… the more time you need for curating.
My first ever attempt at tweeting an aphorism. But it is true for me, and it defines the way I use online spaces.
As a contributor of online content, I am operating in different modes:
- Creator, with emphasis on creating something original – including unintended re-invention of the already existing I had not googled.
- Researcher, when cross-checking sources or doing calculations.
- Commentator on the blogs of others.
- Curator. It is this role I want to dwell upon now.
I started writing online by editing static web pages, and this still determines my netizen’s philosophy. Creating content was always playing with structure versus content, and playing with how to present content in a way it was useful to me – and maybe to others, too.
You cannot pre-define categories, tags, and other structure upfront in my opinion, but you have to revisit them regularly. Social media like Facebook, Google+, or Twitter are primarily determined by the timeline, without giving the user a chance to provide a more timeless structure. Actually the user cannot influence the layout at all. That’s why I consider them secondary channels. Originally I had planned to organize resources useful to me on such sites – but I don’t want to full-text search my own posts or edit hashtags.
What I prefer is what search engines might penalize me for: Long, hand-crafted lists of links. Since a few months I have resumed posting to technical IT security forums. These forums provide automatically compiled lists of my threads, my activity etc. But yet I compile lists of my threads on one of my sites whose domain name accidentally makes for an insider pun: radices, which means roots. I violate database best practices by organizing the same content in redundant fashion – by date or by topic. It is not the final list that is so terribly useful to me, but the act of revisiting all the content, struggling with categorizing, and adding summaries.
I made it a rule to only add links to my collections that I had already used, as I believe the ease of arranging links and downloading documents makes it too simple to just collect and hoard – without actually reading or using. The internet is not too blame here: In the old times, at the university, I was collecting and curating scientific papers – the collecting being a result of my monthly browsing interesting journals, and it was often more extensive than needed.
This year I have created new major categories for these blog by laying out the site map – the pages making up the main menu. It dawned on me that this more than a navigation menu. It reflects what is important for me, and that I don’t care anymore about explaining how all this goes together. I created these pages at about the same time I stopped trying to explain why my professional playgrounds would complement each other so nicely. I rather say, I work on A and B, as odd as this combination seems. Combining Anything – I Mean It.
I do love playing with different platforms, and I do maintain all of my non-blog websites. My most innovative experiments in Google-Translate-assisted poetry go unnoticed as I published them only on my subversive website.
The reason I have this Anything blog is that I tried to keep things separated originally, but finally all of my sites cover all of my topics anyway. Curation is what makes me aware of it.
But on principle I do know that it makes sense to keep to a topic. On our German blog we focus more on heat pumps; there is a lot of technical information, and we keep to a specific narrative style. I am at a loss how to explain this. We call ourselves the Two Fearless Settlers and Professional Tinkerers who tell stories about renewable energies. We use synonyms for places that are reminiscent of fairy-tales or slightly old-fashioned newspapers. Ironically, there is a game called Settlers Online whose style might quite match our blog, and we only learned about this via search terms on our blog (which have also been turned into search term poetry). Clients find the site both informative and entertaining – some of the unexpected positive feedback left me speechless.
On this blog here the navel-gazing ramblings may still outweigh light entertainment or practically useful information. I am not sure if I want to change this – I am just parsing my content and I am recognizing this. The more I create site maps and categories, the less I use them to plan for future content. It is more about coming to a halt and contemplating. I have also decided that I will go on a literary diet until end of 2014 – so I will not amend my Reading List in the next weeks.
I feel like I have reached a goal I hadn’t defined before.
14 Comments Add yours
When I read your post I felt that zinger of familiarity again. I want to revamp my stuff. I do love playing with collections, and the internet is an ideal place for it. :)
Thanks, Michelle! The way you re-arrange your content so carefully – and yet so swiftly! – already has told me that you are a great curator! :-)
Thank you! I’m not sure about that, but I enjoy it. I love ideas! :)
I am interested in the psychological factor that you describe in your curating. It is something that I have observed with myself as well, though I have much catching up to do in that area. I haven’t managed my content in quite a while, which is probably because I haven’t created much content lately, either.
Yes – I remember your list of posts! I found that very useful as a first time visitor on your blog!
There are now about a dozen posts not listed. I’d better get back to updating that list
That well and truly explains the title to your blog and the eclectic mix of items found on it. I agree curating is an art and like life it has to be planned forward but only understood backward.
Thanks, Judy – I like that you compare curation to life! Though it seems to be some menial work like accounting or creating a folder structure on a hard disk I feel I learn a lot about myself when simply trying to clean up my content :-)
Curating is something I haven’t got the hang of yet; I’m really surprisingly immature at much of this Internet stuff still.
I admit, two years I did not even know the term as such – neither in English nor in German – let alone the new meaning that verb has obviously got recently.
I’m not sure how you have time for all of this Elke. This WP site is my singular focus. I’ve also tried my hand at other photographic sites like SmugMug and 500px but found that I simply didn’t have the time to maintain all three to standard. There’s just not enough time. And, I wonder at the motivation for all of your activity. Is all of it part of your job? Do clients access all these sites? Is it your way of keeping in the professional-loop? Or, do the sites comprise your hobby? And maintenance is a form of relaxation? Or is it both? D
It is maybe all of those options. Originally, my sites were 100% subversive hobby – my secret way of escaping the coporate world.
But also today I would not blog or answer questions in forums if I would not consider it fun and hobby in the first place – even if those forums have a professional focus. Our German blog obviously attracts clients but we write it for fun. But even my 100% un-business-y site (the subversive one) resulted in a business relationship – I have often experienced that weird websites make a great filter for attracting just the right clients – the ones having similar sense of humor, the best criterion for selecting whom to work with. But I don’t so it ‘strategically’. When I write content that is – in part – ‘professional’, I do it to sort out my ideas. I might also keep private-only notes (I experimented with many different things) – but if there is a chance, that somebody might read it, I am more focused and I am more satisfied with the results.
I am a strong believer in sharing useful information as I found so many helpful things myself (as a professional). That’s part of the motivation for providing technical information – quite detailed ones actually. I’d call it the classical techie community spirit. I have never posted to ancient mailing lists, but I can relate to that “hacker ethic”. Yes, it also is a way of honing some skills – I give things away for free but I have a chance to encounter weird problems to be solved. Other people play with crossword puzzles or sudokus, or volunteer in their local community.
There are all kinds of “synergy” effects. E.g. when I wait for an input from a client, and I have a few minutes, I “relax” with answering a question in a forum or add the forums thread to one of my lists. Perhaps the topic of that question in the forum might accidentally be similar to the next problem of a client.
You are right, try as we may it’s impossible to do enough effective planning in advance owing to the ever-changing nature of not only our lives but more importantly, the Internet. Things will change and priorities will ebb and flo.
It’s interesting to note that the tasks that you tend to prefer doing by hand do represent one of WordPress’s weaknesses. It’s hard to add a certain amount of structure after the fact. We can use tags and categories to some extent but in the end the best structure seems only to come from the addition of extra pages to the site. Perhaps that’s something that will come in time. The Internet never ceases to amaze!
Speaking of amazing, have you come across the very cool Windows 93 website yet?
I haven’t known the Windows 93 site but googled it now – cool indeed (For other readers – here is the link: http://www.windows93.net/ )
Yes – I think you are right about WordPress, although I would be first to admit that it may just be my weird way of processing and ‘learning’ information that makes me keep such lists. Actually, I had turned some things I had already organized in databases on my other sites back into less formal ‘pages’.