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Blogs > Office Jotter

Still more curating, and its limits
Roger Whitehead By: Roger Whitehead, Director, Office Futures
Published: 6th January 2011
Copyright Office Futures © 2011

Mashable: 4 Promising Curation Tools That Help Make Sense of the Web

As the volume of content swirling around the web continues to grow [waffle snipped]… The solution on the horizon is curation. You can either choose to be a curator — offering your filtered world view to followers — or you can choose curators to follow.

Looked at numerically, ‘curation’ will not diminish the choices open to one but the opposite. The original sources don’t go away, so compiling a list on Twitter or elsewhere necessarily involves creating a further information entity.

In using such a list, the subscriber implicitly trusts that the compiler is doing a better job of selecting sources than he or she can or has the time or inclination for. This might well be so, in which case the list would be worthwhile. (For me, the wonderful Arts & Letters Daily is one such; I’ve dipped into it for years.)

If, however, a list is not well tuned to the subscriber’s needs, it will also add more noise. Some people might choose to regard that noise as serendipitous but one can find off-topic material anywhere without using a third-party’s selection of it.

Now, this argument can be reduced to the absurd by saying that online magazines are nothing or little more than lists. In principle, yes. They usually meet the requirement above, of being better than most people have the time, knowledge or patience to do themselves.

In practice, good magazines — and good blogs — also have original content, which has been researched and written by someone or some people familiar with the topic addressed. (Yes, I know they often also contain warmed-over press releases. This can be noise when other magazines are simultaneously regurgitating the same material.)

I don’t see lists as offering original content because they’d be called something else if they did. Also, it’s unlikely their compilers would want or be able to put that much effort into producing them each time.

Taking the argument the other way, it won’t be long before people start compiling lists of lists (staple fare on Mashable, for instance). What self-regarding term will they then adopt for themselves? Meta-curators, perhaps?

Back to today, if you’d prefer not to rely on someone else’s judgement, then the means for making your own selections are all around. My main variety reduction tools, for instance, are:

  1. A good RSS reader, with filters for topics I follow. I use GreatNews.
  2. For more volatile stuff, TweetDeck, which keeps an eye on the Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn feeds I like.

I will add to those only if I can see a clear advantage in doing so.

[Note: this is an expanded version of an earlier post today.]

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