The Three Ts Of Curation

We are always seeking and sharing information for solving our problems. How did we seek and share information on the Internet before sites like Google, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn existed? Even email was not used at first to share links to information on the web. Communication was its primary purpose.

When I first accessed the Internet in 1995, accessing the yahoo homepage and going through a collection of articles on the page seemed like a big thing. I felt that perhaps in the future, the need to go to the library and hunt for information will disappear. And that’s where I stopped thinking about the possibilities. I didn’t think of the power of ‘sharing’ on the Internet. Then years later when I used Google for the first time, I managed to convince myself that it will be quite a while (perhaps several decades) until enough information is generated on the web that I won’t be able to find information on my own using a search engine like Google.

Well, that time has come and is fast passing by. Today we live in a frictionless world, where sharing information has become easier than saying ‘hello’ to one another in the physical or virtual world. We communicate with each other through information today. What I read and share with a friend or a colleague says a lot about what I’m thinking and want to communicate today. But do we ever stop to think if all this ‘constant and frictionless’ sharing of information is useful to the person we’re communicating with?  I am of course not referring to photos of family or personal updates that people send to each other. I’m referring to content that is merely picked up from somewhere else and sent to others.

Take Facebook for example. Before I hit the ‘post’ button on Facebook, the site doesn’t draw up a target group, which would be interested in the article that I’m about to share. Facebook doesn’t tell me who will find it relevant and timely? If Facebook managed to disengage all those friends who wouldn’t be interested and instead gave me a target group that would be interested in what I have to share today, I wouldn’t have to burden myself with the thought of burdening someone else’s wall with my content. The value of that information on both sides would then become equal. Both would be interested parties. I’m sure that as I write this post, the smart engineers at Facebook are working out a way to solve this issue.

But today, Facebook, like all the other social networking sites out there, leaves the choice of selecting content to others. The assumption is that you might just stumble upon something that you like, while not having intended to look for it.  But that was the same assumption used when I first started browsing the web. Only this time, the information is being ‘pushed’ by people I know, as opposed to being ‘pulled’ by me.

In the future, when there is an even bigger information overload and there is no time whatsoever to cherish the joys of stumbling upon information, it may make sense to have some sort of curation that helps users filter information into buckets of lets say the  ‘good’, the ‘bad’ and the ‘ugly’. Today we try and consciously ignore  the bad and the ugly.

However, the good needs to become great. And that’s where the problem lies. I define great content as targeted (to my needs), timely (it helps me with something today) and trustworthy (I can believe it enough to take action on it). These three Ts should work like a filter for me in real-time. Curation will have to deliver on these three Ts. Unless we get information that passes through this three Ts filter, we will end up spending a lot of time just sifting through more of just the good, the bad and the ugly.

Recent start-ups are attempting better and faster curation. Pinterest is one that is growing really fast. Quora is another one. There are several others. Some of them will find sustainable ways of making money and find smarter ways of curation.

For now though, my friends and colleagues have no choice but to bear the burden of my unsolicited posts.

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