Building Your Skill Set Beyond Writing: Why Tech Knowledge is Essential
If you’ve scoured the major job search sites on the Internet lately, you’ve probably arrived at the same conclusion I have: there are very few jobs available that focus purely on writing and editing. Most jobs in today’s business environment that pay a decent wage feature some combination of writing/editing and what is called in the tech world, “content management.”
To be able to compete for jobs like this, it’s essential to build your skill set so you have a working knowledge of the elements of content management, and of how content is published and managed online. So how do you learn the basics of managing online content, and how to figure out what you need to learn?
College courses on the basics of HTML
Though most people who work in online content publishing jobs rarely, if ever, are called upon to edit code, it is still worthwhile to learn at least the basic building blocks of HTML, which stands for Hypertext Markup Language. HTML is the code from which Web sites are built, and it is worthwhile to understand how it works, especially if you are ever asked to perform search engine optimization tasks for a site, which require some knowledge of how coding works.
Many local colleges around the country offer non-credit courses that last for six to eight weeks (or longer) that can teach you the basics of HTML and get you started on learning more yourself — because you really learn it only when you work with it in a hands-on way, writing and editing code yourself.
Content management software — what it is, how it works
Most any major website you’ve ever visited is published using software that allows the writers and editors working behind the scenes to create, modify and update content using automated processes that publish content to the appropriate sections or areas of a site. Whether you work in a role that asks you to write or edit online content, or to plan content updates for the long term, you’ll need to understand how these systems work.
The best way to learn is to experiment with these systems yourself, using free online software like WordPress or Blogger to set up your own blog or website. Though these are relatively simple compared to the content management packages large websites use, they still employ the same basic set of features to manage content — drafting content, editing and modifying content, publishing content and assigning the proper location for content on a site.
To learn the kinds of software systems that companies and large publishers use, if you’re already on the job, find ways to volunteer to learn more. Pitch in your time to volunteer for routine maintenance tasks that get you in front of the software over a period of days or weeks, so you can learn how to use it on your own. Volunteer for projects that will help you learn the system so you can become more valuable to your organization.
What metadata is, what it’s used for
If you learn the basics of how to use content management software, sooner or later you’ll need to learn what meta data is and how to assign it to content. Basically, metadata is “data about data,” bits of information often called “tags” that are assigned to posts, pages or database entries on websites that indicate to a content management system where that piece of content should be published and how it should be displayed.
To get an idea of what metadata is, check the bottom of this post or articles on any blog you frequent. See the words that follow the title “Tags”? That’s metadata. Those are items that indicate to the publishing software used for that site how and where to publish the article you’re viewing. Learning the basics of HTML is an excellent way to learn how to create and edit metadata as well, because if you’re ever called on to edit HTML code on the job, you’ll no doubt be asked to edit metadata within that code.
Now, it’s easy to step back and think, “why is metadata important?” It seems relatively trivial, I agree. However, learning how to use metadata is important because it gets to the heart of how content is classified and where it is published on a website, as well as how it can be re-used for mobile and whatever related devices that may come along in the future. Classifying content properly is a critical part of how content is managed in large online publishing environments, and learning what’s involved is a critical piece of that job.