My Twitter friend @dberkholz sent me an irritated message back in October complaining about all the Paper.li online newspapers (including mine, The Mike Ellsworth Daily) that glut his Twitter feed. After a bit of an exchange, he pointed me to a tweet by @5tu that he said summed up his attitude (partially redacted below):
The fact that 72 others retweeted this crusty post indicates a couple of things:
- Curation is a rapidly growing trend
- Current curation tools are annoying lots of people
So what is curation?
You may be familiar with the term curation in relation to curated art gallery or museum collections. The idea online is that, as we participate in more and more streams of information — our Facebook friends’, those we follow on Twitter, even LinkedIn updates — there’s an increasing inability to keep up. According to an article in Search Engine Journal, “less than half of what comes in to museums actually gets shown for public consumption.” However, for online curation to be successful, far fewer items can be selected for display due to the overwhelming flood of updates and posts.
Social media curation involves people (like me) curating, or selecting, articles, blogs, tweets, videos or other interesting online material and making them available in an easily-digestible format, often organized around a theme. It’s similar, but hardly identical, to content aggregators that use RSS feeds, like Google Reader. The main difference is RSS is the fire hose; Curation is the nozzle.
For examples, see my Scoop.it topic, Enterprise Social Media; the aforementioned Mike Ellsworth Daily (enterprise social media articles); my Summify paper; and my Snip.it enterprise social media collection.
Of these examples, the Paper.li and Summify represent automated curation, where I determine keywords and maybe blogs or other sites to follow, and the site automatically collects material based on an algorithm that represents my choices. I’ve got a few different Paper.li’s (Social Media Case Studies is one I read myself all the time.)
Scoop.it and Snip.it represent manually curated sites. I have bookmarklets on my bookmarks bar that I can click when I see something I want to curate. Scoop.it also provides a stream in my account that I can discard or scoop into my collection. I can add my own commentary to these articles and share them on Twitter, Facebook, and a blog called Internet Billboards.
People can subscribe to these various curated publications and get updates sent via email. The various sites assemble the bits and pieces into a magazine-like format. I like Scoop.it’s design the best:
Twitter Buys Summify
The first article in the screenshot above provided the impetus for this post: Twitter has purchased Summify and is shutting down the service. I’m bummed they’re shuttering the service but the team of five (!) people who were running Summify will be folded into the TwitterBorg and presumably integrate some kind of curation features into Twitter in the future.
Twitter recently also bought Tweetdeck, a program you can install on your computer to organize and try to make some sense of social media updates. It’s not clear whether the purchase of Summify represents an admission of failure for the Tweetdeck purchase or an attempt to build upon it. My bet is the five Summifiers will bolt curation technology onto the Tweetdeck platform rather than into the Twitter Website, but they could eventually do both.
So what will it take to win the haters like Donnie and @5tu? Well there will always be purists, folks who won’t get on the big bus, who carve their own way, and who disdain the mainstream. But I think curation tools will evolve to the point where they move beyond random annoyance and become trusted filters delivering value.
What do you think? Which curation platforms have you tried? What is the future of this trend — flash in the pan or enduring phenomenon? Please comment below.