Towards the Curator Economy

Kazuki Nakayashiki
7 min readMar 13, 2022
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Roughly 8,820,000,000 results. This is the number of results that showed up on Google for the search term “how much time does the average person spend on the internet”. In less than a second, mind you.

If it wasn’t for the butt-saving Google snippet, It’d take me a lot more than just a few seconds to find that the average user’s daily social media usage is around 145 minutes per day. Try to spot the mistake.

See, I wanted to know how much time the average person spends on the internet, not just social media. Sure, I could settle for that. But what if my research depended on knowing the answer to that exact search term? If that was the case, I’d have to do a bit more scrolling and digging to get to my destination.

Gladly, just two search results below, I found that the world’s average time spent on the world wide web is six hours and 42 minutes. Hadn’t that timely result been there, I wouldn’t have found this data as quickly as I did.

Moral of the story:

Oftentimes, it takes several Google searches to arrive at that one thing — that one paragraph, sentence, or concept — you so desperately need to find. The process is usually a bit mazy, and you may spend hours in what was supposed to be a quick research session.

You’ll eventually find what you need, but you’ll also end up with an assortment of useless, time-wasting information.

What if we could remove all that noise? Imagine if content creators could cut their research time in half by going straight to what matters, earning more time to spend on perfecting their work. It would be like following a breadcrumb trail to the interesting content you couldn’t come across with regular research.

Brace yourselves. The curator economy is already making that happen, and we’re here for it.

What’s the Curator Economy? And Do We Need It?

The curator economy is the democratization of human content curation. It’s curation done in its most visceral way: by human minds, and by human hands. Above all, human content curation involves smart, insightful contextualization of the content being shared. That can be achieved through highlights, notes, and comments.

“Okay, cool. But, if we have search engines and a good Wi-Fi connection at our disposal, why should we go for human content curation? I wouldn’t mind spending a little extra time on the internet.”

Said no busy content creator, ever. Truth is, we’d do anything to speed up the work we’re drowning in.

Navigating the internet is like facing multiple pathways leading into unknown doors. What’s behind each of those doors? Yet another article that won’t provide enough clarification? An HTTP 404 error? Finally, a helpful website?

One of them will certainly be the right way, but your chances of opening the right door on the first try may be low, depending on what you’re looking for.

Until you open the right door, you may waste hours or even days of your time. Even 30 minutes of a busy person’s time can be a major hindrance to their occupation. Not with human content curation, though.

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: content curation is the simplest and fastest route to finding quality content on specific topics. It’s about arriving at the right destination with the least amount of stoppages along the way.

We’ll talk about how human curation counters the avalanche of information at our disposal, and why no machine is a match for it.

How Does Curation Help With Information Overload?

“When one’s lost, I suppose it’s good advice to stay where you are,” said poor Alice through tears as the anthropomorphic characters sympathized with her suffering.

Especially if you’re new to a topic, you’ll want to know where to start. Where to go from there. And whether that path is reliable. You don’t want to end up like Alice, lost in a gloomy path in the so-called Wonderland, unsure where to head next.

The surest way to avoid going down the internet rabbit hole and surface with barely anything — or even worse, surface with deceitful information — is to follow those who know where they’re going.

Alice was right: The easiest decision to make is the decision to do nothing at all. It’s painfully easy to do nothing at all when you can’t decide what to do, where to look, or who to trust. It’s like when you open way too many tabs on your computer and the system starts lagging. So what do you do? You Ctrl + Alt + Del the hell out of that page, and shut it down.

When there’s too much to take in, people either get overwhelmed or lose interest.

Ecommerce websites often present items in sets of three, the same way UX designers vouch for decluttered pages that support a better experience. For the exact same reason, cleaning one’s desk in order to focus has become a widely-shared productivity tip.

All of which begs the question: if we’re so keen on automating repetitive operations, why should our information-seeking process have to remain littered with meaningless, time-consuming data? It shouldn’t. And the content curators of our generation have the solution.

Content curation will help you find the information you need faster, based on experience and reliable sources. It’ll take you from point A to point B. Not from point A to point C, D, E, and then B.

Quick, another question: Where are you getting your curated content from? Is it really curated towards your best interest? If it’s AI-powered, it may not be. Here’s why.

The Problem With AI-Curated Content

Just because something has popped up on your screen via algorithmic magic, that doesn’t mean it’s the right source for you to follow. Artificial Intelligence (AI) may be smart, but the humans who created it are smarter.

We see AI-powered automated solutions everywhere for a reason: they make our lives so much easier. Without Google Sheets or Excel, we’d have to manually do laborious and monotonous tasks. Thanks to AI, what would take several minutes or hours is done in just a few seconds.

Not only that, but it has bestowed us with personalization, which helps us find more and more of what we like. This isn’t always a great thing, but sometimes it can be.

In short: AI optimizes our time, operates without interruption, and frees up space to let us focus on the jobs that still can’t (and most of the time, shouldn’t) be automated.

The downside? AI will work with related content based on your recent likes, follows, and publications. Related content is one thing. Deeper content is another.

Human curation is one of those things that aren’t meant to be automated or accelerated. Ideally, we’d seek curated content from true experts — experts who have pored over that content, dissected it, added notes, insights, examples, and know that the person who seeks to learn more about a topic will benefit from it.

Human Curation Is the Key to Finding Relevant and Well-Researched Content

Human curated content is pretty much all around you, and you may or may not have taken it for granted multiple times.

Do you ignore the show notes from the podcasts you listen to? The description of the informative videos you watch? The internal links of a blog post? If you do, you’re overlooking some of the most in-depth and meaningful content you possibly could.

If you listen to and/or watch podcasts, videos, and webinars, you do so for a reason: to hear experts talk about topics they’ve got a firm handle on. And, as a true information seeker, you’ll likely want to deepen your knowledge on those topics. What better way to achieve that than getting your data straight from the source, AKA the creator of the audio, text, or video?

Think about it. When the expert on the other side of the screen shares the things they’ve used for their research purposes, it’s like you’ve won the lottery. The things that made them smarter can now make you smarter. And they’ll be, quite literally, handed to you.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t Google your way through knowledge. That’s completely valid. However, that may not be the best approach if you’d like a solid direction toward faster results. This is the incredible work content curators are doing out there: the work of putting their audience in a beeline, and taking them to the best sources based on research and expertise.

But…there’s always a but…

Not all human-curated content will be quality content, which is unfortunate. I’d be remiss not to mention it. The internet has made way too much room for alleged “curators” who aren’t the people you should be trusting for knowledge purposes.

If you’re serious about your quest for information, I’d advise you to look for titles and credentials before following a curator’s recommended content. Above all, content curation is an art that not everyone has a knack for.

Most Importantly, Human Content Curation is Inherently Human

For a lot of us, it feels safer to know there’s a real human behind a process. It makes sense to move forward when you know what you’re consuming has been crafted and/or compiled with both purpose and passion.

Unlike no-reply emails and chatbots, humans are fully accessible. We’ve grown so used to searching our way through things, we might’ve forgotten that there are real humans — smart, intense, studious humans — willing to help us reach similar goals. They have their social media handles stamped everywhere. They post, retweet, and share insights they know will help people with similar endeavors. So use it. Bookmark it. Highlight it. Read it. Share it.

If possible, have conversations with your favorite curators. When you’re guided by like-minded people, you flatten the learning curve. You waste less time. You find what you need more easily by working with data that serves your purpose.

“Some go this way, some go that way. But as for me, myself, personally, I prefer the shortcut.” — The Cheshire Cat

See you next time,

Kazuki

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Kazuki Nakayashiki

Founder of Glasp / a member of #ODF9 & Berkeley SkyDeck alum / Leaving a utilitarian legacy for future generations with AI