While browsing my self-hosted bookmarks archives of articles, quotations, and reading-for-later hyperlinks, I happened to rediscover this Medium article about our responsibilities for content and the role of a information curator on the internet. It seems like a happenstance moment to be reading this article after completing the quit social media project.
Originally written two years in response to the redesign of Facebook’s Timeline/Feed in 2013, or more specifically, the future-hopeful position of Facebook as the sole communication platform in our internet communities, it’s still a relevant and terrific analogy of why we curate & interact with content in our social networks, and the future of the social web.
The network that was built to connect people is transforming from a communication platform with sharing ability into a content platform with communication ability.
It doesn’t take much looking around at the state of the web to figure out why Facebook is changing its strategy. We have never produced more content nor consumed it more than we do now. There’s so much to watch, to read, to listen to, to look at, that finding the best ways to consume all of this content becomes a problem that needs a solution.
More specifically, determining what content to consume and where to consume it becomes a problem. And that’s where the massive world of online curation comes in, and it’s the point of this post.
Curating is how we’ve dealt with the incredible amount of content on the web, and all of these services are competing to be the final destination of the content — the place you’ll discover and consume the content. Where they differ is WHO does the curating.
As we all venture further and further into the depths of the internet we find people that share our interests. Lots of them, actually. Letting these people — people you look up to or share interests with or share careers with — curate the content you see starts to make more sense than letting your great aunt Sally run the show.
That’s the problem Facebook really faces: What if people don’t enjoy the content their peers share? And if that’s the case, who or what should curate the content in their place?
That’s a tough question to answer.
The best analogy I’ve heard about the structure of content on today’s internet goes like this: Imagine a big port.
That port’s all yours, it’s where all of the things you consume come in to dock. Now, you could hop in your little sailboat and visit all of the island sites you want content from, but that wouldn’t be very convenient. You could visit the maiden isle of The Verge or the continent of CNN.
But no, there’s no time for that. You can have your content delivered.
Well, content platforms like WordPress, Blogger, Medium, and YouTube bring in ships to your port. But that won’t do either — those ships bring in a lot of content but it’s not worth checking each ship individually.
What you need is a monster ship to carry all of the content mediums.
More than that, you need an excellent crew on board that monster ship to sort through the containers of content and pick out the worthwhile bits. That’s what services like Facebook and Google+ try to be — giant transport ships that let you choose your own crew.