Why I Curate 04.27.2010
I happen to live just a few blocks away from Common Good Books, a book store owned by Garrison Keillor (of A Prairie Home Companion fame). One of the things I love about it, and that makes it so very special, is that it is studiously and exactingly curated. It is not a big store, yet it has the same basic number of sections as a large retailer would. The thing is, each section has about 20-40 books on any given topic area. Not just any books mind you – only the ones the well read and knowledgeable employees feel are the best. In fact, it is virtually impossible to get a “bad” book because of this. Wanna know about gardening? Just go to that section and pick up any book and it is bound to be just what you needed. It’s fantastic.
I have a great amount of respect for good curation because it is largely what I consider myself. The role I perform at most of my online ventures (save this one), and the title I assume is “Curator”. My goal is to find interesting items that fall under specific topic areas and gather them together along with some commentary that will hopefully provide interest, context, and cause the reader to investigate further. I don’t want to post, “reblog”, or otherwise highlight just any article, infographic, product, or link. I only want to post examples that I feel are the best of the breed. I also want to do so in a way that gives ultimate credit to the content creator in the form they intend. What I strive for is that, just like that ideal bookstore, you will be able to go to Minimal Mac, Practical Opacity, The Random Post, etc., click on any permalink, and find something that is a perfect representative of the topic area.
Of course, I’m no trailblazer here. I stand on the shoulders of some folks who I have long admired. In fact, the original term for what became what we now call a blog, “weblog”, was used to describe a site that was more an act of curation than solely consisting of original content. In fact, I rather prefer that the terms blog and blogger refer to this more traditional role, as the proper term for those individuals who trade in original long-form content is “Essayist” but I digress…
The best curated blogs have been around for almost as long as the Internet itself. Jason Kottke, for instance, has made a very long and successful run as someone who is an excellent curator and consistently highlights and provides insightful commentary on a wide and diverse variety of quality Internet finds. Boing Boing is another in that same league. John Gruber of Daring Fireball, while providing some of the best Macintosh long-form editorial commentary around, is also a fantastic curator of related links. In fact, if one only followed DF, one would have all they really need to know about what is going on in the Mac universe. If I was only half as tall as these giants I would be doing well.
This is the sort of excellence, longevity, and consistency I strive for. I think in this highly overwhelming information age, where literally anything we wish to know about is available to us in an instant, more knowledgeable and trusted sources are needed to curate the signal from the noise.