Facebook and the Age of Curation Through Unsharing

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Facebook’s Open Graph is ushering in a monumental shift in how we curate what we share. Curation used to mean opting in to sharing. You found or did something you thought your audience would care about, and you went to the trouble of sharing it. This worked when we didn’t have so much content at our finger tips, but as more news and media consumption moves online, the friction of constantly opting in exhausts us and we don’t bother to distribute what others might enjoy. That’s why I believe we are entering the age of curation through unsharing, and it will force us to change.

Some believe “frictionless sharing” via Open Graphs will be the death of curation. That signal will be drowned out by noise as the content we consume but that’s not worth the attention of others is automatically published to our friends and followers. This is a big problem for curation, but it is temporary. It stems from a lack of understanding of curation through unsharing by both the users and developers of Open Graph apps.

Users still expect to have to actively share something in order for it to reach their audience. That’s no longer true. Instead we’ll need to learn to filter out the noise in reverse, opting out when we don’t want to share instead of opting in when we do. That’s a huge behavioral realignment that will take time and won’t come easy. If learned, though, we’ll be able to dance across the web from one piece of great content to the next, sharing it all effortlessly, and only having to stop when something deserves to be struck from the record. And as algorithms improve to show us what’s most relevant, we won’t have to unshare as often.

I love listening to music and reading news, and I love helping my friends discover songs and articles. But before Open Graph apps, I had to actively share each piece of content to the news feed. To my audience, there was no distinction between what I really wanted to highlight, and what was enjoyable but not necessarily crucial. This is why Ticker is brilliant. It creates a channel for casual opt out sharing of high volumes of content, a distinct complement to the channels for explicit opt in sharing we’ve always known.

This granularity allows for more curation, not less. I can still take a song that touches me and opt in to posting it directly to the news feed, where Facebook intelligently gives it more visibility. But through the Ticker I can also share hundreds of songs, all that I enjoy to a lesser extent, and give people who respect my taste a way to discover vetted content.

To make this work, though, we’ll need the app developers to cooperate by making it easy for us to mark an article as unread, remove the last song we heard from the Ticker, etc. I reviewed the sharing controls of all the major news reader apps, and some like The Washington Post and The Guardian are doing their part by providing simple unsharing options.

Unfortunately, some developer like Newscorp with The Daily app are trying to maximize virality by not offering unshare options. They are overemphasizing the short-term, and not thinking enough about being apps that facilitate the new model of curation — apps people will want to return to. We need to pressure them to provide unsharing options by telling them so and not using them if they don’t.

Until we have both learned to unshare and have the capability to do so, this will indeed be the dark age of curation. But we have the power to set the norms. Go read a ton of articles using a responsible app, unshare from the Ticker each one you wouldn’t recommend, and explicitly post links to the news feed to those you think are must-reads. If you see low-quality content shared to the Ticker, tell your friends to utilize the unshare button.

This isn’t natural. Often the best product design is translating existing behavior patterns to new mediums. But the proliferation of content, in both volume and access, requires a brand new conception of sharing and curation. Together we can bring about a golden age.