4 Do's and 4 Don'ts in Content Curation
There are a lot of great pieces on the techniques and tools of content curation, and almost all of them include some version of do’s and don’ts. Below is a summary of the most important points.
This is the way I think about content curation: If you were a museum curator, you would be thinking about 1. Your audience; 2. Your theme, (for examples, artist or artists, time period, location, subject); 3. Find pieces that would work in that context; 4. Acquire the pieces; 5. Plan the space for the exhibit; 6. Advertise, and 7. Install. (Okay, at some point in all of this you need to figure out your budget, sell tickets and buy items for your gift shop.)
Obviously there are major differences between curation in a museum and on the Internet. It would seem as if the most obvious and important difference is that, on the one hand you’re dealing with real objects and bricks and mortar, and on the other hand electrons, but that would be wrong.
The most important difference is the time scale, which runs in the museum world from pieces that are hundreds or thousands of years old, to installations that have been created just for that exhibit and are premiered on opening day, whereas events on the Internet are new every picosecond.
In almost every other important respect, the role of the museum curator is the same as that of a content curator on the Internet. The 7 steps above are all the same, except the context is a bit different: you still need to plan how you’re going to exhibit what you’ve acquired: Zemanta, WordPress, CurationSoft, Bundlr, Storify, PearlTrees, MySyndicaat, Paper.li, Scoop.it, BagTheWeb, and Redux (for video), not to mention Facebook and Twitter, are some good examples of discovery and/or display tools, just like a museum curator needs hooks, wires, spotlights, etc.
Of course you have to decide what the purpose of your curation is. Steven Rosenbaum, among others, hold that curation is not creation. I disagree strongly. The act of finding and presenting is an act of creativity and should be respected as such. It may not be “art,” but like art, it should change the viewer’s worldview, if even to convey a little piece of information.
There are two main reasons people decide to create collections online. The first is to share neat stuff they’ve found on the web. The second is to, frankly, attract visitors so you can eventually sell them something. Curation is a tool to get people who are interested in your field to come to you and regard you as a trusted source.
If you’re just interested in sharing interesting stuff, then you don’t really need enhanced discovery. The use of excellent search like Google-related products, Yourversion, Tumblr, and others are great places to get interesting content. If your business is on the web, however, the standards are a bit higher. Depending on your specific needs, you shouldn’t be relying on standard search and discovery tools, but using enhanced awareness in order to find stuff that will differentiate your collection from others. The best presentation in the world won’t make you stand out if you can’t put your finger on the real-time changes in your sphere of interest.
(This is one reason that our clients love the Darwin Awareness Engine. It can reveal relevant patterns and events that are even unknown to the user.)
First, the Do’s
1. Do pay attention to your subject: Keep on top of your topic.
2. Do give credit to others where you get stuff from: in a world where SEO credit comes from others, it makes sense to scratch their backs, and give them a reason to scratch yours.
3. Do find interesting content to share
4. Do share the content in context: It’s not enough to post the relevant content, you have to say why you think this is important. Robin Good’s Content Curation World is an excellent example of how this is done.
Now for the Don’ts
1. Don’t appropriate—curate. This means that you should not take someone else’s work. It’s okay to quote small portions of text or visuals, but grabbing the content and resposting it as you own is appropriating, in other words, stealing. Pay attention to copyright and also to Creative Commons tags.
2. Don’t forget your audience. A while back I tweeted something that was a bit controversial and unrelated to my topic and lost about a third of my followers. You can bet I’ll never do that again. There’s nothing wrong with controversy, but it was unnecessary.
3. Don’t pitch your product by pretending it’s the content you’re curating. If someone feels you are only interested in selling, you will lose followers.
4. Don’t give up!