by Bob Kepford

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