Content Curation



Content curation is not new – in fact it is at least as old as concepts like libraries and museums. So why is it so hot these days? Why are there all sorts of tools, like Pinterest, the hottest new kid in town, that can help you curate content? It must have something to do with the widespread feeling of information overload in combination with an ever increasing number of social media tools that give all of us the opportunity to collect our favourite content around us.

This personal collection of links, photos, ideas and thoughts that many of us create on Facebook for instance is a form of content curation. We are filtering for our Facebook friends and subscribers information that we find important, and are in turn using our friends and likes for consuming filtered information. This could help us make sense of all the information available to us on the web. After all, as I recently heard: information overload is filter failure. The human filter of our friends and others we follow should help us find that information that is useful for us, and to avoid that which we do not need so that we do not become too daunted by everything out there.

However, exactly the tools that help us focus on information important to us are also making it more and more difficult to remain focused. After all, most of us have profiles in different networks – LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google+ probably being the most current ones. And each of these networks may have a different focus, a different network to maintain and follow.

One of my collections in Delicious

One of my collections in Delicious

Of course there are now tools to manage these different networks by enabling you to post an update in different profiles (for instance If This Then That) and to check updates of others in one environment (for instance Hootsuite). RSS readers can help us view updates of blogs and websites at a glance, in Delicious we can collect and organise bookmarks, and Instapaper allows us to collect things we would still like to read – some day.

Nevertheless, it seems about time for new solutions to be found to design and apply effective information filters. That is probably one of the reasons that content curation is getting more attention nowadays. After all, visiting all our social network museums and updating our libraries daily is getting more and more unmanageable while it seems as if it is equally impossible to skip any of them even for one day.

Rohit Bhargava describes 5 models for content curation. They are aggregation, distillation, elevation, mash up and chronology. It seems to me that some models are applied more widely (aggregation, distillation, chronology) than others (elevation, mash up). Maybe because getting to a level where you can elevate and mash up information gathered requires a solid command of that information first – to be acquired via aggregation, distillation and chronology. But perhaps also because a great number of readers find posts like “5 mistakes to avoid on Twitter” easier to digest than posts that explain the trends in perceived mistakes and the background of such trends.

Symbaloo collection by Joitske Hulsebosch

Symbaloo collection by Joitske Hulsebosch

From my limited experience I can see two trends in content curation: to aggregate must-follow blogs and persons rather than ideas and tips, and to aggregate in a visual way by for instance pinning photos to a pin board, as is done in Pinterest, or by collecting visuals of websites like in Symbaloo.

While I also enthusiastically explore and consume these tools, I also feel that what is missing is attention for elevating a mere collection of links to a meaningful vision and for prioritising which information to digest and which to discard. With growing connectedness, ever expanding networks and more and more tools to collect information and keep this collection accessible it becomes more complicated to figure out when and where to stop. Simple tricks that can help include:

  • Reserving a specific period of time regularly for checking up your social media networks and for browsing
  • Identifying 3-7 topics you will focus on
  • Identifying a limited and clear range of people to follow in each network, based on your focus
  • Focusing on a limited number of networks, while giving yourself time to try new ones for a month before deciding whether to continue using them or not
  • Regularly re-evaluating your presence in and use of social media to make sure you are still where you want and need to be
  • Viewing networks like Twitter as fountains – you can go there to drink, but if you do not drink, you do not need to catch up later

One of the clearest statements I heard on this recently comes from Joitske Hulsebosch. Basically she said that walking through a library does not stress out people as much as passing by content on the web. Somehow in a library we do not tend to have a feeling of needing to read each single book curated there and of inadequacy at realising this is never going to be possible. In a museum some of us will visit only the impressionists while others prefer to view classic painters like Rembrandt and Vermeer. And this is perfectly fine.

So the best advice probably is to be aware that not all curated content is curated for your personal consumption – just as the content you curate is not all of it there on your blog or profile page for each single visitor. And to be content with that. And to trust that if information is meant to reach you, it will.

A bit more on content curation

What can non-profits learns about content curation – a Storify by Beth Kanter

5 models for content curation – post by Rohit Bhargava

Non-profits on Pinterest – a Storify by Beth Kanter

It’s Filter Failure – post by Joitske Hulsebosch with great English language video of Clay Shirky on filter failure

The Filtering Facilitator – Prezi by Joitske Hulsebosch (in NL)


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