Collecting related content isn’t curation

[Note added later: Please see comments. This post is focused on the use of a word, and even then, it recognizes the ship has already sailed. I don’t disagree with Robert’s call for a better tool to do what he’s talking about.]

When I read a post like the one written by the always-on-and-everywhere Robert Scoble, “The Seven Needs of Real-Time Curators,” I want to say, “Curation just isn’t the right word to describe what we’re doing here.” Believe me, I know I’m guilty of using it, but please, what can I do to help it go away?

Says Robert:

“Look at this post here, I can link to Tweets, and point out good ones, right? That’s curation. Or I can order my links in a particular order. That’s curation. Or I can add my thoughts to those links, just like Techcrunch or VentureBeat do. That’s curation. Or I can do a video like Leo Laporte does and talk about those links. That’s curation. Or I can forward those links to you via email. That’s curation.

No, Robert. All those things are something other than curation.

Rather than explain all the reasons why the word curation is so wrong for a conceptual content collection, organizing and displaying tool that Robert describes (which, by the way, I have nothing against), I’ll just point to Joanne McNeil’s essay rounding-up examples of the bastardization of the term on her blog, Tomorrow Museum.


“When did curate stop meaning, as the OED says, “to look after and preserve” and start describing the retweeting of links and SEO optimization? The “curation economy” isn’t at Basel, it is happening in office meetings around the country just getting clued in about Twitter and the importance of setting up Facebook fan pages. instructs readers on “Curating, not moderating, the flow of content and participation” and provides a “Manifesto For The Content Curator.”

On this, I agree with Joanne.

I think it’s time for geeks and new media types (including me) to leave the word alone. We should turn it back over to the art historians and museum keepers. Let them perserve the respect is displays for a person’s willingness to spend decades determining what is good pre-Columbian art examples vs. merely average pre-Columbian art examples so the rest of us won’t have to.

We should stop trying to turn “curation” into the “real-time” activity it has never been, unless, perhaps, the curator was standing next to Picasso in the 1960s.

Curation implies things one can’t do in real-time: things like reflection and research and spending the time necessary to examine complete collections of everything known about a singular topic.

Perhaps one can edit in real time. Or categorize in real time. Or collect and organize examples of what is being said, or is occurring, in real time.

But “curate”? Not really.

That said, I’m always one to look for an opportunity to profit from the latest fad.

So if anyone comes up with Robert’s perfect real-time curation platform, I’ll be happy to entertain offers for the URL I registered in 2007: “