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Social Curation is Not Aggregation

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Social Curation is the big new buzzword this year in social media circles — collecting information in a strategic amassing of selected information that’s presented in a new way to draw out the subtleties and patterns that might not otherwise be noticed when looking at the group in toto.

Curation is an art form into itself. While it’s not as pure and noble as content creation, it’s more than aggregation. Much more.

Beer can collection

Are you a curator or an aggregator?

Aggregation is an amassing of content. Just like little kids who collect rocks, grabbing at every rock and pebble they can find, aggregators find any and all pieces of content that relate to their chosen subject.

But a good curator, like a good collector, will focus on a specific niche or seek out that subtle pattern that can only be discovered when the pieces are assembled.

A real collector might only want books about women aviators written by women. An aggregator will get books about airplanes.

A real collector will only collect Merlots that were bottled in 2008. An aggregator will gather Merlots of any kind, or even just “reds.”

A real collector will only collect old Underwood typewriters made during the 1930s. An aggregator will amass as many typewriters as they can cram into their basement.

So how do you content curators compile your own collection? What’s your process? Do you rely on Google’s algorithm and hashtags.org to tell you what’s popular and trending? What kinds of special tools are you using? Do you compile a list of the individuals whose values and behavior you’re comfortable with providing you with a lens into a specific area?

I’m not a big fan of Paper.li and other so-called “curation” sites, because they’re less about curation and more about gobbling up and spitting out mass quantities of information. Everyone who was mentioned in the creator’s Paper gets tweeted so they’ll come and visit the page to find their lone tweet. It’s just this much shy of spamming as a way to build page traffic for Paper.li.

This is why I like my colleague Chad Richards‘ posts so much. He looks at just a few articles per week or day, and shares them with our readers on the Firebelly blog.

He’s more interested in small collections that I can easily digest, a curated magazine of sorts, rather than a fire hose of information that will drown me in the first two minutes. That’s the kind of information I like to receive, and he is one person I absolutely trust to provide me with the information I need to know.

That is real curation. Finding the nuggets, the little bits of gold amid all the silt and dirt, and sparing me the worthless pebbles.

Today, I’m at the Social Curation Summit in New York, speaking on a panel of smart people, talking to a room about smart people, about the art of curation. I’d love to hear from you. What is your process? Who do you listen to, and where do you get your information? Leave a comment and let me hear from you.

Photo credit: Chuck_Heston (Flickr, Creative Commons)

About Duncan Alney

is the leader of the passionate Firebelly Social team. He loves working with people with vision who expect the best of themselves and the people they work with. He also believes that happiness is a critical part of his personal and professional life equation, and works to be happy about whatever he's doing.

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