Don’t Just Curate, Cultivate


Content curation is all the rage.  The rank and file folks online tend to get overwhelmed by the amount of information spewing from the firehose.  For the most part, they don’t want to know every little detail about everything.  They want salient points about a topic or how an article fits into the bigger picture.  This is the calling card of a content curator.  They organize the chaos and attempt to attach meaning and context to things.  It does work well for some applications.

Hall of Books

One of the biggest issues that I have with curation is that it lends itself to collection only.  I picture curated content like a giant library or study full of old books.  All that information has been amassed and cataloged somehow.  The curator has probably read each of those books once or perhaps twice before.  They can recall the important points when prompted.  But why does all that information need to be stored in a building the size of a warehouse?  Why do we feel the need to collect all that data and then leave it at rest, whether it be in a library or in a list of blogs or sources?

Content curation feels lazy.  I can create a list of bloggers that I want you to follow.  I want you to know that I read these blogs and think the writers make excellent points.  But how often should you go back and look at those lists again?  One of the greatest tragedies of blogging is the number of dead, dying, or abandoned blogs out there.  Part of my job is to evaluate potential delegates for Tech Field Day based on a number of factors.  One of my yardsticks is blogging.

Seeing a blog that has very infrequent posts makes me a bit sad.  That person obviously had something to say at some point.  As time wore on, the amount of things to say drifted away.  Maybe real life got in the way.  Perhaps a new shiny object caught their attention.  The worst is a blog that has only had two posts in the last year that both start with, “I know I haven’t blogged here in a while, but that’s going to change…”

Reaping What You Sow

I think the key to keeping that from happening is to avoid static collection of content.  We need to cultivate that content just like a farmer would cultivate a field.  Care and feeding of writers and bloggers is very important.  Writers can be encouraged by leaving comments or by sharing articles that they have written.  Engaging them in discussion to feed new ideas is also a great way to keep the fire of inspiration burning.

One of the other important ways to keep content creators from getting stale is to look at your blogrolls and lists of followed blogs and move things around from time to time.  I know for a fact that many people don’t scroll very far down the list to find blogs to read.  The further up the list you are, the more likely people are to take the time to read what you have to say.  The key for those wanting to share great writers is to put them up higher on the list.  Too often a blog will be buried toward the bottom of a list and not get the kind of attention the writer needs to keep going.  More likely is a blog at the top of a list that hasn’t posted in weeks or months.

Everyone should do their part to cultivate content creators.  Don’t just settle for putting them on a list and calling it a day.  Revisit those lists frequently to be sure that the people on them are still producing.  For some it will be easy.  There are people like Ivan Pepelnjak and Greg Ferro that are born writers.  Others might need some encouragement.  If you see a good writer than has fallen off in the posting department lately, all it might take is a new comment on a recent post or a mention on Twitter/Facebook/Google+ asking how the writing is coming along.  Just putting the thought in their mind is often enough to get the creative juices flowing again.

Tom’s Take

I’m going to do my part as well.  I’m going to try to keep up with my blogroll a bit more often.  I’m going to make sure people are writing and showing everyone just how great they are.  Perhaps it’s a bit selfish on my part.  The more writers and creators there are the more choices I have to pick from when it’s time to pick new Field Day delegates.  Deep down inside, I just want more writers.  I want to spend as much time as possible every morning reading great articles and adding to the greater body of knowledge.  If that means  I need to spend more time looking after those same writers, then I guess it’s time for me to be a writer farmer.

3 thoughts on “Don’t Just Curate, Cultivate

  1. Contrary to the popular opinion, I’m not a born writer, but I met the right people at the right times and got pushed into the right direction. Please do follow Tom’s advice and poke us all occasionally – every writer loves receiving feedback on his work.

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