Welcome to the home of Noah Brier. I'm the co-founder of Variance and general internet tinkerer. Most of my writing these days is happening over at Why is this interesting?, a daily email full of interesting stuff. This site has been around since 2004. Feel free to get in touch. Good places to get started are my Framework of the Day posts or my favorite books and podcasts. Get in touch.

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Curator? Really?

I am a bit of a stickler for words. Not like some people, who are super serious about it, but I get very annoyed when people throw words around carelessly. Innovation is a good one and I get in arguments every other day about whether “intent” in relation to web economics and marketing means what people mean it to mean (most of the time it doesn’t). The newest one is curation. I’m a bit less sure about this, but I have a feeling that all these people throwing it around are using it incorrectly. I’m not sure what the word should be, as most of the time they are describing the act of collecting and publishing content produced by others, though I really like this take from Tomorrow Museum (from March, 2010):

A social media curator is a essentially a selector. The practice is nothing more than human hand editing in the model of Mahalo. By this account, if you can pick out clothes for yourself in the morning, you can “curate.” Meanwhile, what Poynter and Youtube are looking for might better be described as “context analyst,” or what used to be known as a semiotician.

So why are these companies hiring curators in name only, rather than requesting real curatorial duties? If all you want is someone to list what is good and what is not good, you might as well call the job “office Nick Hornby.” Not to mention, identifying trends, context, and environment is something a writer should always be doing.

I think editor is right, but then an editor often is a person responsible for compiling content produced by people within an organization (or hired by that organization). There’s something a bit different going on here, and again, I don’t know what to call it, but I’m pretty sure curation isn’t it. But maybe it is?

January 18, 2011