A new emergent breed of credible experts will guide us in finding and making sense of whatever we are interested in(image)
When you live in an age where you are surrounded by information, differing viewpoints, hard to vet and verify sources, fake news and propaganda, content curation moves rapidly from being a trendy buzzword for content marketers to become a high demand necessity for any human being interested in actively learning, comprehending and wanting to make sense of today’s reality.
It is in such situations of information super-abundance that people start tolook for and appreciate the contribution from a trusted, expert guide who can provide them with “intellectual binoculars”.
Someone who is not just a subject-matter expert, but who has also a passion for analyzing, investigating, asking questions and verifying things before drawing conclusions or sharing advice.
And last but not least, someone that one also can empathize with. Someone who shares, at least in part, the goals, values, ethics and ideals for which you stand for.
To fuel this natural process there are no official organizations, schools or commercial enterprises, but a growing number of independent individuals who, mostly out of their peculiar personal interests and passions, systematically work at organizing and adding value to the huge amount of information that is already out there.
What Is the Problem?
What do you do when you live in a world where there are literally thousands of choices?
How can you evaluate, filter, assess, select and choose effectively when there are so many choices and possible alternatives?
If there were only few alternatives with clearly and easily identifiable key characterizing traits, things would be much easier. But when you are confronted with:
a) topics and issues in which we are not quite competent with
b) tens or hundreds of possible alternatives, choices, variations
c) differentiation traits that are not immediately obvious to us,
the only effective survival strategy is learning to be skeptical, to ask lots of question, to experiment and to develop an inquisitive mind.
An inquisitive mind is an intellect that asks lots of questions and who genuinely attempts to look at reality from different, sometimes opposing, angles.
Critically analyzing different viewpoints and interpretations of a specific issue is the best way to understand it and to evaluate the best available strategies to resolve it.
But while it is easy and natural for you to do this when you are familiar and competent with the matter at hand, things change a great deal when you want to learn something new, or you approach a field of interest you know little or nothing about.
How beneficial would it be to have a pair of additional eyes that can see further and deeper into the issue than you can, and who can suggest where to start looking, where there may be complexity or ambiguity, and where to look for real-world examples?
That’s when you need a little help from your expert friends.
Who Can You Trust?
But, who do you go to ask for help?
The natural thing we do, is to go searching for an “expert”, possibly a friend or contact, who knows more than us about the topic we are interested in.
In an age with so much information, new tools and products, and of“fake news” everywhere, such experts can save a lot of time, avoid unnecessary risks, while providing access to more ideas and viewpoints outside our typical horizons.
But the key thing, is that this expert, we look for to get some advice, has to be “trusted”.
You don’t want an expert, who recommends solutions based on his personal interests and advantages, of which you know nothing about.
You prefer the advice of someone, even if he is not famous or popular, who is going to make his recommendations out of true interest for your specific need, without expecting anything in return.
This is who I call a “trusted guide”.
“Trusted guides” are gradually replacing appointed officials, big celebrities, TV hosts, brand experts and other influencers who, for decades, have been advising mass media audiences on what to look, read, watch, wear, eat and pay attention to.
These traditionally beloved and highly trusted sources of influence and advice have rapidly lost their appeal and their trustworthiness.
Because we have discovered that, more often than not, they lie for money.
They advise, promote, suggest and report news and stories because they have a “personal” (often “economic”) interest in the matter at hand.
Thus, although a bit late, many people have come to realize that most institutional and commercial communications are driven by specific political or economic interests, by propaganda goals or by hidden agendas.
That’s how, as more and more people have realized that “brands”, “celebrities” and “institutions” were not honest and transparent about what they publicly said, these same people have started to turn to friends and to direct personal, trustable contacts for news, advice, and for keeping themselves updated.
Already in January 2015, Edelman identified and reported in its Global Trust Barometer that people sitting at the crossroad of those who we know well and who are also subject-matter experts are the persons we trust the most. More than appointed officials, personalities, celebrities, journalists and top brands.(image)
Source: Edelman Trust Barometer 2015
In this light, those who ethically and independently take care of selecting, organizing and making sense of resources (information artifacts), and do so consistently and systematically, naturally become “trusted guides” for anyone interested in learning more about a topic
Trusted guides are curators. They curate information around a specific topic over time, while sharing it publicly with others.
They differentiate themselves from collectors and coaches because they openly and publicly share their discoveries and know-how without asking anything in return.
This is what makes them trusted.
It makes them trusted the fact that there is no petty, personal, interest, advantage or greed, driving their actions, but rather a sincere interest and desire to help and guide others by sharing high-value information.
This does not mean that trusted guides and curators work for free or that they do not get paid when they offer their know-how and expertise to interested commercial parties. It means though, that while they do act as any other professional paid consultant, who gets paid to offer custom information and advice to his clients, they also go out of their way to freely share valuable information to the public at large, for the simple sake of:
- Informing the public
- Improving the general well-being
- Helping specific interest groups acquire more knowledge
- Changing how things are.
Due to these characterizing factors, trusted guides are en course to gradually displace appointed “information authorities” salaried to execute a specific propaganda mission or to serve specific business interests.
Trusted Guides Profile(image)
Trusted guides are the new go-to, emerging reference points in any subject matter area.
Trusted guides are not the top celebrities, the stars, the institutional officials, the big name authors that everyone knows.
They replace mainstream sources, appointed media experts, professors, celebrities, officials, journalists and traditional brands in becoming the most reliable and trusted sources of information in any specific interest area.
But who are they, and what does it make them so special?
Trusted guides are individuals who offer valuable information, in the form of articles, courses, tutorials, video, podcasts or in other formats, on a specific subject-matter.
Trusted guides have earned, over-time, credibility and deep-trust from their readers, followers and fans by sharing valuable content and resources in specific areas. It has not been appointed by passing exams or tests or by earning academic degrees or certifications.
Trusted guides are seen as credible authorities outside the mass-media and the academic systems.
Here is what characterizes them.
- Build their know-how mostly on experience, not on academic study and research.
- Publicly share high-value information in the form of articles, guides, collections, tutorials and more.
- Contribute value to society and not just to their own economic interest, sponsor or subsidizing brand / institution.
- Demonstrate capabilities, values and ideals / ethics through tangible projects, actions and tools.
- Act in their own interest and in the one of the people they want to help, not in the name of greater entities or brands which could pay them a fixed salary.
- Prefer not to be employed by anyone company or organization in order to maintain their independence and credibility.
- Are driven by a deep personal non-material interest and strong passion for the topic area they curate.
Trusted guides are individuals who possess specific know-how, expertise and ability to evaluate and judge, and who continuously search, verify, vet, collect and organize the most relevant news, stories, resources and tools on a specific topic, while contextualizing and commenting them publicly.
Trusted guides may include friends, family, experts in our network of connections, as well as people we follow on social media and with whom we share common interests, as well as life ideals, principles and ethics.
Trusted guides are immediately recognizable individuals who have become known because of their ability to publicly share insightful, competent and independent reviews, analysis, recommendations and advice while being upfront about their true interest, partnerships and ties.
They vet and check tons of potentially relevant information, content, resources and tools, looking for those rare wisdom pearls that can be found only after a dedicated and sustained search effort.
Trusted guides showcase publicly these resources, often within dedicated channels, blogs, podcasts, news streams or into growing collections while adding additional context, reference information (authors, sources) and related resources (where to find out and where to go to explore for more).
Independently of the field / industry they work in, these trusted guides are recognizable by the fact that they:
- Strive to highlight and distill what is most interesting, representative, rare and unique on a specific theme, subject, issue
- Are subject matter experts, researchers or explorers
- Sign their work with their name and last name
- Provide valuable context and reference information
- Add and illustrate their viewpoint and perspective
- Disclose their bias, prejudices as well as their interests and ties (commercial and not)
- Cite and systematically credit their sources
- Share openly
- Do this voluntarily, out of personal interest, passion
Just like when confronted by an unfamiliar jungle or the exploration of a new territory, when we are surrounded by an ocean of information of which we know and understand only a very small part, having good sherpas and expert guides becomes indispensable.
When we explore new grounds, when we are in doubt or we are trying to grasp and understand a new subject we do not know too well, we have learned to seek the help of someone who has more experience than us.
Someone who has already been there, who knows the trails and who can share valuable advice on which path to take.
Someone who knows, not someone who sells or pushes. Someone you can trust that he is not taking advantage of you. Someone who can truly help you.
That’s why if you don’t know someone personally who has those traits, you look for someone that at least shares some of your key values and aspirations (ideals, enemies, ethics, etc.)
These people are what I call trusted guides.
Today, acting as expert “trusted guides”, a new breed of content curators are emerging. They help us manage the overwhelming amount of information surrounding us, by helping us uncover rare gems and unknown treasures, and in making sense of the issues, topics, events and people that interest us most.
These individuals are not just passionate editors who like to create collections.
They are passionate, highly focused scholars, who enjoy being a reliable sources of info by finding, collecting and showcasing/sharing best resources, news, info or tools on a specific topic and for a specific tribe (audience characterized by a common need / interest). They add context and value and transparently share bias, prejudices, preferences as well as personal and commercial interests.
By adding their own viewpoint and disclosing their prejudices, bias and interests, curators offer a much more credible profile for themselves than the typical official, celebrity and institutional spokesperson.
Curators key added value is their genuine and independent viewpoint, not influenced by personal or commercial interests.
Of course you don’t have to take curators’ recommendations as face value, just because they are coming from a “trusted guide”, but you can leverage the extra work they have already done in researching the topic and the affinity they may have with you, to save time in identifying key solutions that may best fit your need.
Trusted guides, even if they don’t label themselves as such, are essentially content curators. Subject-matter experts who act as competent guides in suggesting relevant resources, readings and authors in a specific field and for a specific group of persons.(image)
Examples of Personal Trusted Guides
Here a few of my personally chosen trusted guides in specific areas I am interested in (for the sake of providing real-world examples to what I have described above):
- Julian Stodd (Social Leadership)
- Harold Jarche (Knowledge Management)
- Maria Popova (Culture)
- Howard Rheingold (Digital Literacy)
- Kevin Kelly (Future, Tools)
- Alfonso Furtado (Publishing)
- Sepp Hasslberger (Health, New Energy, Economy)
- David Kelly (L&D)
- Joyce Valenza (Learning and Curation)
- Robert Scoble (New Tech)
- Michel Bauwens (P2P)
- Rohit Barghava (Influence and Trends)
- Beth Kanter (Marketing for Non-profits)
- Teemu Arina (Biohacking)
- Peter Bogaards (Information Design)
- Nancy White (Online facilitation - Group collaboration)
- Silvya Tolisano (Learning)
- Those who curate can become trusted guides in their own specific sector of interest.
- Trusted guides are the future new experts / professors / teachers.
- Traditional teachers and educators lose credibility and reputation relative to trusted guides.
- Ability to critically evaluate potential trusted guides becomes of the essence. As traditional educational institutions gradually lose some of their value and power, learners are not feed-forced specific teachers/professors anymore. It’s learners who can chose their own mentors and thus, be capable of evaluating them beforehand.
- Knowing how to acquire authority, credibility and reputation, not by appointment or by certification, become critical factors for those who want to teach, educate, help others learn and inform themselves.
- Sharing truly outstanding high-value content becomes one of the key paths to acquire authority, credibility and reputation online.
- Universities and other academic institutions start curating human guides, training future curators — by cultivating and supporting the development of skilled information-guides and coaches that possess the skills of a curator and those of a great story-teller.
- Passionate, experienced individuals can become trusted guides, if they chose so, in their specific areas of interest by demonstrating their competence and expertise tangibly, rather than through tests and exams.
- Much greater opportunity to learn from great teachers and professors. The learner now takes full responsibility for his direction, approach and for who will want to trust as to provide him guidance during this journey.
Web app (free Chrome extension) which allows you to curate lists of experts, trusted guides, etc.
Paid online service offering the skills of human, search experts, to provide detailed and well documented answers to any information need. (Ask yourself: Why would any company pay $39 to get an answer to an information request, when there is Google available to everyone for free?
Answer: nobody can find and evaluate quality info as effectively as a skilled researcher/curator passionate about the topic?)
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- Weapons of Individual Transformation: Content Curation Tools
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key skills, character traits, attitudes and abilities of professional content curators(image)
I have identified three groups of elements that characterize the profile of professional digital content curators:
For each one of these, I have highlighted key elements by defining what each one means (DEF), why it is important for a curator to have (WHY) and how it can be cultivated (HOW).
In this section I analyze the key Technical Know How areas that a professional content curator needs to be familiar with.
- Online Search
- Collecting / Gathering
- Archiving / Storing / Preserving
- Managing RSS Feeds
- Online Publishing
- Social Media
- Digital Images and Video
- Content Scheduling — Automation
c1) Online Search and Content Discovery(image)
DEF: Ability to use digital/online tools to find and verify relevant information in a specific interest area.
Searching skills in this context include both the ability to search for and across all possible source types, from blogs to news sites, as well as having the ability to configure precise alerts (persistent search queries) on specific subjects, topics, keywords, places, people.
WHY: To find and to discover rare, quality content gems, online search skills and in particular Google search syntax know-how are essential.
Online search is a fundamental, strategically important skill for any curator. It is through search that a curator finds many of the gems he seeks and it is through search that he is able to check and verify them. For these reasons a curator needs to have good competence and knowledge of how search engines work and of the tools, methods and commands used to effectively extract specific information from them.
Without strong search skills there cannot be any valuable and verifiable discovery .
- by developing great familiarity with advanced search and filtering skills, and especially with the ability to filter out content based on keywords, age, language, and other variables inside search engines like Google
- by mastering all of Google search syntax commands and search options
- by familiarizing oneself with other complementary search engines. Google is good, but not having to rely exclusively on it, is best
- by culling and cultivating interest for curiosity, for the why of things, and for asking difficult questions.
- by personally investigating a topic rather than relying exclusively on what others have said, seen or reported.
- by learning key skills from information librarians and other similar professionals (investigators, hackers, etc.)
- by adopting tools that are capable of indexing, memorizing and easily retrieving any document, website, image or video you have ever seen, opened or saved on your computer screen (e.g.: AtlasRecall, Meta.sc).
c2) Collecting — Gathering(image)
DEF: The ability to use digital tools to gather, collect and organize relevant content that needs to be yet evaluated, vetted or curated.
WHY: Collecting and gathering are essential activities that complement the curator research process by helping him organize potentially relevant information, in an orderly and efficient way.
It is not uncommon for a curator to run into new sources and information, that while not immediately relevant to its present focus and research, are nonetheless valuable and worth coming back to.
Thus the skilled curator must always know where and how to preserve, store, and pre-organize, just-in-time, the interesting material he discovers.
- by getting into the habit of archiving and preserving in an organized way all of the relevant and potentially useful resources that one encounters
- by immediately categorizing and annotating collected resources
- by becoming familiar with the use of popular bookmarking and collection tools like Pinterest, OneNote, Evernote, Pocket, Diigo.
c3) Archiving, Storing / Preserving(image)
DEF: The ability to safely preserve digital content for future reference, retrieval and use.
a. Content on the internet is volatile. Todays is there, tomorrow you don’t know. Even valuable research, guides, video clips and articles, get moved, are deleted or somehow lose their original location online and become hard or next to impossible to find.
However absurd it may sound, now that we have all of these means to publish, share and disseminate information, we are also at our negative peak in having reliable ways and solutions to preserve it for the future.
b. Curation is responsible also for the preservation of information so that future generations, centuries from now, will be able to better understand who we were and what thoughts and interests permeated our culture.
c. Curators who want their information streams or collections to be long-lasting need to address this issue as a critical one. If they don’t, it is more likely that a good percentage of the information resources presented in their collections will grow plenty of stale, broken links that will rapidly devaluate their good curation work. This process of gradual link-rotting, unless systematically cured, may in turn gradually affect their own credibility and authority on the subject.
d. Curated collections and resources disappear just like other types of content. I have myself lost several good collections that I had curated, simply because the tools and services I used to build them up, simply went out of business before I was able to save, backup and preserve the good work I had done.
- by taking extra steps to safely store and archive curated collections so that they can stand the test of time (e.g.: backing up to one or more of these dedicated services )
- by carefully evaluating tools and web services to be utilized to create collections so as not to use those that have high risk of closing, pivoting, or not being 100% reliable in the future
- by utilizing tools and web apps that allows for easy export /download of the whole collection at any time
- by not blindly relying on online backup services, as there is no certainty about their existence in the future. Reliable and permanent archival of content by using an Internet-based service is an illusory ambition. Since any company offering such service can potentially go out of business, no such solution is 100% reliable.
- by adopting the 3–2–1 Backup approach:
- store three copies of the original content
- save the content in at least two different formats
- keep at least one backup copy off-line.
c4) Managing RSS Feeds(image)
DEF: Ability to understand and use RSS feeds technology to gather, monitor, discover and to publish content online.
WHY: RSS feeds are a uniquely valuable technology, accessible by anyone for free. There is nothing to install, configure or register to, to start using them.
RSS feeds greatly simplify the amount of work and time needed to gather and monitor content coming from a multiplicity of sources in a timely manner.
RSS feeds allow constant monitoring of specific online sources, authors, keywords. They can also be used as an additional free (or paid) content distribution channel.
- by studying what RSS feed exactly are and how they work
- by actively using RSS feeds
- by becoming familiar with a few RSS readers available online, what they do and how they work (e.g.: Feedly)
- by using the free Google Alerts service. With it you can create persistent searches on very specific topics on which you want to be alerted when there is new relevant content. Google Alerts can output its results in an RSS feed (which you can add to your favorite RSS reader / e.g.: Feedly).
c5) Online Publishing(image)
DEF: The ability to reliably publish content online across a variety of platforms types (WordPress, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIN, Pinterest, etc.).
WHY: Unless shared, curated content is nothing more than a private collection.
Whether for the public at large, or internally within an organization or team, curated content becomes such only when it is openly shared.
For this reason knowing how to reliably publish any type of content of online is a core skill requirement for any would-be content curator.
HOW: Practice, practice, practice.
- by opening a personal site, blog or other online outlet and learning how to reliably publish, modify and update content on the web
- by familiarizing oneself with the use of WordPress
- by learning how to use the FTP protocol to access a web server
- by knowing how to post on social media across different social networks.
c6) Social Media(image)
DEF: The ability to publish, promote, interact and respond to community needs, requests and desires via social media channels (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, G+, LinkedIN, Pinterest, etc.)
WHY: Curated work has to be shared. As of today (2017), social media is the key online vehicle to expose, distribute, promote and give visibility to any type of curated work.
- byworking as a social media manager or by maintaining a Facebook Page for a brand
- by learning what it takes to grow a fan base and to listen and interact with it
- by gaining competence and familiarity with Twitter reading and publishing technologies (such as Tweetdeck), social bookmarking and social monitoring tools, as well as some basic competence in HTML tags and traffic analytics tools.
c7) Use of Digital Images and Video(image)
DEF: The ability to use hardware and software technology to shoot, record, capture, edit, encode and publish video content online.
WHY: In the digital content universe, video and images are everywhere. Pages containing only text have become a rarity.
Thus, technical and practical know-how on how to manage, download, edit, any type of image or video (audio too) is a critical requirement for any would be professional content curator.
- by practical use: shoot photographs and videos and learn how to edit and upload them online
- by curating a personal collection of videos / images
- by learning how to use basic image and video editing tools (Polarr, iMovie, Sony Vegas, etc.)
- by learning how to use YouTube Playlists for curating video collections
c8) Content Scheduling — Automation(image)
DEF: The ability to use tools to schedule and automate repetitive content publishing chores.
WHY: Any job dealing with information gathering, collecting, curation and distribution, involves many different individual tasks that need to be carried in a specific order.
Independent curators and small businesses curating a specific information space may find increasingly difficult to manage all of these tasks while having to research, curate content and cultivate a community of readers.
In addition, online audiences are awake and curious to be informed 24/7/365. There’s no sleeping in the digital online world.
Content curators who want to provide a consistent presence and an uninterrupted flow of relevant content to their readers, need a simple and reliable solution to schedule and automate some of these repetitive tasks.
By taking advantage of good planning practices, content scheduling and automation tools, curators can gain the extra time and attention required to better evaluate, assess and provide insight into their curated selections.
- by familiarizing themselves with automation systems
like IFTTT and Zapier
- by learning to use content scheduling tools such as:
- The Identikit of a Professional Content Curator
- Content Curator Identikit: 1) General Traits
- Content Curator Identikit: 2) Communication Skills
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