June 13, 2011
social networking

Content Curators

Curator: Latin, from curare to care, meaning one who has the care and superintendence of something.

As I’m fresh off my first neighbourhood block party in the Kitsilano hamlet that makes up part of Vancouver’s West Side, I got to thinking about content, curating and libraries.

There used to be a time when libraries were the absolute focal point (along with the school and church) of a neighbourhood. We relied on one another, as strong and weak tie neighbours, often congregating in these buildings to share, to socialize, and to learn.

I worry, however, that ‘Nimby Neighbourhoods’ will supersede actual social relationship building. In other words, rather than extending a physical hand and chiming “hello” to your neighbour, we’ll take nimby-ism to greater heights obfuscating physical relationship building in favour of and solely with those found in social networks and the like. In a world where the pure volume of digital content swells with each passing day, we mustn’t cave into a digital only existence.

But, it is becoming increasingly clear to me that through the explosion of internet speeds (see Nielsen’s Law of Internet Bandwidth), mobile device proliferation (see Sybase YouTube video ‘Growth of Mobile’), and social networking opportunities (see Silicon.com article ‘Social network accounts outnumber people on Earth’), we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact the local library, school and church is being replaced or perhaps it’s being entirely augmented by our new digital DNA.

And that’s where we need to begin thinking differently.

Yes, I may have written about the 90-9-1 Paradox before, and yes, I truly do believe there are certain behaviours that need to be exhibited to reach a truly collaborative state of being.

But, as I’m in possession of various personal mobile devices, ubiquitous internet connectivity armed with mobile search options & a strong and weak tie philosophy on my relationships, I can now learn at the speed of need.

My personal learning cycle is fed by my own needs first and foremost. I don’t think that will ever change. But, it is often satisfied by those within my strong and weak tie network (and to a slightly lesser degree via search) that are curating the learning content in the first place.

Thus, the next big skill for individuals to tackle will to become ‘content curators’.

That is, we all become digital librarians for one another. We all become the sharers of knowledge, wisdom and insight not dissimilar to the neighbourhood block party or gatherings at the local library, church or school.

We not only believe in reciprocity, but we act on it.

Whenever we come across something that may benefit our network, we curate, categorize & then communicate.

The first skill or change to adapt to is to begin thinking this way from the beginning. As we all go about our day, and we inevitably come into contact with content, knowledge and wisdom that may benefit others, we need to begin thinking in a way that is selfless not selfish. We need to say to ourselves, “who may benefit from this as well?” Let’s think of this as the curate stage.

The second skill or change to adapt to concerns our ability to categorize and thus effectively store the knowledge somewhere. I liken this to an intricately interconnected network of universal personal content management systems. (egads, Dan just wrote the term ‘content management system’) Maybe everyone needs to set up their own WordPress blog, and from there, we can classify the knowledge through the native tagging system. I’m not exactly clear how this can be accomplished, but think ‘dewey decimal system’ only individualized, personalized and capable of much more than surfacing links. It’s certainly supplementary and much more useful than Delicious or other bookmarking sites as well.

The final skill or change to adapt to is our ability to appropriately communicate the knowledge that has been curated and categorized itself. No, I’m not referring to email distribution lists. Whether through some digitally sewn quilt of RSS and other push-communication capabilities, the communication of this now categorized content is incredibly important. You are letting folks know that the knowledge you have curated is now available, and after being properly categorized, it can then weave itself into the personal learning networks of others. It’s been removed from your head or hard drive into the global knowledge pool, and it doesn’t matter if it’s been developed by yourself or others.

With the launch of iCloud, perhaps it’s the consumer technology kick-start that’s needed to push ahead with this type of thinking and idea.

But it does start with the behaviours of curating, categorizing and communicating first before the technology. After all, what’s a neighbourhood block party without any content, sharing & updates?

For more information, visit Rohit Bhargava’s post entitled “The 5 Models Of Content Curation” or read the book “Curation Nation” authored by Steven Rosenbaum.

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