Digital Curation, the opposite of Social Media

Posted by | October 27, 2007 | technology | No Comments

The Curate’s Web

Jason Kottke points to an excellent review by Alexander Bohn of Ffffound, a newer visual bookmarking site based upon the same principal as Wists, but with a supremely visually literate, design focused, community rather than a craftster one.

Social Media

When we developed the idea of visual bookmarking in 2005, it was fashionable to look at publishing as being purely democratic – all readers were publishers and everything was ‘social’. We created the term Social Shopping (hip word meets $$$) as a joke, and people took it seriously. Two companies did versions of it, and one sold for $40M. And the very best of luck to them, too. But there is something fundamentally wrong with sites that are driven by a passion for the business model at the expense of the content. In the long term these don’t work as businesses.

Digital Curation

Something different and much more interesting is now happening, social media sites are cropping up with a focus on a narrow but expert community of contributors. The buzzword for this is ‘curation’ and is what we are doing with sites like Oobject and Cribcandy which are collections of ‘picks’.

The Myth of Social Media

Within 2 weeks Digg will release their visual bookmaking tool. I have heard people suggest that that this will become the platform for the filtering of visual content of the web, just as I heard people say that Digg would become the platform for filtered links in all the major verticals.

This is wrong. For all the focus on ‘everyone as a contributor’, social media sites like Digg or Epinions before it are highly asymmetric, and gravitate towards the subjective taste of a specific community. A tiny number of users (a fraction of a percent) determine the content, and the user base tends to be like minded.

The Curated Web

There will be very few ‘platforms’ and very few startups that will play out the way that their investment justifies. At the moment Facebook looks like the only one, everything else is probably irrelevant.

What there will be is a natural distribution of communities, rather like (in fact, mathematically, exactly like) the distribution of animal species.

These communities will not be like social networks or they will be interminably bland. They will be highly stratified, driven by the obsessive pickers, the collector types – or to give them the fancy name that makes people write about them – the curators.