Not Everyone Can Be A Curator - You Need Original Material

by Randy Murray on June 9, 2010

Curation is one of those interesting Internet phenomena, done especially well by my friend Patrick Rhone on his sites, particularly Minimal Mac and Practical Opacity.  Sites like Boing Boing and Fark have generated massive followings from this practice as well. It’s a way of saying “here’s something interesting or useful.” And when it’s from a trusted source, like Minimal Mac, I visit frequently and follow the links.

What is curation? If you go to a museum, you’ll often find exhibits that are specially created with research, thought, and imagination. Someone has carefully selected everything you see or experience and designed the space where you’ll encounter it. The same process happens on the web. But most of what you see on the web and on Twitter isn’t original, it’s simply the “me too” links, posts from others sqawking about the same things that every one else is posting.  And it doesn’t take long for large groups to wear a groove to a small number of sites, link to posts on them, and quickly form an insular clique from which they rarely stray. It’s hard to find anything new that way.

As an aside I’ll mention that the word “curation” is clumsy and not entirely accurate. A curator is someone who both selects AND preserves an object. A digital curator selects and POINTS to a digital object, but has nothing to do with its maintenance or preservation. In a strict word usage sense, these individuals are more equivalent to bibliographers, or perhaps, promoters. But the linguistic arguments are for someone else to sort out.

Most businesses and individuals need original content to really succeed in attracting and keeping an audience.  If you’re just linking to the same core sites that everyone else is linking to, why would anyone need what you’re posting? It’s your original material, your thoughts and opinions, especially your opinions, which can be interesting and valuable.

I know this to be true. I’ve seen it work for me on this site and I see it work for my clients. If you focus on the things you’re really interested in, you’ll find that others are interested as well.

If you’re going to curate and offer up recommended links to your readers, it’s hard work to do it well. You have to sift through an endless amount of stuff to find those things at are really useful, interesting, and new, or at least little known. Do it well and it’s a valuable offering. Simply reposting what you see on Fark – not so much.

But anyone can take the time to speak their mind. It’s interesting and useful and it’s guaranteed to be new and unique. Yes, writing’s hard work, but that’s why there are trained professionals, like myself, here to help you. If you can talk about those things that you’re passionate about, a writer can help you communicate it. And that new material, posted to your site as frequently as you can manage, will bring you far more than a simple link to someone else’s idea.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Patrick Rhone June 9, 2010 at 1:25 pm

I just want to point out that, in the area of what we have come to call “curation” on the Internet, and also my personal opinion, the ones done best are the ones that also do the following:

* Provide more than just curated items but also insightful and well written editorial commentary to give further context and meaning to such items.

* Also include original work that is complementary to the topic area.

This is certainly what I aim to do at Minimal Mac and I believe fits in well with your arguments (which I fully support).


2 Randy Murray June 9, 2010 at 1:56 pm

Your commentary and the supporting reasons why you select something and offer it up is what makes Minimal Mac so interesting.

I’m only surprised that someone hasn’t started a complementary site titled “Maximal Mac”.


3 Hal Brown June 9, 2010 at 4:05 pm

Interesting take on posting links, or rehashed material. In all honesty, most of the tweets I see are not interesting. I follow (as in actually look at the tweets with interest) only a handful of people.
Occasionally, I add someone to my personal list, a new person of interest. And once in a while I remove someone who gets a bit overbearing.
There are leaders and there are followers. I think we know what the ratio of leaders to followers is.


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