Curating content (Finding meaning in our post-fact era)

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In the age of too much information (TMI), the demand for curated content is increasing. There are free tools and there are paid services that are available.

My favorites would include Flipboard, Pocket, and the now-defunct Storify. These services are either accessible on the web or as a mobile app. These services are meant to help you gather content and organize them based on topics, interests, issues, or on specific moods.

Flipboard, which has been around for sometime, has been my default service for discovering the latest stories about certain topics. On Flipboard, you can curate content into magazine-like collections, which you can flip through.

Pocket, on the other hand, started out as a bookmarking service. However, it has evolved from a service where you can collect stories to an alternative source of discovering content coming from people you follow. It is also a “read-it-later” service, similar to Digg or defunct bookmarking services.

Content curation in journalism

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Content curation is not new in the field of journalism. Yes, journalism has been skewed towards creating stories or content. But editors are tasked to decide how stories are organized.

Content curation is defined as “the process of gathering information relevant to a particular topic or area of interest.” I first heard about the word curation in museums. Curators were a group of experts tasked to choose a collection of content they believe would make for a good story. Just like how editors would choose a collection of stories compiled in an anthology, curators would use their own judgment in selecting content. The criteria for choosing content would depend on the overall story or effect that you want to convey to your audience. So, it’s important that you know your audience for maximum impact. In short, good curated content are meant to elicit an emotional response.

The challenge of context in curation

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In today’s terms, content curation requires wading through mass amounts of information or data, and making sense of it.

“In simple terms, the process of content curation is the act of sorting through large amounts of content on the web and presenting the best posts in a meaningful and organized way. The process can include sifting, sorting, arranging, and placing found content into specific themes, and then publishing that information,” a blog post on Hootsuite said.

Content curation stresses on the need to deliver content that is both “meaningful” and “organized.” Yes people, meaningful and organized.

Journalistic curators

For years, content curation has been the domain of professionals. Among them are editors, managing editors, producers and film directors who are able to do because of their years of experience. For editors, content curation is equal to news judgment. They decide what stories would be headline-worthy. They set the agenda. They decide what’s interesting, what’s not.

However, with the explosion of the content on social media and the Internet, and the development of services like Flipboard or Storify, consumers of content have become pseudo-curators of content too.

By simply “flipping” or “sharing” a story on a mobile phone app like Flipboard, followers and friends are provided handpicked content. A story Mashable adds:

But with the push of social media and advancements in communications technology, the curator has become a journalist by proxy. They are not on the front lines, covering a particular beat or industry, or filing a story themselves, but they are responding to a reader need. With a torrent of content emanating from innumerable sources (blogs, mainstream media, social networks), a vacuum has been created between reporter and reader — or information gatherer and information seeker — where having a trusted human editor to help sort out all this information has become as necessary as those who file the initial report.

Social media has indeed filled the void for curated content. From manicured content on Instagram to random Facebook status on your friends’ feeds, these curated content are becoming substitutes for media content diet that was once churned by professionals.

We now turn to so-called to amateurs who are churning real-time content from their bedrooms. Like the reporters or the broadcast journalists, they possess the tools of reporting and documentation and the network — the Internet. They essentially become media themselves.

This Mashable story explains further:

Unlike a reporter who is immersed in a particular industry or beat, a curator often has a day job. Some are in the media industry and have access to their publication’s news sources; others are obsessed with the news and want to provide their network, community or followers with what they think is important. But the common thread between curators is that they are viewed as trustworthy sources of information.

Why curated content is important (and how you should go about doing it)

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There’s just too much content out there. We need “tour guides” to point us to the right direction. We need decent human beings who can help us curate content for us.

Here are some criteria to follow if you want to become a content curator:

  1. Be transparent. Always cite your sources. And clearly state your intent in content curation. Your goal is not to mislead people. You’re a navigator.
  2. Be consistent. Since you will soon have people following you, you have to keep a stream of good, curated content. People don’t like thrash content. They like something substantial and useful. Best to over communicate than lead them to nothing but frustration.
  3. Be accurate. Check your sources. Avoid fake stories. Delete click-baits. You’re goal is to also inform your followers and readers with the most accurate and well-research content that is out there. Your integrity is your currency.
  4. Be interesting. People don’t like boring content. Vary the content you curate. Add videos, text, and white papers. People also love more visual content (interactive websites) and podcasts would also prove useful.
  5. Provide context, but avoid injecting too much opinion. Curated content becomes meaningful if people are provided context. It’s like allowing people to peek behind-the-scenes. Allowing them to understand where you’re coming from will help them understand your story.

 This post was originally published on Medium.

We The Media Revisited: Of showbiz talk shows and celebrities

We The Media Revisited: Of showbiz talk shows and celebrities

[REVISED & UPDATED] Two events prompted me to write this blog post.

One involved a celebrity calling out what appeared to be an insult hurled at a house-help in an exclusive resort. Another was news about the end of a long-time running showbiz talk show in a dominant television network.

At first, I found both stories amusing and trivial. But as I read and thought about it, I believe these two events are connected to a rising reality in media.

Let me set the context: ever since celebrities found love and power in social media, this medium has offered them new channel to genuinely and intimately connect with fans (this excludes celebs whose social media assets are “managed” by experts).

Social media has become their platform. How do I know this? My best examples are my two daughters and my wife. They all follow celebrities: my daughters do it through Twitter and Instagram, while my wife does through the latter “media.” They now know more than what TV-produced talk shows are showing every weekend. Weekend showbiz productions have become too passe since news breaks faster on social media. Check how many entertainment news are picked up or re-purposed from social media by traditional media. The first event that I cited in the beginning is one recent example.

Watching the popular showbiz talk show host explain why the producers of the show decided to call it quits, he said a lot of things have changed since they started in the late 90s when the Internet was at dial-up speeds.

“The world has changed…showbiz news reporting has changed,” he added.

(He is right. The world has changed, the audience has changed).

He also hinted that they might come back, but in a different form or format, or even not as a group of hosts, but individually.

He stressed that the interest in showbiz news has not waned; nor is the audience for talk shows. (Again, he is right in both counts). But where is the audience going? Who is your audience now and in the future?

If you want to survive and compete in the future, you must consider these observations: (1) A growing audience who don’t watch TV–at least on the TV that we old folks call the boob tube; (2) a new generation of audience growing up with celebrities whom they can follow everywhere, anytime, on any device. (This part is scary for parents like me because this is close to stalking–talk about fanaticism multiplied by 100x) but do consider the value of being able to talk to a celebrity directly; (3) a younger audience who are picky, multitasking, interactive, and often ready to share their opinion about their favorite celebrities; (4) an audience who idolize and immortalize celebrities through fan fictions and other creative endeavors found in communities like Wattpad or Tumblr. These are a few of the things that I have been observing directly from my kids–and they tell me there are hundreds of thousands of them doing the same thing. (I believe them!)

Meanwhile, the current and older audience of showbiz talk shows are shifting towards more convenient and ubiquitous devices with bigger screens that provide streams of celebrity news, photos, videos, and even strategic product placements on Instagram, Facebook and whatnot. Thanks to the Internet, celebrities can now (1) Tell or retell (some go to the extent of re-inventing) their own narratives; (2) manage their own fans; (3) strengthen and nurture their personal brand as they give fans a glimpse of their lives outside of the daily grind; and (4) endorse products and services, which in turn translate to direct revenue for them. (Wow!)

My wife gave me some examples: one involved a pretty young artista who eventually got married. She started sharing her family photos on Instagram, and often exploring creative themes and stories. Years later, this celebrity finds herself endorsing products again, thanks to a steady chronicle of her life on social media. (Personal brand building 101, folks!)

Then, we have the so-called YouTube sensations or the celebrity “bloggers” who are using their new-found stardom to churn out content or even services which they own or endorse. Some of the Internet celebrities eventually land shows on traditional media, but those who stay close to where they started seemed to have lasted longer. (Google: PewDiePie)

Dan Gillmor’s seminal work called “We The Media” talks about the tectonic shift in media, where the audience is now part of the conversation. Traditional talk shows (or traditional TV productions) will die, as the audience demands more transparency, immediacy, and feedback from celebrities. In fact, social media today is both a boon and the bane for celebrities. Not all celebrities know how to use it well. But for those who do, they’re reaping the benefits. (I can only think of Taylor Swift right now).

Gillmor wrote; “Tomorrow’s news reporting and production will be more of a conversation or a seminar. The lines will blur between producers and consumers, changing the role of both in ways we’re only beginning to grasp. The communication network itself will be a medium for everyone’s voice, not just the few who can afford to buy multimillion-dollar printing presses, launch satellites, or win the government’s permission to squat on the public airways.”

These words were written years ago. It’s funny that it still sounds current because it is the reality, and events such as the closing of a local showbiz talk show are signs of things to come for TV networks (and other forms of BIG MEDIA) which will be challenged by new business models and emerging technologies and services.

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If you like this article, do recommend it to others or share it on your social networks. What about you? What are your thoughts about this recent events? Drop me an email at erwin[dot]oliva[at]gmail.com.

*This think piece does not reflect the views of the company I work for or any organization I represent at the moment. But do leave a comment. Thanks and have a great day!

#Fallen44: A nation mourns for elite police killed in raid

Their mission was to arrest a terrorist with a bounty on his head. It was a dangerous mission involving entering a territory controlled by a once-rebel group now negotiating peace with government. Hundreds of elite policemen joined the raid. What happened next shocked our nation: 44 elite police were brutally killed in what they now called a “misencounter” with rebel groups who had declared ceasefire with government.

The stories of what happened, and who was responsible for their deaths came. Video clips of the fallen men were posted on the Internet, some were too graphic and grim. Citizens and the families of these elite policemen were very angry and frustrated with the government whom they blamed for the deaths. Their ire was directed at the commander-in-chief, the President of this nation who went missing as 44 coffins arrived in a local military airport. It was reported that the commander-in-chief was attending the inauguration of a car manufacturer. It looked like business as usual for him, which triggered more anger among the citizens who felt that the he should be mourning with the people.

Today, the President declared a national day of mourning. The 44 elite policemen were called heroes. The wife of one fallen soldier asked her fellow wives to be strong. Meanwhile, some politicians were calling for the resumption of an all-out-war. Some withdrew from co-authoring a law to establish a basic law that would cover fellow citizens who once rebelled against government. Social media is on fire–with hashtags related to this tragic incident. Editorials were written. Exclusive stories filed revealing the target of the raid: he was among the top targets of the US government for his role in bombings, killing innocent people.

The pictures and names of the #Fallen44 were distributed by citizens over the Internet, telling everyone to remember them–the heroes who were loyal patriots who put duty above everything else. During a necrological service, one police officer stressed that uniformed men knew three certain things in their lives: victory, defeat and death. His voice was unwavering as he saluted his comrades, some snatched away from their families too early. One was in his 20s. He was a kind and obedient boy, her mom said. He obeyed everyone, she added.

Just a few weeks ago, this nation was praying for the Pope who came to visit the poor. This week, this nation was praying for the fallen and their families. Others could not hold back their distaste for a leader whom they felt should have acted more human: empathize.

Watching and reading news from my desk at work, I was hoping to comprehend what was going on. It’s hard to tell at this point the truth about this secret raid. Questions were still up on whether the mission was even successful. The sacked chief of this elite policemen said they killed the target, and they were trying to confirm his identity. Meanwhile, the blame game was heating up. Who was accountable for this bungled mission. Why wasn’t everyone in the chain-of-command informed of this mission? Many questions still unanswered.

 

 

 

When my filter bubble worked against me

I felt out of the loop when my boss told me this morning that I missed news about the Hong Kong protests. As I tried to think of an excuse, he quickly added, “That’s your filter bubble working.”

For those unfamiliar with the concept of a filter bubble, it is this: if you’re dependent on social networks for news, you are most likely going to see news that you want–and filtering out those news you don’t want. Filter bubbles are little universes that we create as social networks learn about our behavior, our preferences, our tastes, and our intent. It literally filters out “noise” and replaces it with more relevant and personal information based on my social behavior and, of course, likes.

If you’re seeing a lot of technology content being pushed to you on Facebook, this means at least two things: you’re following that topic through a page, or you’re friends are sharing it. In my case, it is the former that decides my filter bubble.

So why did I miss the Hong Kong protests news? I’m not sure why but I would venture to think that it might be the number 1 social network adjusting my feeds, again. This New York Times article, for one, says our news feeds are ripe for experimentation by people running it.

Here’s a quote from NYT article:

Facebook probably takes the most heat for adjusting how it delivers information in its news feed. Since the feed was introduced in 2006, Facebook has ranked posts based on a computer program meant to show the posts you’ll find the most interesting and engaging.

As a result, you can never be sure whether something you post to Facebook will be seen by your friends. Companies that have spent countless hours and dollars building up their Facebook “likes” may find themselves shouting into the wind. And promoted posts — paid ads — can seem even more glaringly out of place, because they pop up regularly, unlike some of your friends or favorite brands.

We are what we read…

A smaller world, and end of privacy? [Post-Heartbleed]

[UPDATED] I spent all morning yesterday changing each password possibly compromised by the Heartbleed encyrption bug. So for two years, this open source encryption flaw has allowed anyone with time to break into your account. Here’s a simple explanation of what it is:

This vulnerability has been around for two years. It was only this week that it became public.

The Internet has made our worlds smaller. The intent of the Internet was to allow us to connect, at least that was my initial impression. Just two weeks ago, I got an email from my bank saying my credit card was “possibly compromised.” I was skeptical. I called them back and verified if this email was not a phishing expedition. It was not. I emailed back confirming that, “Yes, please replace my card ASAP.” The bank’s anti-fraud department acted. But I asked for more information on the cause of the compromise. The bank was vague, but confirmed that a “store” was copying my credit card information (and it may have been breached) during Internet transactions. Hmmmm. It’s been a while since I last used that credit card for any Net transactions. The bank has supplied me with an e-credit card account for online payments. Now, I’m wondering if this recent Heartbleed story is related to this breach.

I’ve been reading up on data privacy (don’t ask why, it’s my job to understand it well). Countries like mine have data privacy laws in place. It contains general principles and guidelines—even rules on how to deal with personal data–including credit cards. But as we interconnect through social networks and other online services, much of our personal and behavioral data are recorded and stored in a cloud. Every time you sign up to a service or whenever you pay online–you give up some personal data. If you’re too paranoid, you might stop reading here.

It’s not helpful that we read this kind of stories, revealing that the National Security Agency has been exploiting Heartbleed for the past two years to snoop on some targets. Imagine this: Heartbleed has affected two-thirds of the world’s Internet?! (Heartbleed is an open source security socket layer that encrypts our data–including our password–whenever you sign into online service, web mail, and social networks–and lately mobile messaging).

Big question now is, Should we be concerned? Should we be afraid of an ever-connected world where our personal data is thrown from one database to another to make online services personalized, responsive, and very intelligent? Netflix, for one, knows what I want to watch next (that seems crazy, right?) That, my friends, is how the world works now. And if you’re connected, plugged in, the Internet as we know it, will have records of you in I hope a secure database server. It’s not the end of privacy, however. There are still ways to protect yourself—and your passwords from snoops. You should be vigilant—and do ask questions a lot.

What can you do right now is to change your passwords–and subscribe to a password management service like LastPass (you have to pay for this). Also, read privacy policies–especially those from social networks. Take time to tweak your privacy settings to only give away information that is necessary to be in a service. Technology is as good as its user.

Heartbleed is a wake up call. And it reveals that the Internet has its flaws. It is an evolving creature. And the more we talk about it, the more people become aware of these risks.