Content Curation: Customisation of our Digital Lives

Content Curation

With the vast amounts of information floating around the web, the curation of content has become a integral part of how we prioritize information. We’ve built services around it that use techniques including collaborative filtering, semantic analysis and social ratings. These very services have become what we call the internet and are where we consume the majority of our information.

Needless to say, they hold great power in shaping our world views. The same type of power once held by journalists and news anchors; a similar power held by museum and gallery curators.

But for a long time content curation was largely a marketing tool used by companies to try and further their brand recognition, it is still somewhat used today by smaller and medium sized companies. I suppose the best advertising is a free blog, right?

Content curation is the process of sorting through vast amounts of content and presenting it in a meaningful and organized way around a specific theme.

Collaborative filtering is one of the most recognised forms of content curation, websites like Reddit & Digg rely on their  communities to judge the content and filter it based on their own preferences. Whilst this has lead to a couple of instances of mobs grabbing pitchforks, they have largely been successful in creating multiple close neat communities; one of which being the millionaire makers.

Another example of collaborative filtering would be YouTube and Amazon although they rely on your previous usage of their service to customise the content they display. Amazon believe in this system so much that they’ve patented “Anticipatory shipping“, basically they think they’ll be able to predict what you are going buy so accurately that they’ll ship it before you buy it. That’s confidence in their Machine / Deep Learning technology stack right there.

Semantic analysis on the other hand asks very little of its users, it looks entirely at content and classifies it into categories and subcategories finding similarities between them. Companies have been built around this form of information curation, StumbleUpon being the biggest of which.

Social rating is probably the most applied, complex and varied of the methods mentioned here. Facebook, Twitter, Google and plenty of other tech giants use ratings and recommendations to customise the content you see.

Whether its likes, shares or votes they all have algorithms which dynamically curate content to your specific interests. Bare in mind that the actions recorded can only happen once the content is published, the more popular it is in a shorter time, aka the faster it trends, the larger its audience reach.

With all of these methods, there is plenty of business logic thrown into the mix but they all lead to the same outcome. The information that is being delivered to our eyes online is curated by algorithms who judge what we want to see. The danger is we could be trapped inside of our own  little bubbles, so let’s make an effort to sneak outside of it every once in a while.

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