The Watchmaker’s Content Manual

I woke up in an oddly structured way last Sunday, having dreamt of reading a dissection manual for a mechanical watch: How to take it apart, clean every part, then reassemble and end up with a working watch again. It was a big, old, beautiful book to look at, with incredibly detailed diagrams and carefully hand-drawn lettering.

The book contained only one possible sequence that allowed to disassemble the watch and put back together. Make one mistake, and backtrack to the last known correct step. Restraining, but oddly liberating at the same time.

What if, I was thinking while my son’s nose hit my forehead, trying to wake me up, what if one could take a heap of content and work on it with such a manual? — Not your typical corporate style guide which needs to be rather vague to be applicable to many contexts. A step-by-step manual that a five year old could understand, probably even one a robot could understand.

Take one piece of content. Take it apart like this. Then do this, then that. Then put it together again exactly like this. If you miss a step, backtrack. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Few people would be glad to be assigned such simple, repetitive tasks, but I’ve met some who couldn’t be happier doing this kind of work. Maybe there’s a place for these workflows. Or probably, it was just a dream.