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Posts Tagged with “curation”


Yep. [via]

Pinterest, Tumblr and the trouble with “curation.”

Perhaps there’s a neurological component to all this; to the sudden rise of the mood board as mood regulator, a kind of low-dose visual lithium.


“Curation” does imply something far more deliberate than these inspiration blogs, whose very point is to put the viewer into an aesthetic reverie unencumbered by thought or analysis. These sites are not meant (as curation is) to make us more conscious, but less so.

If you discover something in an archive, that’s not actually a discovery.

This happens all the time, this discourse of amazing discoveries in the archives. On Monday, the New York Times reported on a “discovery” at Rutgers of lab notebooks that solved a longstanding mystery about credit for the discovery of streptomycin. The notebooks were in a box that came in with a scientist’s papers, and had not been opened recently. The archivist who found them was “thrilled but not surprised,” said the Times. The materials are amazing, but their discoveries are not.

Now imagine the archive is the internet. And that you’re a blogger. You can see where I’m going with this, right?

Richard Dunlop-Walters (who edits, or rather “curates,” Instapaper’s featured content section) on web curation.

Like many things on the internet, this thing is largely about ego. I believe that Popova is genuine in her concern for proper attribution into the rabbit hole of web wonderland. I also believe that she runs a glorified link blog and would like some credit for that.


Choire Sicha does not care for your use of the word “curator.” And, lest we forget, neither do I. [via]

Your faux TED talk is not going well for you if you are making some point about “curation” replacing “creation” because, well, for starters, “curation” is choosing among things that are created? So like there’s nothing for you to curate without creation? This precious bit of dressing-up what people choose to share on the Internet is, sure, silly, but it’s also a way for bloggers to distance themselves from the dirty blogging masses. You are no different from some teen in Indiana with a LiveJournal about cutting. Sorry folks!

Content and curation, an epic poem. Love.

SOCIAL MEDIA/CONTENT MARKETING PEOPLE: “Content curation is the new old newness. You must pure-play some content curation to leverage your thought leadership. It has good info-molecule and is lemon lemon easy thing. AHHHHH.”

Blog Definition

Before the internet came along, I’d recommend books to friends, clip or photocopy articles and write a lot of stuff down. Technology changed that. But it didn’t change me. I’m a curious guy. I like exploring new ideas and I like being pushed outside my comfort zone. I enjoy being challenged and having my mind changed. (Politicians call this “flip-flopping” and think it’s bad, which is just ridiculous.)

What the web has enabled for me is more access to more ideas and more tools to share them with other people. That’s what this site has really become: a tool for sharing things that interest me. When people talk about the changing “information economy,” they are right to be excited and even confused, because it’s exciting and confusing. We’re in a sort of golden age of content and sharing. There is so much stuff out there, and all of it is interesting at least to the person who made it. And there are so many smart people digging up great stuff and sharing.

If only there were a word for this new era of information sharing. Something unique and created for exactly this purpose. Oh wait, there is: blogging.

Except “blogging” isn’t cool anymore. Nobody wants to call themselves a “blogger.” Say it out lout: “I’m a blogger.” Feel stupid? I do. It’s a stupid word. Blogger. Ug. And I think this is really what’s at the crux of the whole debate around curation; saying “I’m a curator” sounds vaguely important and not at all like something you should be openly mocked for. I’ve seen this kind of thing before.

For a little over a decade I was a DJ. Saying this, like saying “I’m a blogger,” also makes me cringe a bit. That’s because the barrier for entry to being a DJ was low and they were just fucking everywhere. It got to a point where DJs, including me, started getting really defensive about what we did. We started using adjectives to elevate ourselves. I wasn’t a DJ, I was a “Working DJ.” I was a “Resident DJ.” Or “I DJ at [notable club] every [day of week].” For a brief period one summer, I was a “Touring DJ.”

And the discussion about what being a DJ actually meant changed a lot. People would get hung up on beat mixing and “story telling on the dancefloor” (literally a thing someone once said to me). Being a DJ wasn’t enough. As a group of people, we were really insecure and started taking ourselves way too seriously.

Eventually I got older and wiser and stopped trying to pump my own tires. Eventually being a DJ was enough. I enjoyed it and I was good at it, I think. I also realized that to be a DJ all you had to do was pick music and play it for other people, the rest was just additional stuff that might make you better, but it didn’t actually turn you into something else. And the best DJs have always been the ones that focus more on that basic point — picking music by spending countless hours looking and listening to find great tracks — then all the other stuff. (Though the most famous DJs are mostly the ones that excel at marketing. But that’s the same as everything in life these days, no?)

I still enjoy talking to other DJs about music, but only if they are the sort who are comfortable calling themselves just DJs. If they aren’t, they don’t actually want to talk about music. They usually just want to talk about themselves and how important they are.

You can probably see where I’m going with this. And I’m not wrong. In the realm of my experience, bloggers are the new DJs. The barrier to entry is low and some people feel the need to give themselves a new label. They’ve apparently settled on “curator,” even though this is clearly not the right word.

By the loosest definitions, I suppose it’s apt. But if being intellectually curious and sharing things you like on a website counts as curation, what exactly doesn’t? My bookshelves are curated. My iTunes library is curated. If we’re getting all fun and fancy free with the term, virtually everything in my life is curated. But calling me a curator because my MP3s are heavy on Pixies and Beastie Boys, and light on Justin Bieber is silly. These are just choices based on my own personal taste. They are also based on my age — if you’re a 34-year-old man in 2012, there’s a pretty good chance you prefer the Pixies to Justin Bieber.

The things in my life aren’t part of a curated collection. They are simply reference points for who I am. They are an accumulation of my experience, the choices I’ve made and the people I’ve met, who likely turned me on to a lot of it by sharing their interests. This blog is also a collection of references. Things that interest me and that I think are important. But it is still a blog. I even call it that on the homepage and in the about section.

Jason Kottke also calls his site a blog. John Gruber doesn’t. I don’t think either calls himself a curator, though. Maria Popova never uses the word blog. Brain Pickings is apparently a “human-powered discovery engine for interestingness” and she is its “cultural curator.” Um… right.

If what we want is a better word, “filter” is a more accurate description of what’s happening. We are all seeing a lot of content and we’re selectively choosing what to pass on, what gets through. Unfortunately saying “I’m a filter” might actually sound worse than “I’m a blogger,” though it certainly doesn’t come with the same baggage.

Ultimately, I think my point isn’t that this modern “curation” isn’t important — it is very important. Human content filters are substantially better than computer content filters. This is why I never want to watch anything on my Netflix “Top Ten for Tyler” list. Computers don’t understand the subtleties of content. They don’t get that liking Eric Clapton isn’t the same as liking Rod Stewart (a recommendation I just pulled from Rdio). But if you are filtering through content, making connections, adding context and sharing it online, you aren’t a curator. You’re a blogger. It’s a word we invented to define that particular activity. Curator is a word we invented for something else.

I’m a blogger and I’m okay with that. Why aren’t you?

Underneath the whole debate surrounding The Curator’s Code are ideas about what exactly being a “blogger” means. From what I can tell, there are two schools of thought on this: People who have blogs and are okay with that, and people who have blogs and, presumably, an inferiority complex because they want to call it something different. Like “curation.” Or “publishing.” Or something else that sounds more important than “blogging.”

(If this is the first you’re hearing of this, start here, then go here.)

Matt Langer says a lot of what I’ve already said, but better:

First, let’s just get clear on the terminology here: “Curation” is an act performed by people with PhDs in art history; the business in which we’re all engaged when we’re tossing links around on the internet is simple “sharing.”


But as far as value-adds go the “via” generally offers little more than a cookie crumb trail of others who have also read the material in question—the digital equivalent of finding the previous borrower’s name scribbled on the card in the back of a library book. Which is neat, I guess? But come on now, none of us here is Averroes rediscovering Aristotle or Poggio Bracciolini serendipitously plucking Lucretius off a dusty shelf—this is people posting pictures of yawning kittens on Tumblr blogs we’re talking about here.

Marco Arment offered a long post that raises a lot of issues surrounding attribution, though not really about attribution of discovery. He ends his post with:

Codifying “via” links with confusing symbols is solving the wrong problem.

Actually, I’d argue it isn’t solving a problem at all. Attribution of discovery is something you care about if you have self-esteem issues about being a blogger. Or because you think it’ll drive traffic. (It doesn’t. Or at least it never has for me. When a well-read blog sends a “via” my way, I get a small spike in traffic for about a day.)

Maria Popova, who started this whole thing, offered up a round-about defence of curation by quoting Chomsky in an unrelated (but sort of pointed) post:

You can’t pursue any kind of inquiry without a relatively clear framework that’s directing your search and helping you choose what’s significant and what isn’t… If you don’t have some sort of a framework for what matters — always, of course, with the provisor that you’re willing to question it if it seems to be going in the wrong direction — if you don’t have that, exploring the Internet is just picking out the random factoids that don’t mean anything… You have to know how to evaluate, interpret, and understand… The person who wins the Nobel Prize is not the person who read the most journal articles and took the most notes on them. It’s the person who knew what to look for. And cultivating that capacity to seek what’s significant, always willing to question whether you’re on the right track — that’s what education is going to be about, whether it’s using computers and the Internet, or pencil and paper, or books.”

John Robinson shares some of my apprehension (or maybe that’s derision) of the Curator’s Code, somewhat hilariously while sending a “via” my way. In his post, he addresses what a curator actually is and does. And I think this is important.

It seems to me that the term ‘curation’ implies a distinctly strategic approach, putting together collections of objects that are somehow related to one another, or which comment on one another in some respect. The only conscious strategy I’ve applied is that of posting links to the things I’ve found interesting/amusing online.

If you’re a museum curator, you likely have an advanced degree in art history (or whatever). You work to put together exhibits that are beneficial to visitors of all kinds, even beyond your own interests and comfort zone. To assemble these, you probably spend a lot of time doing research, calling other curators and negotiating schedules to bring the whole thing together. I assume so, anyway. I know when I attend a museum exhibit, it feels like a lot of effort went into assembling it.

If you’re curating a blog, you read stuff you like and you post it.

I’m not saying this to lessen what some of these blogs are — they are fantastic and I enjoy reading them. ANd you can tell when a lot of effort goes into them. By definition it’s curation, but in the overwhelming majority of cases, it’s clearly not the same thing.

Maria Popova, who developed the system, understands that we’re in a new era of information sharing and that old definitions no longer apply. But then she immediately slaps the word “curator” — an old concept — on it. As McLuhan said:

Innumerable confusions and a profound feeling of despair invariably emerge in periods of great technological and cultural transitions. Our “Age of Anxiety” is, in great part, the result of trying to do today’s job with yesterday’s tools — with yesterday’s concepts.

Ultimately, I think this “code” is silly. And, as Robinson says:

The important principle is the question of a weblog author’s willingness to attribute the source of a post. Most people who write linklogs (or post to Tumblr, or maintain publicly accessible lists of links at Pinboard or Delicious or wherever) decided a long time ago whether they wanted to go to the trouble of attributing the source of the items they found.

Maybe the “information economy” needs work. But this doesn’t actually improve anything.

The Curator’s Code is a way of attributing discovery. Essentially, it’s a way to formalize the “via.” From Brain Pickings:

The Curator’s Code is an effort to keep this whimsical rabbit hole open by honoring discovery through an actionable code of ethics — first, understanding why attribution matters, and then, implementing it across the web in a codified common standard, doing for attribution of discovery what Creative Commons has done for image attribution.

As someone who maintains a blog that is 99% curated content and always tries to via where I find stuff, I can honestly say this is just stupid. Curation is not authorship. Authorship is authorship. And curation is not as important as creation. I’ve said this before.

I offer attribution — a “via” link — where I can because I think it’s polite and neighbourly, and because I think people that read Pop Loser would probably also like to read the sites I read. And I appreciate it when people do the same, but I don’t think of it as something that’s strictly necessary. Links are meant to be shared and sharing is something we teach the youngest children. It’s part of the fabric of society and not something that should need rewarding.

I’m not saying curation isn’t valuable. It is. Human filters will always be better than computer filters at understanding the subtleties of information. But codifying the “hat tip?” Really? It reeks of insecurity. Worse, if it isn’t about feeling important, the only other explanation is web traffic. In my experience, decisions made to drive web traffic are rarely good decisions.

Every article I’ve read on the importance of internet curation is really stupid and almost entirely misses the point. This one is no different. (Though, it’s not as dumb as Steve Rosenbaum saying curation is “just as important as creation,” which stands as one of the stupidest things anyone has ever said on the subject. But he has to say things like that while flogging his company. And his book. Always be skeptical of a person who talks about a trend while simultaneously trying to profit from it.)

Zite is an iPad app that’s like Flipboard with Readability/Instapaper features. They’ve just been C&Ded by a bunch of publishing companies. This is going to start happening a lot more, unfortunately, which is why I think the Readability 30% model is so interesting.

By systematically reformatting, republishing, and redistributing our original content on a mass commercial scale without our permission in your iPad application, Zite directly and adversely impacts our businesses. Your application takes the intellectual property of our companies, as well as the hard and sometimes dangerous work of tens of thousands of people. It deprives our websites of traffic and advertising revenue. We do not know your intentions, but your actions harm our companies and the broader media and news industry on which your application relies for its content.

Personally, I’m not a fan of the app or Flipboard. Sourcing links from my Twitter and Facebook feeds, it turns out, is not a good thing. Which makes sense since it’s essentially just a new version of the Digg friends list.

A pretty scathing, though not very deep, takedown of aggregation as journalism and pseudo-defense of the New York Times paywall. This whole curation discussion is heating up nicely; another long-form blog post I probably won’t write.

Given all the turmoil around the world, it’s an incredibly harrowing time to be journalist. Case in point: Four bloggers from BoingBoing, as you’ve probably already heard, were captured by pro-government forces while covering the Libyan uprising. BoingBoing, of course, has long been one of the most popular blogs in the world — the Technorati Top 100 ranking puts it at No. 6, just below TMZ — and the Libyan situation comes fast on the heels of BoingBoing journalists’ heroic on-the-ground coverage of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis in Japan, not to mention its bloggers’ essential coverage from the war zones of Afghanistan, Iraq and beyond.

Oh, wait. Did I say BoingBoing? I’m sorry, I got confused. I meant to say The New York Times.

This post on why curation is as important as creation doesn’t really tell you why curation is as important as creation. At least not in any new or interesting way. It’s also possible that I just dislike because it’s written by Steve Rosenbaum, who made the Magnify video wrapper I absolutely fucking loathe, and quotes Scoble, which always makes something suspect.

Interesting: We are the medium. Not fully thought out yet, but there’s something there.

“We are the medium” means that, quite literally, we are the ones through whom information, messages, news, ideas, videos, and links of every sort move — and they move through this “channel” because we decide to move them. Someone sends me a link to a funny video. I tweet about it. You see it. You send a Facebook message to your friends. One of them (presumably an ancient) emails it to more friends. The video moves through us. Without us, the transport medium — the Internet — is a hyperlinked collection of inert bits. We are the medium.

Blogs past, present and future.

Meanwhile, Tumblr made blogging beautiful. It makes it so easy to upload or clip and save whatever you come across in your web travels. For the most part, I use it as a visual bookmarking tool. Most Tumblrs are mood boards, a selection of things that resonate in someway to the blogger.

It should also be noted that this post comes via Fimoculous, who has spontaneously been posting again.