Context and confusion and twins

I’m a big fan of Every Page is Page One design. One of the tenets of an EPPO topic is that it sets the context for the content within that topic. This way readers don’t have to rely on our breadcrumbs or TOC or other forms of nested structure.

Context is imperative if you want to help your readers out immediately. It can be the difference between an instant “okay, yes, this is what I want” and “Sugar-honey-ice-tea, I just read for 20 minutes and finally found out that this topic is irrelevant.”

A few years ago, after one of my daughter’s soccer games, I was talking with Hannah, one of the mothers on the team. While we were chatting, I noticed her husband walking across the field. I took notice because the husband, Daniel, was being followed by a little boy. Hannah and Daniel don’t have a little boy, so I assumed this was a nephew or just someone who was tagging along because Daniel is a kind and gentle man.

When Daniel and the boy got closer, Hannah asked me if I had ever met Daniel’s brother. I looked at the boy and said, “No, I haven’t.” I thought, “that’s quite an age difference.” Hannah then said, “Yeah, they’re twins.”

Now you, kind reader, probably see what Hannah meant right away.

Not me. I have what my wife terms “attention surplus disorder.” I don’t let go of what I’ve already locked onto.

I looked at the boy and back at Hannah and asked, “What?”

She said, “Twins. You know what twins are, right?” I could see fear rising in her eyes because her daughter spent the night at our house and maybe she assumed that if I don’t know what “twins” are, perhaps I don’t know what an “emergency” is.

“No, I know what twins are. But…how?”

“Uh, well the normal way.”

By this point, I’ve already gone through the scenario: separating the fertilized eggs and cryogenically freezing one for three decades until they thawed it and artificially inseminated a volunteer. But did they have that technology back then? And, if so, why would they have done that? And what is cryogenic freezing? Is it different than flash freezing or regular freezing? And how come they had to separate Ted Williams’ head from his body when they cryogenically froze him after he died?

And then it hit me: I pointed at Daniel and said, “Oh, that’s not Daniel!”

Hannah looked at me like I just told her that the sky is blue. “Right, that’s what I said.”

I pointed to the boy next to the faux-Daniel: “And this is?”

“That’s my nephew.”

“The son of Not Daniel.”

She looked at me and smiled. “Right. Like I said, Daniel’s twin.”

Now, I’m not saying all of our readers are as clueless as I am. But unless we establish context, many of our readers are going to be confused about what we’re talking about.


About scotmarvin

Scot is a content strategist for Oracle. He's a slacker and smartass involved in content design, content architecture, big data, cloud computing, and other buzzwords related to technical stuff. He loves his family, history books, jazz guitar, and the Minnesota Vikings. Scot is a proud father, so don't make the mistake of asking about his family unless you have four hours to listen to him ramble on about his kids.
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