Hype surrounding the next social media “killer app”

I wrote a while back how “content without curation is just noise” which was an observation originally made by Steve Rosenbaum in a Huffington Post article cited in that previous article of mine. The basic challenge revolves around how we are deluged daily by a torrent of digital content coming from both older technology like email, mobile SMS, and news sites and newer technology coming in the form of streamed updates from “social media” sites like Facebook and Twitter. Separating the noise from useful information and selecting the most relevant, insightful, and reliable among these is seen to be the next frontier that the next “killer app” will supposedly step up to.

What that killer app will look like and which one among the many start-ups and projects will get it is still the subject of speculation. Apparently the criteria that defines good curation remains nebulous at best

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It’s a challenge with no clear discernible answer, or at least one they’re ready to reveal yet, other than the obvious: make the technology smarter.

“Think of these pieces of information like individual pieces of a quilt,” says [Jonathan Glick, founder of Twitter-focused start-up Sulia], who once served as Head of Product Development and Technology for The New York Times Electronic Media Company. “We can do a better job of patching those pieces together into one cohesive, larger work.”

Zite already tries to do that, based on factors like click-throughs, how long users linger on stories, and even semantics — “left-wing” blogger? “Right wing?” — to increasingly “surface” relevant content to readers. The current level of technology remains promising but flawed.

Nevertheless, Flipboard CEO Mike McCue suggests that a good curation app would step up to the challenge of making content streaming from social-media sites “more easily discoverable, easily consumable, easily digestible.”

The problem lies in how best to capture the essence of curation in a machine algorithm that would provide the “intelligence” in this next big killer app that investors are hoping will emerge from the horizon soon. The two apps so far mentioned both draw content from social networks and “presents it in magazine-like form” (Flipboard) or “filter[s] through all the riff-raff” (Sulia). But formatting and filtering are things that machines have already mastered. Any smarter than that and curation apps run the risk of tuning out their own users.

Perhaps the genius behind Facebook is in the simplicity of the way it presents content to its users — in a one-dimensional chronological stream that made it easy to navigate and digest. “Navigate” in this case was mainly moving up or down the stream — forward or backward in the chronological order the items are presented. Magazine formats revert all this back to the two-dimensional way pre-social networking websites presented content — recall the first generation “Web portals” of the late 90’s and early noughts: Lycos, Alta Vista, and of course Yahoo!; all of which were laid out like magazines or newspapers. Is this really what we want? Seems like we’ve come full circle rather than gone forward.

Then there is filtering. Most Facebook users already curate their content in the natural way that we select what we experience in the real world — by seeing more of of our friends (and people who provide high-quality up-to-date “goss”) and avoiding acquaintances we find boring or uninteresting. Similarly on Facebook, we “hide” the updates of friends who publish what to us constitutes mere noise and retain those whose updates we’ve come to find interesting.

Is “curation” the “next big thing” or is it just hype? Perhaps those who presume to develop “curation” technology and services underestimate the effectiveness of how social media users already manage the content drawn from their social media accounts. Or perhaps they are out to convince the market of that they “need” this “new” service.

One Reply to “Hype surrounding the next social media “killer app””

  1. Filters to get rid of the human thinking the computer thinks we can do without! Hal is out there somewhere, cheering. Maybe they should teach the filter to lip-read, too, you know, from the cam, so they can understand what people really think. Not what they just type. Push the limits, push the limits . . .

    We are all becoming mind-numbed robots anyway, blundering about in a byte-stream crammed with deceits and illusions.

    I dislike social media myself. I prefer a quiet garden.

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