Over the past few months, there’s been an interesting number of new developments with regards to Web Curation, following several predictions that this would be come a hot topic or even a “billion dollar opportunity“.
What’s this all about?
A definition I like for web curation is Rohit Bhargava’s : A Content Curator is someone who continually finds, groups, organizes and shares the best and most relevant content on a specific issue online.
How can you sort out signal (information) from noise (pointless babbles) in the social Web? How can you organize and editorialize content? Give it context? In short, how do you make some sense out of the social Web when it’s moving at 3,283 tweets per second? That’s the problem curation is trying to solve.
Bloggers have been the Web 2.0’s journalists and writers, curators could be its editors.
There’s been several innovation layers on curation.
First, some thought Twitter would provide this necessary curation. Tweeting a link means you’ve found it and gave it some value it didn’t have before. But when everybody does that, you get information overflow…
The other idea was to use algorithms. Thanks to analytics from its widely used Tweet button, Tweetmeme ranks links based on their popularity on Twitter. This provides a hierarchy and filtering.
Some – and I’m among them – think this is not enough and that curation is more than filtering. There are good arguments for that in a great article by Tom Forenski on the “Human Web”. I’ll try to summarize them:
– Algorithms are gamed, people are not. Isn’t SEO just about gaming? Digg’s debacle is another great example.
– Indexing: filtering is good, but classification by topic also matters. For the long tail of niche topics, popularity doesn’t work.
– Human curators give context through editorialization, smart comments and summaries in a way no algorithm can.
The Tweetmeme figures tend to support these points (note: I mean the flat trend since the beginning of ’10; the decrease in traffic since the summer is most probably due to Twitter launching its own Tweet button).
For a few months, Robert Scoble and others have expressed the need for human-based curation services where curators – and not algorithms – would do the job. It seems they were heard by several start-ups (non-exhaustive list): Pearltrees, Curated.by, Storify and the newly born Scoop.it.
I won’t try to compare all of these services in details. But if they all differ (Pearltrees through an innovative UI, Curated.by and Storify by their focus on real-time content and Scoop.it by feeding curators with topic-related suggestions), they all make a bet on people. Their basic assumption is somehow philosophical: that humans can still perform better than machines when dealing with subtleties of content and language.
What’s in it for curators then? A simple mean of self-expression that is not as time-consuming than blogging, peer recognition (“Andy Warhol was wrong. We’re not going to be famous for 15 minutes. We’re each going to be famous for 15 People.“) or maybe just the desire to do some good and contribute to the task of bringing order to the Web. Probably a mix of all this. But look at it this way: a lot of people are already doing that naturally. Some by bookmarking, some by sharing on Facebook or Twitter, some by sending links by email, etc… The purpose of these new services is to unify all these natural actions in one consistent user experience, create a whole greater than the sum of its part and give them a meaning: curation.
Blogs and Web 2.0 were born out of the idea that by giving everyone writing rights, we’ll create a much richer world. It might be the moment to show that by giving everyone curating rights, we’ll make it even more relevant.
Note: To read more on curation, look at the topic here.