Curation war is getting intense

One of the things which seem to interest web-savvy journalists and students is curation: selecting, contextualizing social media and web streams. I use Storify to report and curate events such as the Arab uprisings and the disasters in Japan, and now I’m experimenting with Scoop.it! creating a page about curation. I also use Pearltrees, for instance

scoopt.it
The service is in private beta and is still working on some important features such as a way to embed the pages on external blogs or sites. However, it looks nice and promising – it’s a very flexible tool, allowing to move articels around, to include images or not, to edit texts and connects the articles and pages with other social media.

While I was assembling my page I discovered that yet another curation tool or platform will be launched: Storination, based on Storify. Which makes me wonder which whether all those fledgling services (Scoop.it, Storify, Curated.by, Keepstream, Bag the web, Pearltrees, and others I guess) will survive and what happens to the content one has on such a platform when it goes down (so an important feature seems to be ‘easy exporting’ of your content).

I think curation is a major development on the web and beyond. For every geek who happily uses hashtags, lists and other tools on Twitter there are 99 other internet users who don’t use Twitter actively or don’t use it at all. Social bookmarks, rss-feeds, google alerts are as yet not really mainstream, which make it crucial to have tools to present the richness of the web in a fun and easy way. Journalists are really dependent now on social media for their coverage and need ways to work efficiently and present their stuff in a esthetically pleasing way.

In fact we’re all drifting around on a social media stream which never seems to leave us alone anymore, because of our mobile devices and the irresistable blending of the digital and physical realms of life.

‘Silicon Valley is a state of mind, not a place’

Cities, centers of innovation, do matter. Even though we have telecom, internet, tele-presence technologies, people seem to need concentrations of innovation and expertise: look at the international financial centers and the geographical clusters of technological innovation.

The tech blogger and evangelist Robert Scoble brought a round-up of what’s hot in Silicon Valley at the LIFT conference in Geneva, Switzerland. Some companies he discussed are located in Silicon Valley, others in San Francisco… but does it make any sense to make a separation Valley/San Francisco? Of course not, and Scoble said: ‘Silicon Valley is a state of mind, not a place’.

Which is interesting for virtual worlds people. There is a need for those cities and regions where innovation is so important (read also the works of Richard Florida). However, one can take part in this state of mind, even from a distance. I think virtual places such as Second Life can be important here.

It helps to actually talk to innovators (using SL voice for instance) and to share a same virtual space with other tech-minded people. I do know for a fact that my own passion for internet technology got a tremendous boost by meeting internet-minded people from all over the world in virtual environments, and most of the time in Second Life.

Of course virtual environments are part of a wider social media ecosystem (Twitter, Plurk, blogs, video, machinima, wikis, forums, offline meetings etc), but as we speak about changing mentalities and worldviews, meeting other people is of crucial importance – in virtual or physical environments.

So what is hot these days in Silicon Valley? Mark Littlewood has this great post about Scoble’s list on The Business Leaders Network. For the new media Scoble mentioned Flipboard (personalized social mazagines), PostPost (online newspaper based on your Facebook links), The History of Jazz (reinvention of the book on the iPad) and Datasift (screening streams of information).

Other media stuff: Storify (for curating social media), Curated.by (another curating tool), PearlTrees (a way to curate, structure and exchange information) and Prezi (cool alternative for Powerpoint).

What is not mentioned? Well, virtual environments. They are not on the list of hot new developments. So yes, for some people at least virtual environments help to get into a Silicon Valley state of mind, but those environments themselves are no longer perceived as being an important part of the future of the internet. Oh yes, Blue Mars now lets you rate avatars on the iPhone, but you won’t hear comments on that during innovation conferences such as LIFT. More will be needed to make virtual environments ‘hot’ again.

Related (about the innovation conference LIFT):
Digital natives are not the same everywhere
The murmuration in the Arab World

Can we do evil while curating and practicing social media optimization?

Not everyone is an avid explorer of new media. Not only that a majority of internet users won’t give Second Life a try, they even won’t use Twitter. The fast moving streams of information or the immersive experiences in virtual environments are new experiences and it’s not always easy to convince people and communities that these new phenomena have value.

What helps a lot is curation: offering selections of sources, of information and providing context. As a journalist and blogger I use Storify, others will use Curated.by, Keepstream, Storyful or other services. Not only Storify helps me to make selections and add context, I can also embed the stories on blogs and sites so that people can read and comment in a familiar environment. I guess that embedding immersive environments will also help these more immersive media to gain more traction.

I’ve been experimenting with curation on my financial blog (Dutch language) for a few months and I had the opportunity to meet and speak with Xavier Damman, the co-founder of Storify.

Echoing what is an increasingly common refrain, Damman told me that everybody is a reporter now. Which means it’s the responsibility of journalists (and bloggers of course) to find the best content and turn it into a story, adding context and making sense of it all. He also talked about a related concept: social media optimization (SMO), which is all about sharing and connecting. But SMO of course is also related to search engine optimization (SEO) – which reminds me of certain evil aspects of all this ‘optimizing’.

More about all of this on my PBS MediaShift blog.

Looking for meaning in social streams using Hootsuite and Storify

I’m working hard covering the crisis in the euro zone (Ireland, Portugal, Spain, etc). It’s a crisis which is not “just financial”, it’s a real social tragedy as well, and I feel it should get more attention on networks such as Twitter. It seems that the newest version of some gadget is incomparably more important to most people on Twitter than developments in the economy which could change the course of history for whole continents.

However, there are great discussions going on about the situations on blogs, on Twitter and Facebook. I’m trying out some tools to monitor and curate that stuff. I read an inspiring post by Tris Hussey about how to build a social media dashboard on TNW Lifehacks. Once concrete result is that I’m trying out Hootsuite now to monitor and organize my social media streams (Twitter, Facebook, I’ll add Foursquare and LinkedIn). Until now I was using Tweetdeck and Seesmic. I’m not sure yet which service I do prefer, but this Hootsuite tutorial (also by Hussey) seems very promising.

Of course, it’s not only a matter of organizing incoming information and engaging in conversations, but also of putting stories back out. I’m using Storify for that, and Robert Scoble had a great video interview with the founders of that service (even talking about game mechanics!):


In the meantime another curation service, curated.by, went into public beta. Other curation services are Keepstream and Bag the Web, I still have to try out those tools but for now I do like the newsy, journalistic approach of Storify as you can see for instance in my euro crisis coverage (in Dutch and English) or in this old post about Second Life in a browser.

Read also my previous post: making sense of our streams, in real time.

Mainstream media embrace social media

While there are still journalists out there who ‘don’t get’ social media or try to ignore them as much as possible, it seems that mainstream media are more and more embracing blogs, video sharing, social networks and microblogging. The coverage of the US elections demonstrates this: have a look at ReadWriteWeb and Nieman Journalism Lab and find out about CBS working with YouTube or The Washington Post buying a ‘promoted trend’ on Twitter. Storify, even though it’s such a new tool, is being used by a whole bunch of mainstream media to curate social media feeds on election day.

This involvement of mainstream media also puts certain things into perspective, like the often repeated notion that ‘(long form) blogs are sooo 2005′. I guess it’s true people switch to other platforms and styles such as Twitter and Plurk, Tumblr and Posterous, but the ‘classical’ blogs are still very relevant. In financial journalism it seems that the growing importance of Twitter is stimulating rather than holding back a rich ecosystem of blogs.

Even though I’m totally convinced of the importance of blogs, I have to admit I was surprised, finding this advertisement for the Europe blog of The Wall Street Journal, not far from Antwerp, Belgium:

Advertisement for the Europe blog of the WSJ

This particular billboard does not look very glamorous, but anyway: here we have it, a mainstream media company, promoting blogs by very classical means and this even in small towns and villages.

It all takes time, maybe too much time. Does this recognition of social media mean that mainstream media are fundamentally changing into more social (transparent, collaborative) organizations? I guess it depends, fundamental change is not an inevitable consequence of  launching blogs Рbut more about that in a later post.