Guest post: Why this could be the moment for the curators

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This is a guest post by Guillaume Decugis, CEO, also the company behind

Over the past few months, there’s been an interesting number of new developments with regards to Web Curation, following several predictions that this would become a hot topic or even a billion dollar opportunity.

What’s this all about?

A definition I like for web curation is Rohit Bhargava’s: A Content Curator is someone who continually finds, groups, organizes and shares the best and most relevant content on a specific issue online.

How can you sort out signal (information) from noise (pointless babbles) in the social Web? How can you organize and editorialize content? Give it context? In short, how do you make some sense out of the social Web when it’s moving at 3,283 tweets per second ? That’s the problem curation is trying to solve.

Bloggers have been the Web 2.0’s journalists and writers, curators could be its editors.

There’s been several innovation layers on curation.

First, some thought on how Twitter would provide this necessary curation. Tweeting a link means you’ve found it and gave it some value it didn’t have before. But when everybody does that, you get information overflow…

The other idea was to use algorithms. Thanks to analytics from its widely used Tweet button, Tweetmeme ranks links based on their popularity on Twitter. This provides a hierarchy and filtering.

Some – and I’m among them – think this is not enough and that curation is more than filtering. There are good arguments for that in a great article by Tom Forenski on the “Human Web”. I’ll try to summarize them:

– Algorithms are gamed, people are not. Isn’t SEO just about gaming? Digg’s debacle is another great example.

– Indexing: filtering is good, but classification by topic also matters. For the long tail of niche topics, popularity doesn’t work.

– Human curators give context through editorialization, smart comments and summaries in a way no algorithm can.

The Tweetmeme figures tend to support these points (note: I mean the flat trend since the beginning of ’10; the decrease in traffic since the summer is most probably due to Twitter launching its own Tweet button).

For a few months, Robert Scoble and others have expressed the need for human-based curation services where curators – and not algorithms – would do the job. It seems they were heard by several start-ups (non-exhaustive list): Pearltrees,, Storify and the newly born

I won’t try to compare all of these services in detail. But if they all differ (Pearltrees through an innovative UI, and Storify by their focus on real-time content and by feeding curators with topic-related suggestions), they all make a bet on people. Their basic assumption is somehow philosophical: that humans can still perform better than machines when dealing with subtleties of content and language.

What’s in it for curators then? A simple mean of self-expression that is not as time-consuming than blogging, peer recognition (“Andy Warhol was wrong. We’re not going to be famous for 15 minutes. We’re each going to be famous for 15 People.“) or maybe just the desire to do some good and contribute to the task of bringing order to the Web. Probably a mix of all this. But look at it this way: a lot of people are already doing that naturally. Some by bookmarking, some by sharing on Facebook or Twitter, some by sending links by email, etc… The purpose of these new services is to unify all these natural actions in one consistent user experience, create a whole greater than the sum of its part and give them a meaning: curation.

Blogs and Web 2.0 were born out of the idea that by giving everyone writing rights, we’ll create a much richer world. It might be the moment to show that by giving everyone curating rights, we’ll make it even more relevant.

Note: if you want to read more on curation, I’m doing my own curation of the topic here.

  • Jamie Beckland

    Great post, Guillaume. The interesting thing about motivation for people to do all of this curation is that there are lots of social benefits for the curator.

    Most obviously, if you are the person vetting information, you become seen as a trusted source about that topic. There’s no immediate reward, but status and influence accumulate over time.

    I think about Shirky’s cognitive surplus argument in this context: only a small fraction of people, spending a small fraction of time, will be vastly more useful than the most sophisticated algorithms.

    Exciting times!

    • Guillaume Decugis

      Thanks Jamie. Yes. I think the motivation exists and that the results can be great.

      Speaking for what we can observe, we’re starting to see great topics being covered on after only a few weeks.

      Exciting indeed :-)

  • Richard Longhurst

    Didn’t curators used to be called editors? ;-)

    Scoble and Others should be aware that Squidoo has being doing what they seem to be wanting for some time now.

    One of the side-benefits of Xmarks was that it built a wonderful hive-mind search engine – all human-generated and impossible to game… No money in it though…

    • Guillaume Decugis

      Thanks for the examples.

      My view of Squidoo is that it requires a lot more publishing efforts (ie you have to write…) than what these new platforms are requiring/trying to achieve.

      The other thing is that it seems to me very SEO-driven which means Google is the entry point. Again different from the idea that people could have a place to follow topics of their choice and subscribe to them. Google (and thus Squidoo) is a pull mechanism where I have to know what I’m looking for. Curation – as per this new trend’s definition – is about discovery (“I’m not looking for anything in particular but since I like Freeride Skiing, there’s probably something worth my time within the Freeride Skiing topic I chose to follow).

      But Squidoo is for sure a great audience success… Congrats to them!

    • Larry

      XMarks appears to have suspended operations. Permanently.


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