The value and competence of curation

ASTD2013 Sunday session SU210 with David Kelly is under way. Participants are busy tweeting and blogging and generally making lots of Internet noise. Sounds great, eh? That’s what the new world of work is all about: Sharing content, hashtag marathons, putting everything everywhere for everyone. Right? Well maybe…

According to David Kelly, many people do not really understand what curation is about. Some do not even think about it. But in today’s fast-sharing, content “creating and commenting” learning environment, it is a critical future competency for everyone.

What is curation and why is it so important?

Most people associate curation with the role of a museum curator. That person collects and displays articles in a set place for other visiting people. In the learning world, curation is basically the same thing.

In our digital (learning) world today, there is a lot of noise. People who find, rate and share things for others create more and more Internet noise every day. Add to that the fact that production of new content is easier than ever before and we have more and more and more and more noise noise noise… So we need good curators.

Who is curating content? Who should be?

  • In 1922, Readers Digest magazine made curation famous by offering readers the chance to go to one place and get a short summary of many other magazines that they therefore no longer needed to read. A good 2013 equivalent is the Huffington Post.
  • According to David Kelly, the world today is full of curators. Anyone who browses through Facebook can find things, comment, contextualise and share for a specific audience.
  • From an organisational point of view, David suggests that curators would be well placed in learning and development functions. Curators need to have permission to look around and share (freely) and they need to have a good connection with relevant different parts of the organisation.
  • David agrees that trainers who are experts that only deliver content would do well to get interested in the curation of content. Learners who can find content by themselves may stop seeing the need for a trainer who doesn’t bring some added-value in this digital age.
  • How should we approach curation? What steps should be followed? When? How?

  • Curators need to have clear objectives and these should be matched to the types of curating activity noted below. In David’s own experience, his conference back-channel curation is really an aggregation platform (see below). His objective is to put everything together in one place so that others don’t need to do the work themselves. Bearing this in mind, he is very careful not to filter out information based on his own bias. Other curators might filter more in order to bring more relevance to the consuming audience.
  • There 3 main things to do to curate well: Listen, Analyse and Share. If you only do 2 of them, you are not really curating. When you listen, you need to analyse in order to improve relevance. If you only listen and then share without analysing, you will create more noise. If you analyse and share it will be very nicely organised, but potentially not relevant because you didn’t listen enough. And if you only listen and analyse but don’t share, you are doing PKM, not curation.
  • If you are not an expert in the field you are curating, then you must be very close the needs of your audience. You need to be able to contextualise things you share in order to bring value to them. You need to be able to answer the only 3 audience questions that count.
  • Are their different types of curation?
    According to David Kelly, there are at least 5 types of curation, which are mixed together in different ways

  • Aggregating = grabbing everything related to a given topic and putting it together
  • Filtering = taking out all the things that are not relevant
  • Elevating = making some things stand out more than others so that people can find it more easily
  • Mash-up = taking 2 unrelated things and putting them together to create something new. In a learning context, you take 2 pieces of information that seem to be linked by a theme or context and when I bring them together, they create a new message and meaning./li>
  • Timeline curation = putting things together in a chronological order
  • What are the key competences required for effective curation?

    One of the critical components of effective curation is trust. If your approach to curating things is to retweet and share and email information across an organisation or community, you risk to just make a lot more noise. People will only come back to you and follow your train of thoughts if they trust you. You have to have an attitude that makes sense to the people you are curating for. They have to see quality in what you do, so they believe that it is worth coming to “your museum”.

    3 other important things are:

  • Proximity to the learning audience. According to David Kelly, this is one major reason why traditional in-house trainers are not necessarily naturally good curators. They have the habit of solving specific problems
  • Good judgement of quality: An effective curator analyses well what is relevant for his audience.
  • Daring. Those familiar with Eli Parisier’s “filter bubble” issue will recognise that it can be useful to have a curator who throws something at people that they weren’t expecting or that their own private (Google) search would not have proposed. Machines can do a great job of filtering information: Google’s algorithms strip away the billions of available pages on the Internet to give you the best match to your search. But curators will throw in something different and daring from time to time
  • Thanks for reading and don’t forget to tune into the ASTD2013 Daily Dallas Weather Reports on during the conference…

    For more references on curation, read the following posts:

  • Harold Jarche on Personal Knowledge Management (which is NOT curation) including his ideas on filtering
  • A pre-conference post from David on the importance of curation
  • One of my posts :-/ on Community Management competences, which I think might overlap with the curation competence
  • David Kelly’s curated resource on curation:
  • About Dan Steer

    Wandering corporate trainer, learning and development consultant, conference speaker and professional El-Magico. I help people get better at stuff by creating and facilitating Infinite Learning © opportunities. The world would be a better place if everyone was doing what he loved and doing it well. I am working to bring out the "El Magico" in everybody. Training in presentation and communication skills, leadership, social media for learning and marketing, learning and development management + personal effectiveness.

    Posted on May 19, 2013, in Learning Management and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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