Why Content Curation is the new Blogging

(clicca qui per la traduzione in italiano)

During these days I’m questioning myself about today’s online media industry recurring topic of discussion: the so-called content curation. The term itself can be identified with the concept of “caring about content.”

This concept, obviously, can be investigated from a variety of viewpoints: it revolves around manipulating information, news, contents available online to a new form with sensibly higher ambitions in terms of vision, lifecycle and usefulness.

It’s about producing contents that, on average, are well worth an enhanced amount of attention respect to the so-called “world buzz,” the avalanche of information micro-bits, we receive daily from the Internet through social media, blogs, online newspapers, and sometimes and unfortunately from content farms.

On a more operational level, an interesting definition that you can find online follows (from here)

“Content Curation is a term that describes the act of finding, grouping, organizing or sharing the best and most relevant content on a specific issue.”

So, it seems we are mainly dealing with combination, enhancement or augmentation of existing contents, potentially released with licenses that encourage reuse (eg: creative commons), or more plainly public (as the vast majority of the Twitter updates).

There are many products that are candidate to embody, in a variety of ways, this concept (here you can find out nine of them): among many others it’s worth to cite Storify, which I’m well interested in, since a very useful tool of digital storytelling that it’s going well along its way to success.

The first myth to dispel, however, is that content curation should be a response to the prevailing information overload we live these days. I’m afraid that, with an internet audience growing disruptively – thanks to mobile internet penetration as well as to the explosion of connected users in emerging countries – so many new users and contents are flocking online that we will ultimately be subject to a “curated information” overload soon, leading us to face of the very same problem at the end of the day.

Overcoming information overload means, in essence, make a continuous ranking of information against our preferences: a task that’s well suited for softwares that could easily know how to extract information from our online behavior, our profile:  Google and Facebook (in the walled garden of our social sphere) are already doing this filtering, as brilliantly explained in the recent Eli Parisers fantastic TED Talk that everyone should check.

To filter information so there will be no need for curators: the famous Google +1 button does nothing but a step further in this direction. At this point, however, a reflection is due, since the issue gets complicated: there are obvious risks in entrusting a closed, proprietary, algorithm (about which no discussion is possible), of being our window over the internet. Doing it with a simplistic approach can be dangerous at the end for our very same democracy and Freedom. Good, therefore, would be to see developments regarding the overall transparency of these algorithms and, even more, in sharing between software and user itself the duty of tuning and managing its very own information filters.

But if it is not about filtering information, what exactly are we talking about when we talk about content curation? What are the social roots, the ultimate utility and the perspectives of this activity in the information world of today?

Coming back to thinking the phenomenon in terms of composing, preparing and correlating contents in order to make it more usable and clearer (in this I pretty much agree with Rohit Bhargava) it must be noticed that, at the end of the day, incorporating a point of view can’t be avoided. In most cases this point of view will be analytical, educational, structuring. It’s about giving big pictures rather than going into details, frame the information rather than deepening it.

In this, Storify is an excellent example: it helps to relate news and content with each other and to place them on a sort of timeline. Another important example is the curation intrinsecally poured into infographics – which are literally pervading the online world – that have the great merit of making numbers, often hidden or hard to interpret otherwise, readable.

It seems clear, therefore, that the content curation mantra tends to identify practices that already exist, or rather their evolution into more attractive, user-friendly, usable variations (think of producing a Storify flow instead of writing a blog post).

This content curation tools which are the natural descendants of blogging and micro publishing platforms, will eventually lead to a further democratization of online information production by involving those who, reluctant to writing until yesterday, were confined to sporadic tweets and had not yet faced the idea of writing a blog post, in the online publishing arena.

Only a year ago Techdirt talked (citing other sources) of a newsroom that is up to date consisting of three skills:

  • Reporters — who go out and do first person reporting — creating original stories, not just reposting rewritten wire copy.
  • Columnists — who “start conversations and give stories another perspective.”
  • Curators — who “‘cover’ the news by sorting, verifying and editing live everything good existing on the web and in the media. They make link journalism, they make the news more accessible.”

Will this newsroom see his fate in an editorial room of a newspaper agency? Or, rather, in the vastness of the internet?

Who foresaw in the development of curated information the need for a professional and structured contribution (journalists, mainly) and thus the illusion of a way out of the tunnel for news corporations, should think again: this phenomenon will shift information production even more from the hands of traditional journalists, media and opinion makers to those of peers and citizen journalists. Such this promising revolution was expected since the times of  debut of blogging platforms, in the late nineties. That is a long time ago.

 

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Perchè la Content Curation è il nuovo Blogging.

Sono giorni che mi interrogo su quello che, per l’industria dei media online di oggi, sembra essere l’argomento principale di discussione: la cosiddetta content curation.

Il termine è traducibile, più o meno, con il concetto di “cura dei contenuti”. Concetto che ovviamente is offre a varie letture ma ruota intorno alla manipolazione delle informazioni, delle notizie, dei contenuti disponibili online,  in una nuova forma che abbia ambizioni di visibilità, vita e utilità diversa e maggiore rispetto a quella che, mediamente, un utente della rete attribuisce al cosiddetto world buzz, la valanga di bit micro-informativi che giornalmente riceviamo dalla rete, attraverso i social media, i blog, i quotidiani online e, purtroppo a volte, le content farm.

Sul piano più operativo, una interessante definizione che si può trovare online è la seguente (da http://www.rohitbhargava.com/2011/03/the-5-models-of-content-curation.html)

“Content Curation is a term that describes the act of finding, grouping, organizing or sharing the best and most relevant content on a specific issue.”

Dunque combinazione, enhancement, augmentation, di contenuti esistenti, potenzialmente rilasciati mediante licenze che ne incoraggino il riuso (es: creative commons), o più semplicemente pubblici come i Twitter updates.

Molti sono i prodotti che incarnano, a vario titolo e in vario modo, questo concetto (qui ne trovate nove), tra i tanti cito Storify, a cui mi sto interessando in questo periodo, un utilissimo tool di digital storytelling di cui sentirete sicuramente parlare.

Un primo mito da sfatare però, credo sia quello per cui la content curation dovrebbe rappresentare una risposta all’imperante information overload. Basta riflettere sul fatto che, con la internet audience in crescita verticale grazie alla penetrazione nei paesi emergenti e all’esplosione della mobile internet così tanti nuovi utenti si stanno riversando online che potenzialmente saremo soggetti a una curated information overload, che ci porrebbe di fatto di fronte agli stessi problemi.

Superare l’information overload significa, in sostanza, effettuare un ranking continuo delle informazioni sulla base delle nostre preferenze: un task sicuramente più adatto per un software ché sappia estrarre le informazioni sulle nostre preferenze dai nostri comportamenti online, dal nostro profilo: Google e Facebook (sia pure nel giardino murato della nostra sfera sociale) stanno già agendo in questa direzione, come brillantemente ha spiegato Eli Parisers in questo recente e splendido TED Talk, che ognuno dovrebbe vedere:

Per filtrare l’informazione dunque non ci sarà bisogno di alcun curatore, e il famoso pulsante +1 di Google non fa altro che rappresentare un altro passo in questa direzione. Va spesa, a questo punto però, una riflessione, perchè la questione si complica: sono infatti evidenti i rischi nell’affidare a un algoritmo chiuso, proprietario, su cui non ci sia neanche discussione, il compito di essere la nostra finestra sulla rete. Farlo con leggerezza può diventare pericoloso, perfino per la democrazia e la libertà. Benvengano dunque sviluppi nel senso della trasparenza, della condivisione e soprattutto nel senso del coinvolgimento dell’utente stesso nel tuning e nella gestione dei suoi stessi filtri.

Ma, se non si tratta di filtrare le informazioni, di cosa stiamo parlando di preciso quando parliamo di curation? Qual’è la radice, l’utilità e la prospettiva di questa attività nel mondo dell’informazione di oggi? Tornando a pensare al fenomeno in termini di composizione, correlazione e preparazione dell’informazione allo scopo di renderla fruibile in maniera più chiara (in questo sono praticamente d’accordo con Rohit Bhargava) si tratta di incorporare, inevitabilmente, un punto di vista. Nella maggior parte dei casi questo punto di vista dovrà essere analitico, educativo, strutturante. Dare evidenza alle Big pictures più che ai dettagli, “inquadrare” le informazioni più che “approfondirle”.

In questo, Storify costituisce un’ottimo esempio: aiuta a correlare le notizie e i contenuti tra loro e disponendoli su una sorta di timeline, contestualizzandoli temporalmente. Altro esempio importante di info curation sono le infografiche, che abbondano sulla rete, e che hanno il grande merito di rendere leggibili dati numerici, spesso nascosti e difficilmente interpretabili altrimenti.

Appare chiaro dunque come con il termine content curation tendiamo a identificare pratiche già esistenti online o, meglio la loro evoluzione verso una maggiore attrattiva, facilità d’utilizzo, usabilità (pensiamo a uno storify flow in luogo di un blog post).

Questa evoluzione che vede nei tool di content curation i naturali discendenti delle piattaforme di blogging, non potrà che portare a un ulteriore democratizzazione dell’online information publishing, spingendo chi fino a ieri si limitava ai tweet e non aveva ancora affrontato l’idea di scrivere un blog post, magari per una scarsa propensione alla scrittura, o per mancanza di tempo, ad andare oltre.

Solo un’anno fa techdirt parlava (citando altra fonte) di una newsroom al passo coi tempi formata da tre professionalità:

Reporters — who go out and do first person reporting — creating original stories, not just reposting rewritten wire copy.

Columnists — who “start conversations and give stories another perspective.”

Curators — who “‘cover’ the news by sorting, verifying and editing live everything good existing on the web and in the media. They make link journalism, they make the news more accessible.”

Ma che questa newsroom veda il suo destino all’interno di un redazione editoriale, piuttosto che nella vastità della rete, è tutto da dimostrare.

Chi intravedeva nello sviluppo dell’informazione “curata” la necessità di un curatore professionale (un giornalista, essenzialmente) e dunque il miraggio di una via d’uscita dal tunnel per le news corporation, credo si dovrà ricredere: questo fenomeno sposterà ancora un po’ lo scettro dell’informazione dalle mani dei giornalisti e dei media tradizionali, degli opinion makers a quelle dei peers, dei citizen journalists: una spinta che non si vedeva dai tempi del debutto dei blogs, a fine anni novanta. Un bel po’ di tempo fa.

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About meedabyte

Blogger, Wireless strategist and consultant, passionate about innovation, Free and open source enthusiast

7 comments

  1. Nice post Simone. Grazie.

    Nevertheless ” incorporating a point of view” or ” incorporare, inevitabilmente, un punto di vista” does not seem yet as important for Rohit Bhargava than it may appear… In his ” 5 models of content curation” the creation of new content espouses the model of Mashups. Without it, we’re perhaps still only talking aggregation…which is far from what I understand as web curation.

    http://www.rohitbhargava.com/2011/03/the-5-models-of-content-curation.html

    Ciao !

    Patrice Leroux

    • Ciao Patrice, first of all, thanks for reading and commenting. Secondly: I was actually meaning that I agree with RB, when he describes the models, but I think that, irrespective of the model you choose when you curate content, you can’t avoid incorporating your point of view since you do it as a human and not as a sofware would do.

      You raise a great point when you say that, pure, automated, aggregation is far from the idea of curation as it should be.

      I hope to catch up again with your comments soon!

  2. Hi, Simone. Good post. I agree with your notion that “curated information overload” is going to occur as a result of today’s curation tools. The problem will occur because everyone’s curation actions (e.g. their Storify, Paper.li, and Scoop.it accounts) are individual streams of content. But I disagree with the premise that content curation is not a solution to information overload. It *can* be the solution if everyone’s individual curation actions are combined to form a collective view of information. I recently blogged about this; I hope you’ll take the time to review the two most recent posts at http://blog.crowdspoke.com. Thanks for sharing your views on curation!

  3. Pingback: Why Content Curation is the new Blogging « | Mindfulsouls's Blog

  4. Pingback: Why Content Curation is the new Blogging | Compelling Curation

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