A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about content discovery online, and how the social web effectively turns the people that you’re connected to into your very own personal curators. I wrote that “the social web enables users to iterate through a group of curators who provide relevant content by way of social proximity and temporality.” This type of curation could be called ‘distributed social curation,’ since the consumption experience 1) is different for every participant/producer/consumer and 2) is inherently social – meaning, a necessary condition is your participation in an online social graph.
I came across two articles tonight that highlight that very same trend. Twitter’s Ev Williams describes the potential impact of distributed social curation in a conversation with GigaOm’s Om Malik:
“There’s too much stuff…We just need to let them find the right stuff. We have been going in this direction. It is just not necessarily obvious. For example, the native retweet (RT) is a way to share best stuff more widely than that account’s followers. It sort of adds an editorial layer.”
In “Curation is the New Search is the New Curation,” Paul Kedrosky writes:
“the re-rise of curation is partly about crowd curation — not one people, but lots of people, whether consciously (lists, etc.) or unconsciously (tweets, etc) — and partly about hand curation (JetSetter, etc.).”
While my post focused primarily on the type of social curation that Williams alludes to and that Kedrosky mentions first, Kedrosky adds that we will also see a sort of ‘expert model’ of online curation, where a small group of informed editors make content selections by hand that are relevant to a specific audience type (think Techmeme).
I don’t see these two models as equals – neither in quality nor in potential for adoption at scale. In fact, in the expert model, quality and scale are necessarily inversely correlated. The broader the audience, the more difficult it will be to produce a slice of content that is relevant to all participants. With distributed social curation, however, that same relationship (between size and relevance) is not even contemplated.
In the distributed social web, all audiences have the size of 1, and no single audience experience is ever the same. In other words, unless you follow the exact same people that I do, your content experience will be different from mine. My personal curators might share a particular article with greater or less frequency than yours, and we will both naturally, and as frequently as daily, adjust our social graphs to optimize for the most relevant curated experience.
In the distributed social web, where every participant is a content producer, the audience must curate the curators!