Curators needed: the incredible value of content curation

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kelvingrove museum
You may not necessarily associate the terms curator and curation with the Internet, thinking of them as applying primarily to museums and art galleries. A museum curator has to be an expert and enthusiast in her field, and want to share that with others.

A curator classifies and displays precious objects or pictures, placing them in context with each other, and explaining their story and significance.

Incidentally the root and origin of these words is the same as that of church curate, from the Latin curatus meaning care. The Puritan Divines, and other church traditions, often spoke of the cure of souls which really meant spiritual care. That’s a nice resonance for this discussion.

Back in the day

In 1995, when the Web was only just out of the egg, students Jerry Yang and David Filo created an online guide to the then relatively limited range of websites. They called it Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web and it evolved into Yahoo!

This was a hierarchical directory of websites, with subtopics nested within main topics. Bizarrely, it still exists, though no one knows about it, and it’s wildly out of date. A similar open-source directory DMoz still also exists, with volunteer topic editors, though most people have never heard of it. It is likewise very limited and mostly out-of-date.

These are effectively dead because it is a significant task to maintain a ‘best of’ topic area, add new websites, and weed out old ones. And because Google is perhaps the most successful automated curation system ever, it has replaced most such directories. Within limits, Google search results, based on algorithms that factor in the known popularity of web-page, can sometimes by a reasonable ‘best of’ list.

However, even Google cannot achieve what a human can – create a carefully chosen ‘best of’ list for a specific topic and context, perhaps with reviews and impartial explanations.

And in a digital world with zillions of websites and deafening ‘noise’ (unneeded and useless information washing around), curation is increasingly essential.

Examples of curation

Internet Evangelism Day’s resources are, in part, an attempt to curate useful resources and set them in context. For some Twitter users (those who like to function as mavens), their tweet stream is mostly a rolling curation of recommended resources and ideas. Social bookmarking and blogging can be examples of content curation. ‘Best of’ tweet streams can be amalgamated into a Paper.li daily/weekly online newspaper. However, social networking curation has a short half-life – ie. after a day or two, it is lost, buried by newer stuff.

Pinterest enables you to create a very visual and personal set of permanently curated images and resources, with the advantage that it is incredibly easy to use.

If someone we trust says that something is good and useful, we believe it. The web is one big crowd-sourcing device, where we can do the spade-work for each other, and share the good stuff.

What can I curate?

computer user
Almost anything! There is a big need in the fields of evangelism, discipleship and missions, to offer people a ‘best of’ list of resources, perhaps with added value advice too, especially as a permanent set of pages that can be easily found, rather than merely Twitter or Facebook streams, which have a half-life of minutes.

Here are a few potential areas (for which I am not aware that anyone has created a webpage – if you know of any, please add in the comments section), with reasons why they are so strategic:

  1. Discipleship and group Bible-study free ebooks, suitable for pastors and leaders in the majority world. There is a huge shortage of such culturally appropriate and balanced ebooks, either in easy international English or other languages. I do not know any listing that draws together what is available, with reviews of contents and target readers.

  2. Another majority world need: a one-stop list of the relatively limited number of evangelistic full-length videos for Africa, Mid East and Asia, available either as DVDs, digital downloads or streamed. (YesHEIs.com is a curated list of video shorts in multiple languages.)

  3. List and review of discipleship and evangelistic smartphone apps. There are very few of the latter. This is a huge area of opportunity. It could also include pages of advice and resources on how to build apps.

  4. How to script, shoot and edit an evangelistic YouTube short, with best links to free or cheap resources for each component of the task.

  5. In the world of Christian books, I know of no list of evangelistic titles that are truly suitable for outsiders, including explanations of who they’d be most appropriate for. This is a huge need.

  6. How to write, proofread, edit and publish an ebook, including getting it listed on Amazon as a Kindle book.

There are vast numbers of similar niches – some to help Jesus followers in evangelism or discipleship, others to directly engage with not-yet-followers.

If you are a relative expert in a niche area, you like sharing good things with others, and have time to keep a curated list up-to-date, this could be for you.

It’s worth highlighting that a ‘best of’ list is precisely that. If you build one, many people will write asking for their web-pages to be included. A resource like this is of value precisely because it excludes the mediocre, maybe even the only moderately good. A “10 best” is vastly more valuable than an off-puttingly large “50 half-decent”. And
don’t be afraid to classify into sub-categories containing manageable numbers of focused recommendations.

Direct evangelism

You can also use curation for direct online evangelism, by including appropriate evangelistic, conversation-starting pages on life issues, popular culture etc, testimonies or similarvideo-clips within a wider range of secular recommendations. You can do this using Pinterest, and on many other web platforms.

It is one of the keys to appropriate evangelism – connecting with people on the basis of their common interests and felt needs.

Read more

Read a very clear explanation by Rohit Bhargava of content curation and why it is increasingly significant, and also this EContent page.

Please add your comments on areas you think need a curated ‘best of’ or ‘how to’ page.

Photo: Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow. Credit: geograph.co.uk | Creative Commons

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