Wednesday, May 1, 2013

6 tangible benefits of curating content related to your field [curating series, part 1]

“If we had to award … top prize [for overused buzzwords], the gold medal would certainly go to "curate" for its excessive amount of pretentious bullshit.”

When I read that quote back in 2011, I agreed.

Two years later, curate is still contentious, making’s list of “Worst Words of 2012”, and riling up the original curators: people who work in museums.

In tech, communications, and public relations, though, the term shows no signs of going away. This March, I opened up the Moodle site for my second-last Master’s course to find our professor saying that we were going to be “curating” content.

My teeth ground together, flaking more enamel off of surfaces already well-worn by two years of graduate school and full-time parenting.

Seven weeks later, I’ve realised that, whatever you call it, collecting and editing RSS feeds (the particular type of curating we were learning) is an incredibly useful exercise. In this video by Steve Farnsworth, Oliver Starr does an excellent job of explaining, in very plain language, how “curation” is beneficial for people searching for information online:

Why “curate” content related to your profession?
Here's what I've learned:
  1. It helps you build professional expertise. This is especially important in fields like communications or public relations, because things change quickly and being on top of the latest developments will give you a competitive edge.
  2. You can tweet the content to build an audience of followers on Twitter, using hashtags to make sure that your awesome content is being found by people in your industry.
  3. Post the content in your LinkedIn updates, and use the new mention feature to build connections.
  4. Look like a smarty-pants in meetings because you can intelligently talk about the buzz on the advantages and disadvantages of the latest & greatest tools.
  5. Have a list of authoritative sources ready when you need to research a topic in your field.
  6. Get inspiration for blog posts.
Now a convert to the benefits of developing, editing, and sharing content related to communications, I needed to resolve my cognitive dissonance about the term “curate.” Could I justify using it? As a communicator working in the CP Style world, the Oxford Dictionary is the final word on all things semantic, and while it leads with “elect, organize, and look after the items in (a collection or exhibition),” it also includes “select, organize, and present (suitable content, typically for online or computational use), using professional or expert knowledge.”

Sorry, museum curators. I have the utmost respect for your work, and I’m so glad that you’re there developing fantastic collections of art, fossils, historic documents, and artefacts for us to enjoy, but the mighty Oxford has spoken. Curate is fair game for us too.

I’ll be dropping the quotes from “curate” now.

In the next instalment of the curating series, I’ll share my process (inspired by @casuist’s approach) for finding great RSS feeds.