more on curation

So we think we know what curation is. We’re all talking about it as if we do. We’re all looking for effective and efficient ways of managing information overload. Steve Wheeler provides a good overview in Taming the tide: digital content curation. We all subscribe to Shirky’s ‘It isn’t information overload, it is filter failure.’ But there are different forms of content curation. Romain Goday identifies 5 different approaches

1. The expert approach – ‘curators.’ Where a subject or industry specialist curates in a customised way for a specific target audience. (We library people seem to like using scoop.it as our preferred tool for this).

2. The crowd approach – ‘popularity’ ranking. Where the number of ‘shares’ and ‘likes’ and tweets determine the relevance of an item. This one is open to manipulation though.

3. The user-behaviour approach – ‘personalisation.’ Montoring online browsing behaviour over time  and filtering results lists accordingly

4. Relationships approach – ‘social graph’ using tools like twitter and facebook to filter what a user and his/her connections share as ‘trusted’ and relevant information

5. Patterns approach – ’emergence’ new systems are being developed to recognise patterns emerging over the web

Most of us appear to have a problem with the aggregator model. Much has been written about the pitfalls of the automated approach where our browsing patterns return us only more of the same and never anything new or challenging. Machines using algorithms, no matter how sophisticated are unable to provide context and meaning. As Jeff Turner writes in Curation as story: the importance of human filters the best curation is ‘social curation’.

Have I told a story, or have I simply collected a bunch of links? Good content curation uses the human filter to add value. Good curators know their subject and are able to see patterns emerging in the story. They are able to provide meaning and context.

In Content curation: are you a fire hose or a focussing lens? (really the title says it all!) Beth Kanter quotes Seth Godin

…either be better at pump and dump than anyone else, get your numbers into the millions, outmass those that choose to use mass and always dance at the edge of spam (in which the number of those you offend or turn off forever keep increasing)… or relentlessly focus. Prune your message and your list and build a reputation that’s worth owning and an audience that cares. Only one of these strategies builds an asset of value.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, in our library and teaching roles we’ve been curating forever – in practice if not in name (well I like to think so, those of us who are doing our job properly at least). As Joyce Seitzinger demonstrated in her Converge11 presentation, we do this in our course design phase and our delivery and facilitation. In ‘What sort of curator are you?’ Joyce identifies the hoarders who collect everything indiscriminately, don’t organise, don’t share and risk ‘bloat’. We’ve all worked with one of those. We’ve also worked with the selfish ‘scrooge’ and the colleague that shares all sorts of rubbish all of the time.

If you want to be able to curate well then you have to have a focus. Define your topic or field, set the parameters. Be strict with yourself and exercise some discipline. You can’t curate everything out there – your job is to find the best that’s out there, give it context and meaning and be alert for the patterns that are constantly emerging. Then share it!

Look at the tools available to make curating not just more efficient but more beautiful too. Like Joyce, I use my iPad for this and love the way I can gather all of my favourite streams in FlipBoard and Pulse for slick and streamlined viewing. I love the journey, the treasure hunt.

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