In organisations we have a fetish for control and neatness in regards to information and communication; which is flys in the face of how we naturally behave.
You know how it goes, "this type of information must live here", "if you talk about this topic it must happen here", etc…
Now people naturally form groups and personal networks, they talk about various things and feel comfortable and confident in participating in circles of people they trust, have rapport with, have shared experiences with…
If you look at our lives offline and even on the web there is no person that mandates where you file topic-based content and where you are allowed to talk about a topic. Yes control has a purpose sometimes, but I’m talking about an equilibium, I’m talking about realising that management approaches have a fetish that sometimes do more bad than good…we need to stop and think, does the command approach suit a particular initiative or event.
I’ve talked about this before in a post called social computing is messy, and so it should be. What initiated that post was a new Community of Practice (CoP) that was formed to be a support group for designers. This CoP noticed a few other CoPs had forums about design tool applications and suggested that since they were now the official design tools CoP that these forums be moved. I’m glad this didn’t happen, I’m glad not even management could persuade these other CoPs. If it did happen, there would be a good chance these forums would have died. Why? Because people like to talk where they hang out, with people they feel comfortable with. In the end a CoP is about the people not the topic. I mean, in the offline world I talk about any topic with anyone I like where ever I happen to be (coffee room, desk, elevator, etc.)
At least with online groups tools like CoPs organisations have a "form" to control, but online social networks take it a step further as there is no standard space to speak about a topic, it’s simply a messy network just like email (People connecting to each other talking about what they need to talk about to get their work done) ie. it’s not a group space where someone can choose to control it, it’s simply connected profiles where only the person who owns the profile can control, and hence no-one controls the network. At least with email this happens underground so there is no chance to control, but when we bring this way of communicating online, management get a fever that they can’t control it.
Aggregate and curate
Like on the web, organisations must realise to allow things to be messy, let them flourish, that’s natures way…and then it’s the job of aggregators and curators to pull topic based content where ever it surfaces and to present it.
Rather than control unfront which will somewhat curtail what you want to achieve, look around and gather what you find. Let people free-play and then collect what you find.
Let’s look at some examples of this on the web…
When some people travel they blog about their travels…they do this all over the web, whether on blogs, or blog networks etc…
As a user we use Google or Google Blog search to find personal posts about a city, region, event, etc…
Google social search will show results from people in our Google Reader and Twtiter list, and more…this is a good start as it helps reduce the load of results
Without Google social search finding stuff like travel reviews is time consuming, and sometimes nowadays we use help engines or social search like Twitter, Facebook or Quora to explicitly ask a question ie. it’s quick to ask friends, you trust their feedback, they know your history so they can offer contextual recommendations, and you can chat to clarify, and of course the wonder of conversations begets idea, insights and gifts.
Quite often on the web destination sites make a business out of this need eg. TripAdvisor. But the focus of this post is less about social networks and more about aggregation and curation.
Yesterday I was looking into what to do for a couple of days in Kuala Lumpur, and TripAdvisor is great for this, but I wanted to check this out from all corners of the web…so I started on Google blog search and Google search.
I came across the Kuala Lumpur city overview page on Lonely Planet’s website, and I noticed a beta program they have on their sidebar that says "OUR FAVOURITE KUALA LUMPUR BLOGS (BETA)" I clicked to see more and I landed on their Kuala Lumpur "Blogs we like" page. This lists blog posts from handpicked sources that blog about Kuala Lumpur and travel. This saved me lots of time, I got to read 10 quality posts.
NOTE: I’m not sure if Lonely Planet go a step further and curate posts ie. they choose particular posts from their source list, rather than just aggregate every post.
There you go, that’s an example of the messiness of the blogosphere, and a third party picking sources to valuable content…in essence they do the hard work for you.
This is what I saying organisations have to get their head around, the world is messy and we have to make sense of it as it happens rather than try controlling it…and as I said by controlling it you actually stifle the world from happening, or push it into the "black communications market" (ie email).
Another example is music. I’m personally into bedroom or starting out artists…without sites like Soundcloud, Myspace, Vimeo, Bandcamp where would we be in finding this cool stuff. But even with these destination sites there is still a lot to look through. A good site is last.fm as similar to TripAdvisor you can connect with people to see what they listen to and get recommendations.
But since this post is about aggregation and curation I’ll mention something more inline with that…I discovered a music site called "Altered Zones". They have noticed there are lots of underground music blogs and know it’s hard to keep up, so what they have done is chosen 15 of the best undergound music blogs and aggregated the stream into one feed. Again I’m not sure if it’s pure aggregation, or if they are curating one ot two posts a week from each blog.
OK here’s one step further. A social network/mp3 blog aggregator/streaming site called The Hype Machine have aggregated lots and lots of music blogs and put them into topic directories. You get your own profile and choose the blogs you want to follow, and you can also follow search results
I have several music blogs I subscribe to in Google Reader, and Facebook Pages; which is great so I can keep up with the latest.
The Hype Machine like me and countless others, have discovered brilliant blogs on the web that share the lastest mp3’s.
What The Hype Machine have done is select hundreds (or perhaps thousands) of these blogs and built a massive directory and aggregator.
Search for a blog by tag
- When you find a blog you like, you add it to your subscriptions
-You can display posts by one blog or all the blogs you have subscribed to
So rather than Google Reader I can use The Hype Machine to keep up with the latest
Now the interesting thing is that it will only display blog posts that have an audio link
- So when I say the latest, I don’t mean the latest news, but I mean the latest audio links
Further to this you can stream the song right there from the blog post within The Hype Machine
You can also favourite blog posts which in essense is a favourites playlist
- it even has a shuffle mode
- I can’t seem to see the ability to make multiple playlists
Now I can find, keep up, play and keep music in the one spot without having to leave.
In addition to subscribing to blogs, you can also search and subscribe to an artist
- this is not based on metadata, but is simply a search (so it can be a bit noisy)
Your subscriptions page can be limited to show posts via blogs or artists, or both
And you knew it was coming, you can also subscribe (follow) others users, and do the social network thing.
Another cool thing is that it lists all blog posts that link to the same audio file. In this respect you can read multiples reviews about a song. See an example.
And of course Twitter integration.
Anyway, yet another example of people out there freely doing their thing, and the job of a facilitator (or startup in this case) is picking a bunch of sources, and letting you do the aggregation and curation.
If you want to know about aggregation and curation look no further than Robin Good
A mindmap of content curation tools to aggregate, filter, edit, curate and distribute any type of content
Real-Time News Curation - The Complete Guide Part 6: The Tools Universe
Real-Time News Curation - The Complete Guide Part 7: Business Applications And Trends
Real-Time News And Content Curation: The Best 2010 Articles And Reports From MasterNewMedia
Here’s an example of Robin drinking his new champagne, he’s uses Scoop.it as a real-time news curation tool to present news funnily enough, on real-time news curation