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.

Looking back at 2014

In a few days, I will be saying farewell to 2014.

Many things happened in 2014. So I will try to recall milestones and derive some lessons from it.

New job, new challenges. This year, I jumped into the year doing a different job. It wasn’t my forte. It was THAT fork in the road where I had to take. It’s either I go the familiar route or I take a different path with surprising challenges. More than a year into this job, I have learned that relationships still matter to get things done (It has always been). There are also more things to learn, also to unlearn–the latter is a challenge since this has become a habit. I also met very interesting people, gained friends and new mentors.  I also realized I could do less, and still do more. I learned never to get satisfied with status quo. I also learned to challenge myself in so many ways–thanks to a great mentor/teacher who is passionate about life. I will continue to reinvent, no, disrupt my ways and my way of thinking. If you keep doing that, you won’t get bored.

Health is more critical than ever. They say life begins at 40. I turned 41 this year, and boy, I found out that I need to exercise more. I also found that I have diabetes, which sucks. But this is my body telling me to take things slow now. I have to do everything in moderation. I have to eat healthy, which means less sugar (carbo) and fats in my diet. I have renewed appreciation for salads, fresh vegetable and fruits, whole wheat, oatmeal, fish oil, and exercise–the last I still need to keep doing. Thank God if you still have your health at this point in your life. I am deeply thankful God has given me good health despite some bumps along the way. I won’t declare any New Year’s resolution, noting that I will exercise more this time. I just need to do it.

BFF is equal to Best Family Forever. Okay, that seems a stretch and a corny twist on the more known meaning of that acronym. Nobody beats family. Family should always be first in everything you do. Career over family? Nope. Family keeps you sane, grounded, happy, and honest. Family reminds you of your limitations. They’re there to always remind you you’re human. Love your kids. Love your wife, your husband. Tell them you love them.

Life is not complicated. Give away clothes that you don’t use. Give away books, magazines, and other stuff that are gathering dust. Live as if you’re ready to move to another country. That will push you to throw away junk and clear that unused room full of clutter. De-clutter your life. Word.

Devote time to a passion, hobby, vocation, or a calling. Whatever it is, find time to do it. This will help you keep going. I teach as a way to share my lessons I’ve learned in my various jobs. Teaching also helps you validate years of accumulated knowledge that needs to be put into action.  Teaching is also therapeutic and cathartic. It reminds me of my years in school, my own struggles to understand concepts and ideas I didn’t find interesting at that time. Teaching keeps me sane too. It reminds me of my idealistic days, when life was not complicated.

Don’t stop dreaming, and working towards it. Dreaming of taking a vacation? Well, keep dreaming, but work towards it. Plan it out. Dreaming of shedding some mid-section bulge? Schedule it. Find time in your week to start the habit. Big things start small, or from a dream.

Read. Write. Draw.  I still believe writing down your thoughts on paper is a good exercise for the brain. It keeps you sharp. And it helps you document your thoughts. If you can’t write, draw. It is another way of expressing your thoughts, ideas. Keep a notebook handy–buy a moleskine if you have extra money. Just write whenever you feel like it.

To be continued…