The Internet is a wonderful invention. We can find out almost anything we need to know, from cures for rashes to what’s on at the local cinema to the recipe for chocolate cake. We’ve come to expect that whatever we need to know, someone somewhere will have made it available on the Internet. Better still, with the revolution in mobile technology, we have access to this information more or less at any time, any place and on any device. We are truly an information-driven society, where news reaches us within an instant of it happening, anywhere in the world. We know what our friends are doing, where they are, and quite often – what they’ve just had to eat!
We’re also pretty adept at buying stuff online. Need a new TV? A quick search will give us many thousands of options. We can drill down to specific stores, do price comparisons and be swamped with options and technical specifications. No shortage of information there.
It should probably come as no surprise that information volume is now doubling every 11 hours [Source IBM], or that every two days we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003 [Source: Eric Schmidt], and I’m guessing that most people will have seen the (in)famous infographic showing what happens in an ‘Internet Minute’ – reproduced below.
What happens in an internet minute
So where is all of this leading?
To quote from IBM’s “The Toxic Terabyte”:
Knowledge is power – but only if it can be extracted quickly and effciently from an ever-growing mass of data. Businesses and other organisations now see their information stocks snowballing beyond their ability to manage them and beginning to work against the health of the enterprise by damaging effciency and bottom lines.
The stock answer to the data pile-up is more cheap storage and lots of it. But reflexively pumping everything and anything into an apparently limitless reservoir hurts the organisation in three ways:
It becomes harder and harder to retrieve information promptly
More people are needed to manage increasingly chaotic data dumps
Networks and application performance are slowed by excess traffic as users search and search again for the material they need.
As we struggle to manage the Internet fire-hose, it has probably already occurred to many people that more information is not the same as ‘better’ information; that the volume of information is working on some sort of inverse relationship to ‘relevant’ information, and that having millions of choices and options hinders rather than helps us make the right decisions.
It seems obvious that with this proliferation of data and information we are in increasing need of systems to sort, maintain and re-purpose digital content in a systematic manner. For a while now we’ve been making do with search as a primary means of sifting through the pile. But search is only really good for “fast-food” information; getting you the answers quick and dirty, without much thought for context or quality. If you want quality information, then you need to go via a content curator.
The role of the curator has been valued for centuries, but it has been traditionally associated with the professionals who practice their art in the confines of the world’s museums and galleries. To suggest that digital curators all bring the same depth and breadth of knowledge as a professional curator might be stretching a point. But there are more similarities than differences. Curation is all about creating value from collections – which can be physical things such as art exhibitions or museum artifacts; or digital content, such disc jockey music mixes, website reviews of best TV buys, or a collection of the best educational videos. Curators know that the sum of an experience can be greater than the individual parts. And you don’t always have to be an expert to tell a decent story.
Digital content curation is becoming an increasingly valuable skill. Applying expert knowledge to a broad information domain in order to filter out the noise and identify useful and relevant information, possibly adding knowledgeable insight to the information to create added value, is all part of the role of the accomplished content curator. These emergent skills are increasingly in demand by information consumers (and especially managers and executives) who are drowning in a sea of information and want up-to-date, relevant, decision-ready information, delivered quickly enough for them to make use of it.
The knowledge and skills that underpin the content curation role would – it seems to me – be consistent with those of traditional “Information Professionals”, e.g. Knowledge and Information Managers, Community Managers, Data Analysts, Librarians etc., though they may not recognise this themselves. The problem of information overload can be addressed by good information management practice. For example: use of filters, advanced search techniques, categorisation, tagging, use of taxonomies and ontologies – bread and butter to most information professionals. The added dimension for effective curation is the interpretation of the information, adding meaning and insight to curated content, summarising key points, or providing a narrative or story to connect the pieces.
This, then is the essence of a series of courses on Content Curation that I’m running this year, specifically aimed at and for “Information Professionals”. The first course is scheduled for 20th June and has the following key objectives:
- Be able to use powerful search techniques and aggregation tools to find and filter relevant information.
- Know how to use taxonomies, folksonomies and tagging to manage and organise information and develop techniques to identify and validate trusted information sources.
- Understand how to personalise appropriate content curation tools and services.
- Publish curated content relevant to your chosen domains of expertise.
- Be able to deliver decision-ready information to users, customers and stakeholders in order to demonstrate your value to your organisation.
Book now if this something that appeals to your personal development plan, or if it’s something that your organisation could benefit from.
If you’re still not sure what “Content Curation” actually means, check out the brief presentation below.
To conclude with one quote: “It’s not information overload; it’s filter failure” Clay Shirky.
And a recommended read about use of personal filters: Filtering – from Information Deluge to Context with JP Rangaswami