Buzzword alert! “Curation” is the new ‘in’ activity on the Web it seems. Consultants are rushing in to cash in on the new challenge encapsulated by the term. The Web has so far been an information bonanza for all. Every pundit and his dog gushes about the free exchange of knowledge over the Net — specifically greased by social-media platforms — and how it “empowers” the hapless and enriches the impoverished.
The other side of this unprecedented access to information, however, is the proliferation of noise. The digital age has seen an unprecedented quantity of data capture points in the hands of an unprecedented number of people. Digital cameras, mobile communication and Net access devices, and of course personal computers all have the larger proportion of the data they capture as images, audio, and text eventually ending up on the Net — sent out as email, uploaded onto social networking sites, and streamed onto other people’s devices. A lot of these go on to be regurgitated and consolidated into content published on on-line news sites, e-zines, and blogs.
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Finding relevant information is becoming harder and harder as the amount of noise to sift through increases. This is where curation comes in. Even as the volume of information increased with the advent of democratised network computing, the amount of waking hours of the average person remained the same. In short there is too much information and too little time. Time-challenged people now demand a presentation layer to filter out a the negative-wealth of irrelevance that accompanies the typical Twitter or Facebook feed and the thousands of results that get splashed on their browsers at the click of the “Search” button on sites like Google.
Content was once king, but with the reality today is that content without curation is simply noise. As such services and platforms built around the concept are attracting the attention of potential investors.
Ironically, curation preceded the sort of “search” delivered by sites like Google. Web directories (Web sites where people submitted their favourite Web links) were once the killer app of the search industry in the mid- to late-90’s. In fact, search pioneer Yahoo! started out as a human-managed search directory. But these Web directories were soon supplanted by algorithmic search engines like Google as the Web grew bigger and the volume of data to sift through beyond the abilities of humans to vet.
For now, curation is a trending buzzword. But with search algorithms progressively getting more sophisticated and smarter, the line that separates algorithmic search and curation is likely to blur. Trust Google to close the notional gap that for now exists.
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