This week we are investigating the idea of curating on the web. The image to the right was used by my professor, Karen Hamilton, in her presentation about how we manage the enormous amounts of information we get from the Internet. A search on Flicker took me straight to the same picture and numerous sites where it could be located.
A simple Google search “curation vs. aggregation” led me to 6,290,000 results. How am I to decide which to look at? Google has an idea. Through an algorithm based on my search history and the links I’ve clicked, they’ve ordered the results in a way that I might like, and also in a way that might lead me to things they want me to like (as in the companies they advertise with). Eli Pariser, author of the book and blog The Filter Bubble shows in which ways content is already filtered for us, like it or not. Below is a TED talk he gave on the subject.
Google Reader will further filter content based on other algorithm. The Huffington Post, the cooking blog I follow, my Twitter colleagues – they all filter information for me and provide it in bundles of manageable information. The question is, in what ways is the content filtered, and does it matter?
Writing in Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab blog, C.W. Anderson argues that it does matter. In analyzing Mark Coddington’s “This Week in Review” blog, he notes two different sections that have different goals and therefore are differently filtered. At the top, Coddington carefully selects a variety of articles on a certain, newsworthy event, taking care to show the origins of the issue and the many sides of the debate, rarely weighing in on the debate himself. Anderson calls this “aggregation with analysis.” The second section, on the other hand, Anderson calls “curation,” where Coddington blogs in a more traditional way. Describing this section, Coddington says, “[it] is like me inviting you to a party, while the main sections are like me walking you through a room at that party, introducing you to people, explaining who’s who, and giving you a sense of who you might enjoy talking to.” The difference is important – one is the work of an expert in a topic, presenting ideas of people who have credentials relating to knowledge of that topic, and the other is more like the work of an educated amateur showing you some interesting stuff.
The Tweeted Times really aggregates and helps to manage a Twitter feed. You can collect news from your friends on Twitter, or you can create your own aggregation based on a certain topic or hashtag that you want information on. The “newspaper” refreshes every hour, so it stays current. Tweeted Times does do some higher-level filtering, too. It ranks the topics according to how often your friends and followers interact with it, and it also suggests topics you might want to check out. In the way Pariser describes Google and Facebook delivering content only that you might “like,” Tweeted Times doesn’t seem to want to show you ideas you might disagree with. This is fine with me – that’s what I want to see on Twitter anyway. But it does not help me analyze a topic unless I intentionally follow people or topics that might be different. Follow this link to my Tweeted Times topic “Future Education.”
Scoop.it has become my new guilty pleasure. Below is a short video created by Scoop.it to describe what they do:
Scoop.it is currently in Beta so you still have to request to join, but I suggest doing it now. As the video describes, Scoop.it is a way for a passionate amateur to share information on a particular topic in a way that is easy – one click – and focused. The page created by a topic is easy to navigate, and has buttons for “rescooping,” commenting, and sharing on Google+, Twitter and Facebook. The screenshot here is of my topic, Technology in Education: Teaching and learning. You can see my most recent posts and how each post comes with a short description from the page itself. If you click on a link it will show you the post on its own, or it will take you to the source page. Through connections I have found on the site, I have followed topics from people who have an obvious expertise , and thus I would call this more like curation than aggregation.
There are some drawbacks to the way I use Scoop.it. When I started I “scooped” interesting web pages, articles and videos without regard to my topic. Although most of them were generally related, I didn’t think about sharing interesting sites in other ways while taking care to curate onto Scoop.it for my topic. I think as I become more facile and perhaps add and refine my topics this will improve. In addition, to tag an article you have to click on a separate tab. I know this may seem trivial, but in the frenzy of a trip down a scoop.it worm hole, I frequently forget or neglect to tag. This will make searching through my scoops more difficult and harder to manage.
At the risk of mangling the party metaphor started by Anderson above, I would say that The Tweeted Times is like my wedding reception. The guests all have me in common, but not necessarily anything in common with each other other than me. With some tools for filtering and sorting, it might be a smaller wedding reception, but really is more of an aggregation of the people in my life and the discussion stays fairly broad. Scoop.it, when used correctly, can be more like a salon. Groups of people who are interested in and have varying degrees of expertise in a topic can sit around a table and share ideas deemed worthy of sharing. The best part of it is that it is a mansion of salons, each one with an open door.