The concepts behind curating content have been around for a long, long time and with good reason. The basic role of curators is for them to act as filters for all of the content in the world, and group that content into collections that appeal to a certain audience. The original work of most curators was done in the libraries and museums of the world, where they selected and grouped content for easier retrieval by others. Today’s curators are doing the same thing, except that instead of collecting related works of art, they are using digital tools to collect related bits of web content. As the amount of content contained in intranets and extranets grows, so to will the need to curate that content to find the most relevant results.
Search engines like google aggregate content, they index all of the content they can find, and then return search results based on the terms entered into the search engine. The issue arises when there is too much content, or it becomes hard to separate pertinent content from unrelated content. This is where curation becomes really valuable; when there is simply too much information for a user to sort through effectively. Study after study reinforces the fact that we waste far too much time every day looking for content; I recently remarked that my Masters degree taught me the most valuable skill of all: how to search for valuable information out of the myriad of content available to us in the university library.
Curation works differently than simple search aggregation. Through advanced data tracking or human intervention, or both, content can be refined so as to be more pertinent to a given search. Rather than returning all the results, curation helps to build a collection of the most valuable results. What is often lacking in search engines is context; searching for a tech support phone number will return a list of numbers that I can look through to find the right one; in a curated search, I would simply receive the correct information based on who I am, what time of the day it is, or other contextual parameters. By curating content we can bundle related content together for easier discovery. During my studies, in group work contexts we would often perform a very basic form of curating by sharing a Google doc, and allowing all members to dump content that they found into that doc. Although we didn’t call it “curating”, that is exactly what we were doing. Now, much more advanced tools allow both users and machines to curate content quickly and easily.
Curation also allows the inclusion of federated searches into your results. What this means is that results may come from other places. I liken this to a museum displaying art that is “on loan” from other collections; they don’t own that content, but they wanted to display it because it add value to the other works in their gallery. In traditional site searches, the results are limited to contents within the site; a federated search can return curated content from other sites as well. For example, perhaps there is a great article on how to organize Gmail using the GTD method, but this article is on Lifehacker, not google.com. Users searching for “GTD and Gmail” on the google help files will not return the lifehacker article, yet it is the one that is most pertinent to my needs.
Curating content, quite simply, is the answer to the rising tide of information that grows larger and larger every day. By enabling content to be grouped, federated, and managed easily, users will benefit from more pertinent answers found quicker than ever before.
We’re adding powerful features into our latest release, enabling users to curate content within the MindTouch platform. Look for an upcoming webinar to show these advanced features and more new additions to MindTouch Technical Communications Suite (TCS)