Asking why.

We’ve all heard children asking why over and over. I used to be that child and you probably were too. Weren’t we all? Here’s an example:

Child: Why can’t we go outside?

Parent: Because it’s dark

Child: Why?

Parent: Because it’s night time

Child: Why?

Parent: Because we need the night so we can sleep

Child: Why?

Parent: Because we need to rest so we have energy for tomorrow

Child: Why?

Parent: Right, bed time.

This line of questioning is good, however annoying it may seem. The child is showing a thirst for knowledge. They’re developing the cognitive ability to make logical connections as they gain a deeper understanding of the world around them.

Perhaps as adults we’re scared of being caught out if we can’t answer the question. The more we’re asked why, the further down the rabbit hole we might fall. We feel uncomfortable, we question our own knowledge and then we too begin to wonder why.

As we grow up, why gets replaced with more pressing and frequent questions like how much?, what time? and what’s for dinner? But it’s time to start asking why more often. Our web content will be better for it.

I was browsing BuzzFeed recently and as I scrolled through the listicles and quizzes one in particular caught my eye. The titles was:

Which Disney grandparent should be your next f**k buddy?

Huh! A quiz about sex, Disney and fictional, animated older folk. What a time to be alive. In all seriousness, it does beg the question, why?

Why has this been published? I’m genuinely interested in the reason. Link baiting? To provoke? A bit of mindless fun? I tweeted about it and someone replied ‘because it’s BuzzFeed.’ A fair response given the sort of content they are known for, and seemingly flourishing with.

I don’t know what the content strategy, production process, editorial values, guidelines and sign off procedures are at BuzzFeed. I wish I did. But what I do know is that publishing to the web is easier and more accessible than ever and as a result content is being shelf stacked higher and higher. That is, more and more is being published but not as much audited and governed. But it’s the web, there is no ceiling, we’ll just keep stacking and stacking. The noise is becoming deafening and irrelevant, inaccurate, outdated and poorly written content is finding its way into all crevices of the web. It seems we’re powerless to stop it.

Asking why can be the beginning of the noise reduction.

We want to start a company Twitter account

Why?

We think we need a blog.

Why?

I want to publish this article about how much fun our office is.

Why?

Let’s start publishing three posts a week instead of one.

Why?

There are so many other questions that need to be asked too of course. Who, how, when, where, then what and many more. But asking why when these request are made is a good start before any strategy is developed and implemented.

The person on the receiving end of your questioning may feel uncomfortable, they may feel challenged, they may tell you it’s bed time but there’s value in scrutinising everything until there are no uncertainties remaining in terms of whether the content/requirement leads you toward a business goal, helps a user and serves a real purpose and benefit.

Dive Deeper

If you want to know more about the Pastry Box Project, you can read about the genesis (and goals) of the project.

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