– [Monique] Now, I’m going to introduce
our next speaker, Rachael Comerford, as the Director of Content Standards at
Macmillan Learning, Rachel Comerford helps to implement and maintain industry and
internal standards in content, platforms, and processes. Her work includes
establishing internal accessibility, metadata, and EPUB implementation
guides that align with best practices. She co-chairs the W3C Publishing Community
Group, and participates in working groups at IMS Global, BISG, and AMAC,
where she asks lots of annoying questions and competes for the title of “most
snarky.” She enjoys lazy strolls on the beach, red wine,
and well-constructed EPUBS complete with all of their accessibility features
and metadata. Please welcome Rachel Comerford. ♪ [music] ♪ – [Rachel] I want everyone to know that
Sophia picked my walk-on music. So I should warn all of you that it was
not too long ago that I took a BuzzFeed quiz that told me that my spirit Muppet
is Fozzie Bear. So, apparently, I’m not nearly as funny as I think I am.
But I will be ending everything that I think is funny with “Wocka Wocka,” just
so that you guys know when to laugh. So, there’s like, a key to this. So,
aside from being HR’s worst nightmare at Macmillan, I am the Senior Director of
Content Standards and Accessibility. So, I’ve worked at Macmillan for about
five years. I’ve been in the publishing industry for about 10.
I started off at W.W. Norton, then I worked at Pearson.
I’ve done editorial work, sales work. And aside from that, I also
have probably more than a decade of experience with online dating,
which is unfortunate on many levels, and for many different people including
you, because you’re going to have to hear about it. But before I get into that too
much, I do want a chance to get to know you guys a little bit better,
and hopefully you’ll all participate. So, by a show of hands how many of you
have read all or part of the EPUB, EPUB for education, or accessible EPUB
documentation? Show-offs, put your hands down. Does anyone want to do
this for me? Okay. So let’s get a little more personal. Have you now or in
the past ever tried online dating? Raise your hands. Don’t nod at me.
There’s no shame. I’ve done it. Okay. Keep your hands up. Keep them up.
This is not showing off. Okay, so leave them up if you’re still online dating.
Wow. So, only three of you are willing to admit that you’re still online dating.
I say willing to admit. I know it’s more than three of you. Come on. So,
this is now completely out of the question.
And also explains why I’m still single. So, I went back and forth way too many
times about how to, like, bring these two topics together.
I had this great idea six months ago, where I thought it’d be hilarious if I
talked about both of these things. And then six months passed,
and Laura said, “Where’s your presentation?” And I said,
“In my head.” So anyone that saw me at the hotel bar on Tuesday night knows that this
was the coming together of a lot of research and a lot of red wine.
Hopefully, you saw me earlier in the hotel bar on Tuesday night,
because if you saw me later in the bar on Tuesday night, there was a lot of red
wine. But the thing is that really brings these two experiences together
is actually kind of unfortunate. And what it is is convenience, right?
So when I talk to people about online dating,
what they tell me is the reason they do it is because it’s just easier.
It’s easier than meeting somebody IRL. The millennials tell me that means in real
life. I’m so happy I learned that. But it’s the same thing with eBooks.
When I talk to my friends about why they’re using eBooks,
and, yeah, this is purely anecdotal, this isn’t like a deep analytical
non-research project for why people are using eBooks.
What they tell me is it’s easier. It’s just easier than carrying around four
books when you go on vacation. And, yes, I am the person that takes four books
on vacation. Don’t judge me. It’s easier than going out to the
bookstore, and trying to buy five books and carrying them around.
It’s less expensive. That’s why they’re using them.
They’re not getting any joy out of this experience.
They’re not buying them because they’re super excited to get a new eBook.
They’re buying them because it’s easier to get an eBook than anything else.
And they are online dating because meeting somebody in real life is a
royal pain in the tuchus. My grandmother loves that I just said
that. But what if we got joy from reading, right?
What if there were some easy steps that we could take to make reading a more joyful
experience? So these are my rules. There’s four. And they apply to both.
So let’s see how this goes. So, the first one is remember your
audience. And when I say this, what I mean is stop posting gym
selfies, all the gym selfies. You should probably avoid the
car selfies, the bathroom selfies, and any unsolicited phalluses.
Use the standards. There are standards for communication. There are things that
you say online that you would never say in person. Stop saying them online.
And we have these great eBook standards that are out there. And these amazing
people, who many of whom are sitting in the audience right now,
that write them. Take advantage of that, and get involved. Be transparent.
Not literally. I don’t need the selfie man. But don’t say entrepreneur
when you mean unemployed. Don’t say that you’re caring for an
elderly parent, when what you mean is that you live in your mom’s basement. Just,
you know, expose your metadata. Don’t play hard to get. So, maybe,
like a little bit hard to get, because if you’re, like,
really not playing hard to get, then there are some issues there.
But great content, or even terrible content, should be findable and
usable by anyone. So this is where we really stretch the metaphor,
and try and dig into these a little deeper. So our first rule.
Remember your audience. Seriously though, why would anybody click on this picture?
So you see this picture in online dating, and it says…What is it?
“I’m not your usual D-bag chest pick profile.” Okay.
Why would I think that? Because I started with your picture,
and the only reason I have for actually clicking on it, is that I’m trying to
write a presentation for ebookcraft, and I promised dating profiles would
be involved. And there’s no reason for me to think, after reading a profile like
this, that your format, this guy’s format, D-bag chest pick
profiles format fits with my content. It doesn’t match. And I’m not that kind of
girl. At least as long as my mother might see this. So there are no hard and fast
rules for how to present your content, not in dating, not in eBooks, right?
Everything is going to vary based on what you’re producing, what you’re targeting.
If you’re looking for, like, a quick hookup. If you are by the way,
show me more than your packs. And I mean, shoulders up again, guys. Oh, God,
I have a library. Same goes for eBooks, right? So, if
you’re producing an eBook…I produce textbooks. I say I produce
textbooks, but really my team produces textbooks. Two of them
are in the audience right now, and really embarrassed, and hiding their
faces. But when we first switched from PDFs to EPUBS as a company I was like
whole hog. Everything has to be mobile compatible. Everything has to be
reflowable. I’m in this. I’m fully committed to this.
My textbooks are going to work on every single cell phone, because everybody wants
to read a complex science book on a cell phone, right? That’s you’ve
always dreamed of? So I believed every…There was no room for fixed layout.
Not in my mobile-friendly world. And there are also no room for shirtless
profile pics in case that wasn’t clear. Then I came across this.
This is a graphic novel meant to introduce rhetoric to students.
Iris has a hard copy. So this was unexpected, to say the least.
And what I realized was is that I had become so deeply committed to this idea of
what was the perfect format for my books that I had started ignoring
the fact that there were other needs that
I was going to have. And then when I started to consider how I
was going to approach this, yes, the first thing that I thought was I’ll
have to do this as a PDF. But as Deborah Kaplan said to me
yesterday, sometimes it’s hard to get over our abuse of x formats.
Then we finally started to explore the fixed layout EPUB with many things,
to Iris Febres, who actually helped us design this EPUB and get it published.
So this brings us to rule number two. Do you guys get it? It’s peanut butter and
jelly, so it’s like a standard meal, but it’s also like a perfect match. – [Woman 1] “Wocka Wocka.” – Who says this joke is less funny when
you explain it? Come on. So as my friend, Dave Cramer, says…Say hi, Dave. Hi, Dave.
The standards are made by the people who show up. So why does this matter?
And what does this have to do with peanut butter and jelly? It has nothing to do
with peanut butter and jelly. But there are two reasons that this is
really important. One is that, reading standards documentation is the
worst. And everybody here raised their hands, so you know what it’s like.
And you admitted to that, just not, you know, online dating. Just fine,
I’m not judging you publicly, judging you. But I wouldn’t say
that as an active participant in developing these, they are dense,
they’re hard to interpret, they don’t solve every problem, like,
there’s nothing easy about standards. And it makes it super tempting to try and
start something from scratch, right? Like, I’m just going to do it my way,
and it’s going to be fine. And we’ve seen those proprietary format
requirements from organizations that I won’t name, but maybe we could call them
“prime examples.” “Wocka Wocka.” Basically, these are benevolent
dictatorships, right? They require pleading your case for your
business need to be addressed. And hopefully it is, but maybe it’s not.
And when it’s not, you need to do all of these workarounds in order to make it
actually succeed. And then the second reading is that reading dating profiles is
the worst. And I say this as somebody who reads them constantly. Not constantly,
every once in a while I open up the app on my phone. Constantly sounds like a bad
idea. And there are no standards for documentation for dating profiles.
And as I said before, just remember there are like basic
requirements to human interaction, right? There are things that you never say to
another person. There are things you never do to another person when you
meet them “IRL.” I feel so young. But for some reason, online, we
feel totally comfortable doing it. So this guy is kind of a perfect example.
He’s almost perfect. I know, right? Almost perfect. He’s a romantic soul,
he’s a creative spirit, he’s a genius. Guys, I was messaged by the genius.
He was also born on Mars, which apparently is something that I
should have been looking for, but I’m not. Can you imagine walking up to somebody in
a coffee shop and being like, “Hey, I’m almost perfect, and a genius.
You want to go out? I’m intrigued by you.” Don’t do it. You don’t have to be a
prince, although this remains one of my favorite messages ever. Prince Otoo.
He must confess my profile captured his attention. I know it’s not true.
It doesn’t mean anything for a relationship. Come on.
And then this guy, who you may have seen if you read my article,
just speaks for himself. If you’re not going to say it in
real life, don’t say it online. And in case anybody was wondering,
I love my ass so he can bite me. So, being appropriate and polite
is not the easiest thing to do. And I’m definitely guilty of being
inappropriate at the best and worst of times. And again,
if you’re curious as to whether that’s true or not, Franco is right here and
Betsy right there, they can let you know how often that happens.
Iris has freelanced for me too so she can tell you some stories. – [Iris] Can I? – That would be a really nice drawing of
me right there. I’m sorry. Doing right isn’t always easy. Embracing the standards
that are available and applying them, contributing to groups that are
establishing them. Stop producing files that lack interoperability whenever you
can. And where there are gaps, help document those gaps.
Benefit the rest of the publishing world. And in case you’re looking for an
opportunity to do that… Did I mention that I co-chair the community group for EPUB
at the W3C. And we’re documenting best practices. Join. Anybody can join.
You do not have to be a member of the W3C. Karen Meyers hates me right now.
Join the community group. Think of it as an entry drug, right?
It’s like when you’re trying to be vegetarian and somebody gives you bacon.
Take some time, understand what’s happening within the group,
contribute to the best practices documentation,
make the publishing world a little bit better. We’ll have better standards
going forward. So, the next one is to expose your metadata. Tell me
about yourself. Use your metadata. And there is a mantra that comes with is.
And we’re going to ask all of you to join me in saying it. And that is,
“Expose your metadata, not yourself.” So can we all just, like,
come together and say this once. Both Betsy and Franco are
literally writing their, like, resignation letters right now. – [Franco] That would be Rachel. – So, everyone, all, once, come on. – [Together] Expose your
metadata, not yourself. – Okay. This is no more
unsolicited headshots. Oh, come on.
That was good. – [Woman 2] “Wocka Wocka.” – Fozzie Bear would have liked it. So,
this is surprisingly important in online dating. Giving the right
information about yourself. And anybody who raised their hand about
having tried online dating in the past, even though you lied and put your hand
down, and said that you weren’t anymore, knows that, “I am not a psychopath.”
is actually a really important piece of information, really important.
And that blah, blah, blah guy, probably a psychopath. So,
mystery is not sexy. Mystery is really annoying.
There’s a wide world of metadata out there that will allow your audience to
understand what you’re actually producing. It makes it possible for them to find your
book, to understand if they want to use it, to understand if they can use
it. Don’t ignore that. Embrace it. Make it a part of what you’re producing.
How does metadata tell a user if they can actually use a book?
The hint is in the screenshot. Accessibility metadata.
Is it actually possible for your user to open up this book and make use of it?
So that brings me to my next point. Don’t play hard to get.
And in case I wasn’t clear, I never mastered the game of hard to get.
My game is more something like weird oversharing,
followed by like utter obliviousness, really bad jokes, and drinking a lot of
red wine. Did I mention the red wine thing? Feel free to get me a drink
tonight at the trivia. I will be there. I will be drinking. But aside
from the utter obliviousness, which you could argue is consistent with
some of the reading experiences out there, it’s important to not play hard to get as
long as you’re not doing what that guy is doing. I just had to have a
counterexample. So don’t take it this far. He’s struggling with this. But in my mind,
a lack of accessibility is the equivalent of playing hard to get with
your paying customers, right? So, let’s say that you have a young
woman whose name is Smitchel, just making her up. And Smitchel has a
crush on a super nerdy guy because that never happens. And she proceeds
to actively avoid said boy. Yeah. She’s doing everything possible to
sabotage that boy’s interest in her by avoiding him wherever she
can, talking to other boys. She is convinced that if she makes herself
available then no boy will ever be interested. Now, obviously, this is
never something I would do. Actually, obviously this is something I
would never do. And, you know, I’ve reached out to friends for examples,
because that was, you know, not me at all. But imagine you’re publishing a book,
and you think it’s going to be a New York Times bestseller.
But you structure it so that 20% of your audience can’t use it. That’s is insane.
You cut yourself off at the knees. You have exposed yourself in your profile
pic, literally. So, the reason that accessibility becomes so important to
this, especially in my world because I’m in educational publishing,
NPDE did a recent study, and NPDE asked about 1,800 college
students, if they had a disability that interfered with their ability to use their
course materials. Almost half of the students responded, yes.
So we have a stat that says about 20% of the population can’t use,
or requires AT, has some sort of disability. We have a stat that says
50% of our student population has that need. Don’t ignore that audience.
Don’t play hard to get with them. Make materials that they can actually use.
So, hopefully, I have in very short time, proved to you that I’m not the only thing
that dating and eBooks have in common. And where does that leave us? Well,
hopefully, a step ahead of this guy, because I’ve always dreamed about dating a
man again. I mean, this is real guys. But a working progress is accurate.
We have a lot that we still need to do in order to get these standards up to
speed, which again, participate in the community group. Give us your best
practices. Tell us what we can do in order to make it better. We have a lot
to do in terms of accessibility. We haven’t solved all the problems.
I understand from Lisa, that Peter and Sophia are
solving all of my math problems. So, I’m super excited about that one.
But again, participation is key. And if you are online dating,
and I know that it’s more than three of you, so you can stop lying to me right
now. Just be kind, and be patient, and stop sending me naked
pictures of yourself. That’s it. Does anyone have any questions? – [Man] What’s the best
online dating site? – None of them. That was my answer.
Iris, you had a question? – I was about to say,
favourite platform for dating, and favourite
platform for reading? – For reading? You know,
I prefer print books. I’m not going to lie.
My favourite platform for e-reading is with VitalSource. Yeah, but
that’s because I spend so much of my time looking at text books,
and that’s a great textbook platform. In terms of fiction, I like having a book.
For dating, none of them. Yeah. Is that it? Cool.