Are We a Curation Nation?

If you've added data to the web, positive or negative, about a book, a movie, a restaurant, or an airline, then you've added your curatorial '2 cents' to the wisdom of the web.
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There's a new world order emerging around media and publishing. Producing original content is simply too expensive to sustain alone for all but the largest media companies. New models are essential -- and emerging.

The solution that is emerging is known as curation. There's been plenty said about the emergence of professional curation. These are content hunters and gatherers who are increasingly scouring the web for contextual content to publish and amplify.

But professional curation isn't the only trend that's rapidly on the rise. Chances are, you're already a curator, and you may not even know it. New mobile applications, sites, and consumer driven content discovery are feeding the emergence of the accidental curator.

The urban game of human bingo known as Foursquare is the red hot center of accidental curation.

Less than a year old, the New York startup known as Foursquare became a 'thing' at the South by Southwest Internet conference in Austin in March, 2009. Foursquare is part game, part social tool, and part low profile advertising engine. It's a mix of media, community, and commerce.

It's a location-based game that allows mobile phone users to 'check in' at locations like restaurants, bars, workplaces, and other public spaces. You earn points and badges as you alert friends to your current location. It's a game with goals, the member with the most points at a location is the "mayor" -- so you can be the "mayor" of your favorite bar or restaurant until someone else checks in even more times than you have. It's a race of sorts.

The result of this change is a shift that puts power back in the hands of the customer, and no longer allows products or brands to ignore unhappy customers because they've got so many more. Subtle shifts, as return visits on Foursquare decline for a national chain or brand will surface quickly -- and other unhappy customers will vote with their feet or their wallets.

We're rapidly becoming a Curation Nation, a world where abundance is assumed in the world of content -- there's no shortage of content makers of all shapes and sizes. But the avalanche of content makes finding the content you're looking for significantly harder. Applications like Foursquare provide new filters that turn media on its head.

Accidental curation is passive, anonymous endorsement. It's curation for the crowds.

Philip Kaplan -- the famed founder of F*ked Company, has a new site called Blippy that is inviting users to register and share their credit card purchases -- publicly. The site describes itself as: "A fun and easy way to automatically tell people about your favorite purchases." Or, if you want to share your stock trades, then StockTwits says it's "an open, community-powered investment idea and information service. You can think of it as Bloomberg for the little guy and gal." Publish your purchases and you're providing data that creates curation data.

The trend toward sharing personal finance data goes even further -- with Twitter-driven StockTwits -- the site that investor and co-founder Howard Lindzon touts as the future of finance. Howard's Twitter sharing solution takes your private stock trades and makes them public. Really, yup -- if you're a superstar trader, show us what you've got. Lindzon explains: "Contributing to the flow is incredibly easy, fun and valuable. You will receive feedback and have the chance to exchange market related ideas with a multitude of great minds."

Share your location? Share your favorite bar or restaurant? Share your credit card statement? Share your stock trades? Really? Are you read to share your naked data with the world?

The chances are with Facebook, LinkedIn, tweets, and blog posts, you're already an accidental curator and just didn't know it.

Here's a way to think about it: have you ever had a great meal and posted about the experience to Yelp? What about getting slimed by a hotel on a vacation and ranting on Trip Advisor?

If you've added data to the web, positive or negative, about a book, a movie, a restaurant, or an airline, then you've added your curatorial '2 cents' to the wisdom of the web. For lots of folks, adding this data is a rare experience. It will take an experience that is either exceptionally great or terrible for you to add your vote.

But there are other, less purposeful ways that you're already an Accidental Curator. If you tag a photograph in Facebook with any of your friends names, you're building their collection of photographs and their web reputation. If you post photographs to Flickr, allow sharing and include a location or key word, you're building a public database of images that help the world see more clearly.

In fact, any time you provide an implicit endorsement to a person, place, or thing, you're building not only that place's digital identity but your own.

Here's a personal example.

My younger son decided a few months back that he wanted to learn to play the trumpet. I was tasked with finding a trumpet teacher. So, I did what we all do: used a search engine. I found a number of names in my city, and then I was stuck trying to find out which one would be the best fit with my son.

A list of names -- and no way to know which of the many trumpet tutors were skilled and well liked. I did something I'd never done before, and put a number of names into Facebook. Sure enough, one of them was a friend of a friend of mine. I reached out to my friend: "how do you know him? Is he good with kids? Would you recommend him?" What came back was a glowing recommendation for a great guy. Sold. As you might expect, he was a great fit and remains working with my son.

What happened there? Is my friend a trumpet expert? Clearly not, nor did he 'friend' the trumpet tutor expecting to become a recommender, yet there he is, the accidental curator, helping me sift through a list of choices to find the right one.

While Facebook has been around for a while, there are new technologies and applications that make curation a part of your life without you even knowing it.

But each time you log a return visit to an establishment, you're registering a de-facto vote in favor of that good or service (an endorsement). Chances are you're not checking in at a restaurant that served you undercooked chicken last week. So establishments with the highest ratio of return visits by the same person are being collectively curated as well liked.

Now that you're thinking about your actions as endorsements the number of emerging applications that capture and aggregate your behavior starts to make it clear that you're putting data into Curation patterns whether you want to or not.

The world of curation will have lots of brand-name, well-known curators you know and trust. The new media moguls won't be makers, they'll be finders, endorsers, and presenters.

But you'll be a curator too. You'll find that you're endorsing products, places, and people in both public opt-in forums and in a crowd-sourced anonymous data driven click-stream stew.

We're an entering a world where curation will be the critical differentiating factor in purchases, preferences, and identity.

Curation, whether accidental or intentional, is rapidly becoming the future of media and publishing.

We are a rapidly becoming a Curation Nation.

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