Chasing the White Rabbit
The internet is big, so how do we find the stuff that matters?
There has been a lot of talk recently about the concept of "online curation". In the vast information overload of the web the simple act of saying (or hearing) "this is good" or "I love this" has increasing value.
In many ways we are becoming self-curators, using new tools and applications to bring us the stuff we like in the most efficient way possible. There also seems to be a continual drive to capture and curate our own lives – to pick just one example, this Google+ video urges you in a folksy feel-good way to "tell your story" and "personalize your experience".
Back in March the very brilliant and interesting Maria Popova, aka Brain Pickings, posted the following short film:
For Popova, curation embodies "a drive to find the interesting, meaningful, and relevant amidst the vast maze of overabundant information, creating a framework for what matters in the world and why".
I really like this as a kind of mini mission statement for the Ri Channel.
On the site we try to source what we consider the best science (and engineering, maths, and technology) videos, finding and organising content from multiple sources. Embedding videos from their original source (YouTube or Vimeo) and connecting with content creators, whether on social media, email or in person has helped to distinguish this process as curation rather than mere aggregation. We also try to contextualise and supplement that content with additional material - before you jump down another rabbit hole we want to suggest some other places you should look.
It's not easy. Ed and the team look at lots and lots of videos each week. This may be the reason I really enjoyed Steven Rosenbaum’s characterisation of curators as the new superheroes of the web involved in a "Hurculean task":
"[Curators] stand between the web and their readers, using all of the tools at their disposal to 'listen' to the web, and then pull out of the data stream nuggets of wisdom, breaking news, important new voices, and other salient details."
As the site has grown – both organically and by design – we’ve developed a sense of what to feature (and when). There's no written rulebook but as more and more content has been added (we're over 250 videos now) it’s been easier to know what we’re looking for and what 'fits'.
The key has been to keep the bar for inclusion set high and, as much as possible, to maintain the scientific and factual accuracy of the information being presented. The Scientific Advisory Group has been a useful tool to help build and maintain trust in the platform as a reliable curator of content.
There’s a danger of course that too much structure and rigidity leads to a sense of exclusion. We must never get to the point where we’re saying "only this is good" or "don't like anything else".
The delight of (self) discovery is one of the reasons the web can seem so exciting. In the future this could mean opening the process out to allow users to create their own playlists or attach additional resources to videos that they have discovered for themselves.