June 11, 2010, Ian Greenleigh
The tweet below sums up what I suspect many of us feel about the debate surrounding creation, aggregation, and curation.
This might sound strange, but I know I’m a fan of curation even though I’m not quite sure what it means—anymore. I thought I knew, until I started digging deeper and deeper, trying to locate the line in the sand between what I thought was curation, and the ostensibly less creative/valuable/fair (take your pick) process of aggregation. So where is the line? Can there ever be a standard, accepted definition for curation? I think it’s close to universally recognized that Google News, for instance, has been in the aggregation box. But is that still true given this latest development (see tweet below)?
If you think, as I do, that the mere act of editing adds value, does Google’s new test of human selection vs. algorithmic feed pass from the realm of “mere” aggregation into curation territory? How much value do we have to add before we call ourselves curators?
Brian Solis thinks that filtering for relevance is one of the best ways we can pare down the constant flux of our real-time social streams into digestible, attention-worthy content packages:
But relatively simple ways of meeting these basic filtering requirements have been around since social media came into the mainstream. Brian seems to be saying that it takes something else, an additional element, to make that leap from aggregation to curation. And when even Brian struggles to articulate what that secret sauce is, it’s safe to say that the question is nowhere near resolution.
Robert Scoble defines the curator as…
… an information chemist. He or she mixes atoms together in a way to build an info-molecule. Then adds value to that molecule.
Even if we don’t quite know what it is, we know we want it.
Throughout this post, I’ve featured what I see as germane bits of conversations from around the Web. I’ve used them to illustrate the questions I’m asking, and I’ve added my personal take or reaction to each. It’s pretty clear, to me at least, that I’m therefore engaging in curation.
But what if I did this? (Click here and come right back)
Would I then be a curator or an aggregator? Was the act of selecting this particular grouping of content and then presenting it all in one place enough to clear the gap between the two? I don’t have the answer.
But my point—yeah, I have one—is that we seem to be staggeringly far from the answer, despite our best attempts. Maybe it’s one of the core issues we are trying to address with curation, exponential information growth, that is ultimately keeping us from agreeing on its definition.
Special thanks to @robinsloan for creating Blackbird Pie. The tool was exactly what I needed for this post.