Mutations in the Public Domain

Bond. Steve Bond.

Doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, now does it?

Every day we use methods and models that used to belong to someone else to produce intellectual property of all sorts that we eventually profit from. In software, we often talk about open source versus closed source code bases as though they cannot possibly ever connect. In many cases closed source code involves open source areas and vice versa. This is true in the real world in many cases as well.

As a writer I like to think that my ideas are open source and the words that I have actually written are closed. In my head my words are mine for now and forever. It’s a magical concept that doesn’t really exist.

Sadly the reality is that my words are mine, for now at least, but at some point in the future they will not belong to me or to those who inherit what I leave behind. Eventually whether or not my words are worth remembering, they will progress to the public domain.

So what is the public domain?

The public domain is a place where ideas and words blend together to be created and redesigned in the way a new author or producer sees fit. It’s open source ideas and words to be mixed and matched for the profit of whoever wants to create something with them.

The best example of content in the public domain that I can come up with is the fairy tale. Since most of our favourites are hundreds of years old, people are able to re-write/re-produce them and even subsequently profit however they want and no income is returned to the original author or those who now hold their estate.

As someone who has been raised with these recycled favourites I had come to accept the idea that every fairy tale was mine as much as it was a possession of The Brothers Grimm.

So… why should anyone care?

50 to 70 years after our death our ideas become public domain for mutation in good and bad ways.

The first founding part of modern pop culture has become public domain in Canada (every country has different time guides). James Bond is no longer part of the Ian Flemming estate and someone has already written a new Bond book.

It made me realise that even books and movies that shaped my childhood like Star Wars and Harry Potter are en route to public domain too. After all George Lucas is already over 70 so maybe not in my lifetime, but shortly thereafter someone may create something new with themes that I hold dear.

All of the things that shape us as are eventually subject to reinterpretation by others.

I hope that at some point someone may think it’s a good idea to build on an idea or theory I present helping to further contribute to the wider body of global knowledge, but they may also mutate it beyond measure and that is outside of my control.

Head back to Academic and Social Research or check out other posts on Education.

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Are you making promises that your content can’t deliver?

Search marketing is hard work.

Writing good ads, getting them approved.  Sending the customer to the right location.  All work, but you are tracking that.  Likely every day.  Watching conversions, tweaking, adjusting correcting.

What about search engine optimization?  SEO has been a sexy topic for quite some time now, but just because your site is optimized, DOES NOT mean that your customer is going to get to where they want.

Are you writing keyword rich well tagged blogs about products?  Great!

Now… are you doing this before you actually write good quality product content?


Do Not Pass GO.

DO not collect $200.

Start writing good product content.



Do not wait for more resources, do not bother questioning the time it takes to write (and translate) better product content.

Start with the answer your customers questions.  Give them information and images they didn’t even know they wanted to see until you showed them.  Tag the products.  Tag the images.  Offer more information on the product warranty and specifications.  Offer links to relevant accessories.  Offer them product reviews and ratings.

This will give them what they want first.  The product itself is so much more relevant than your blog post on hot new products, or the stuff FILL IN THE BLANK celebrity is using.

Now go write your blog.  Link the blog to the products and services that are relevant so that the customer who gets to the blog first can still reach the product they want.

NOW…If you want to be really fancy add a bullet to your product content to talk about your blog and link it back there too.

Give your customers value in multiple ways and locations and they will see you more times in what Google or Bing or Yahoo serves in the organic search results, but they will have an opportunity to chose their own adventure about how they get to your stuff.

Maybe..just maybe they will add something to cart in the end and become a real conversion to your store.  If they decide not to buy something today at least you won’t have a 100% bounce rate because what you give them will be closer to meeting their needs, and they might just be back.

Want to know what makes a complete product?  Check out this post.

The Completed Product

What defines a completed product for any business?





Cross References?

Too often we make every attribute optional to save time.  We turn off the completeness checkers and let the data become what it will.

We want to save $5 in labour or 5 minutes in build time but are we saving now only to lose later?

Are we really doing the right thing for the final customer?  Are we even thinking about the end user and how they will look at the product?

It doesn’t matter if the final customer is someone reading about a product on a website or a person in the shipping department looking for dimensions, in the end you need to ask if you are giving them what they need.

Too often we have great intentions about the content that we are going to put out to market and we fail on everything when we begin the product build.

Building content is hard work.  Every field made mandatory is another few seconds of data entry that has to be completed before it is allowed to move forward.

There is always pressure to get the product ready for market and the demand to get it out as fast as possible is very real.

The ramifications are hard to quantify.  Maybe there are lost sales, wasted labour or splintered data because it was too much work to build it the right way.

In the end you sold one less widget because there were no alternate images or maybe you spend $8 in labour for every time a shipper has to measure the box before sending it out to the field.  You are spending for the life of that product because you wanted to save a bit of time in building it.  The loss can’t be truly quantified, but it can be justified.

When you put in a new system this is your one and only chance to really ensure the quality of your data.  As good as it sounds that the team will revisit the content once it is approved, experience has taught me that you will never revisit 98% of those items again.

As a retailer, manufacturer or business of any type you are only as good as the quality of the product with the most minimal version of its attributes completed.

Use your compliance and quality standards to build best in class content on day one and you will discover that after a few months the complaints about how hard it is will stop.  Your data stewards will build the content following what is right instead of what is easy and your customers will prove that the extra investment up front was more than worth it.

There’s No Swearing in “Good” Content (but maybe there should be)

I love content.  I am the first person to credit a site that finds that perfect balance of words and images for their brand.  That being said, I think too many of the little guys are afraid of really shouting out what makes them special and instead sound like a dirty little brother of the big sites.

Unfortunately they don’t have the budgets that big brands have for SEM and digital marketing so they find themselves on page 4 of the search results because while their content sounds just like everyone else, their site has less links and credibilty.

While the socially acceptable way to approach both product and site content is to think about telling the customer your story while weaving in responsible SEO and deep links; is that the best way to address every brand?

Some pretty successful small/medium businesses make their brand by specifically being clear and concise in their copy.  Sometimes that means the use of words or phrases that a lot of us shy away from.

A great example of this use of light profanity comes in some great blogger/web/copywriting talents likeRedheaded Writing and The Middle Finger Project.

Their specialties are not just about helping your brand sell its stuff, but also about defining a voice for your brand.  If your brand is “The Shit!” and you are afraid to tell people you risk becoming another bland voice in an ocean of bland voices.

I understand that most big corporations need to focus on their voice and their customers expectations, but if you are a small or medium business that is designed as clever and cheeky don’t be afraid to use a bit of real language to get your message out there.

Translate your passion about your level of awesome in your content.

Differentiate yourself and define your own online voice.  Don’t let the big guys define you.

I can tell you I am personally more likely to click on a link claiming that this widget is “the best fucking widget on the planet!” before I click through to another beige sounding widget.

Detailed Product Content Solves First World Problems

How can detailed product data help you with regular tasks?

I have a friend who often comments on her “First World Problems” traditionally via social media, but occasionally over a beer if you ask nicely.  At first I had a giggle at the “will my ipad fit in that handbag?” question, but shortly after heckling I realised that it was a question I would ask.

As a loyal online consumer I am looking for detailed information about every product I purchase.  I want to know so much more than just the size and colour.

On the topic of colour: PLEASE add a swatch of the colour zoomed in and in high resolution so that I don’t make a commitment to chocolate and discover cowpie when the courier arrives.

Please give every FUN name of a size or colour it’s generic equivalent: I dislike discovering that your version of creme brulee is actually my version of brown and not the beige that appeared to render on my screen.

Please add DETAILS.  I understand, details cost money when you are talking about product content.  It takes more time to collect it, more time to key it, more cost to hold the data in the larger databases required.

More data costs more up front.  I understand that.  It is my business to know and understand that.  What most retailers, business people, and consumers don’t understand is that less data costs exponentially more. It may not be a staffing or outsourcing cost that you can see on your P & L, but it is there none the less.

When you don’t have enough information I leave your page.  If I really want the item I may ask Google if someone else can answer my detailed question of will my ipad fit in this fill in the blank branded bag.  If Google tells me the answer to my question, I may buy it from the site that gave me the information, or on a very unlikely note I may switch back to the window that I left when you couldn’t tell me the answers. That is of course, assuming I didn’t just close it out of frustration.

I think of surfing and online shopping as a test of loyalty every time I type in a query.  If today Travelocity offers me information that Expedia doesn’t, the odds are high that I will start at Travelocity next time.
It doesn’t matter how many brands have worse content than you. It matters that you didn’t have the content I cared about today and that may lose you my business.
The savings you make by not spending time adding attributes, images, and copy to your product content will be lost exponentially with the sales you WON’T make because customers don’t convert.

They will go to a site where someone cares enough to give them detailed dimensions of the inside of the handbag, or better yet, they will find a site that has taken the time to create a Yes/No attribute for “holds a tablet”.