Sunday, January 24, 2010

Aggregating is out; Curating is in

The hot new word for websites that collect interesting articles, photos and videos from around the web is “curating.” Forget aggregrating. That’s so last year.
Aggregrating implies that websites just pull a bunch of stuff together from other sites and let the reader decide what’s interesting. Curating implies thoughtful selection of items to present only the best. It’s quality over quantity; subjectivity over objectivity. A curator is judged on their taste in selecting items and not wasting a web visitor’s time with junk.
The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines a “curator” as “one who has the care and superintendence of something; especially … one in charge of a museum, zoo, or other place of exhibit.”
Sounds impressive.
An article on the New York Times tech blog Bits by Nick Bolton discusses how people are using Twitter to curate noteworthy items from across the web. They find interesting items and post links on their Twitter accounts.
“We are no longer just consumers of content, we have become curators of it too,” he writes.
A good example of an Internet curator, the article notes, is Maria Popova of Marina del Rey, Calif. She posts her finds on Twitter at @brainpicker.
Unfortunately the term curate is being overused now. A New York Times piece last fall reported that “curate” was also being used by retailers, nightclubs and restaurants.
I think there’s a need for a level above curator on the Internet – someone who’s even more selective in their choices of what articles, photos and videos to spotlight. For lack of a better term, I call these people Internet connoisseurs. Their sites would be known for highlighting only the best of the best, so web surfers don’t have to waste their time clicking on marginal links.

Photo: A traditional curator: Eric Shiner, the first Milton Fine Curator of Art at The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. (From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

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