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If you work in the technical content space, you’ve probably heard about MindTouch’s Content Influencers list. It’s an annual event and it’s brilliant marketing, but I think it matters today more than ever.

In the broadest sense, the content industry has been the fastest growing and changing space in the last 10 years. The biggest companies to come out of Silicon Valley since the turn of the century have been content companies (Google, Facebook, Netflix, Apple, etc). The greatest difference between our world today and our world 20 years ago is our access to and interaction with content. And yet, when we zoom back into our space (or at least my space) of technical content, it still feels like dawn.

Things certainly have been changing fast, but they’re about to change in much bigger ways. Virtual reality is here, but not well implemented and distributed yet; the Internet of Things is beginning to mature; AI is just taking its first steps; Chatbots are starting to chat with us; and augmented reality is right around the corner. The common theme between these massive shifts is that they all demand content to properly interact with us. Actually, I’m going to take that a step further, they all mean very little without content.

As technical communicators, our job is about to get a lot more difficult, and a lot more fun. And that’s why thinking about the leaders in our space and what they have to say, matters right now. There are going to be many opinions on how to tackle the content challenges coming in 2018. The people on this list are, right now, thinking about these challenges. They’re going to have different opinions. We should be listening, or even better, joining the conversation.

In that spirit, here is my most fundamental opinion on content strategy in 2017 and beyond:

Choose an open standard as the backbone of your content infrastructure. Open standards create a common language for software systems to communicate; commonly referred to as interoperability, it means you don’t get stuck in yesterday’s software when you face tomorrow’s problems. You can, and will, add various software tools for different use cases. But a foundation built on an open standard is going to give you the greatest access to new innovations while providing the lowest risk moving forward. I’m partial to DITA as that standard, but it doesn’t have to be DITA.

easyDITA plus MindTouch is a great example of this type of infrastructure. MindTouch is a powerful content delivery system that focuses on great customer experiences for your users and easyDITA is a standards compliant, collaborative CMS that enables true multi-audience and multi-channel publishing. This combination keeps your content flexible because it’s in an open standard while still providing the functions you need. When your needs change in the future, your software infrastructure will change with it, but your content won’t have to.

MindTouch’s Content Influencers of 2017 are shaping the future of content, from organization to consumption. The tools and processes we use and recommend will significantly impact the future of content, in good ways or potentially bad. That’s why this matters.

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