Incredible stories about content

I spent some time this week with someone from a big government department who has been working on sorting out the mass (or is it mess?) of content on his Intranet. There aren’t many case studies in government on this kind of thing so I was delighted to compare notes. I thought I’d seen some big content numbers, but these are just incredible.

The team started a year or so ago with a total content base of 640,000 pages of content. After one full year of work they had deleted 680,000 pages (not a typo) because of duplication, redundancy or whatever …. and they still had 550,000! How’s that work you wonder? A growth rate of close to 100% a year is how. A few months later they now have 800,000 pages.

It’s easy to see why there’s duplication in a world like that – the odds of you finding what you want are so low that you’d likely create it again just to help the next person along.

I admire the team tremendously for sticking with the programme as they watched content spring up all around them. Getting control of something like that is an awesome job. Is it under control now? I think the jury is probably out, but at least there’s been progress (after all … there’d be 1.5 million pages if they hadn’t started the clean up!).

It reminds me a little of a guy I met a while ago who told me about his job which was to rewrite some old laws into plain English. He had a small team and every morning they’d come in, take a page and rewrite it. Then they’d rewrite all of the pages that were affected by the changes to that first page. And then start on the next page, often iterating back over the pages previously changed. They were 5 years into the project with maybe another 5 years to go. When I asked how he knew that there were 5 years left, he admitted that he wasn’t sure, but that felt about the right amount of time … a 10 year project to rewrite laws … that you know will change under your feet pretty regularly. I couldn’t get up in the morning to do that job, but these guys were going at it every single day and had been doing so for the previous 1,000 working days!

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