10. The Rise of Trusted Guides
A new emergent breed of credible experts will guide us in finding and making sense of whatever we are interested in
When you live in an age where you are surrounded by information, differing viewpoints, hard to vet and verify sources, fake news and propaganda, content curation moves rapidly from being a trendy buzzword for content marketers to become a high demand necessity for any human being interested in actively learning, comprehending and wanting to make sense of today’s reality.
It is in such situations of information super-abundance that people start to look for and appreciate the contribution from a trusted, expert guide who can provide them with “intellectual binoculars”.
Someone who is not just a subject-matter expert, but who has also a passion for analyzing, investigating, asking questions and verifying things before drawing conclusions or sharing advice.
And last but not least, someone that one also can empathize with. Someone who shares, at least in part, the goals, values, ethics and ideals for which you stand for.
To fuel this natural process there are no official organizations, schools or commercial enterprises, but a growing number of independent individuals who, mostly out of their peculiar personal interests and passions, systematically work at organizing and adding value to the huge amount of information that is already out there.
What Is the Problem?
What do you do when you live in a world where there are literally thousands of choices?
How can you evaluate, filter, assess, select and choose effectively when there are so many choices and possible alternatives?
If there were only few alternatives with clearly and easily identifiable key characterizing traits, things would be much easier. But when you are confronted with:
a) topics and issues in which we are not quite competent with
b) tens or hundreds of possible alternatives, choices, variations
c) differentiation traits that are not immediately obvious to us,
the only effective survival strategy is learning to be skeptical, to ask lots of question, to experiment and to develop an inquisitive mind.
An inquisitive mind is an intellect that asks lots of questions and who genuinely attempts to look at reality from different, sometimes opposing, angles.
Critically analyzing different viewpoints and interpretations of a specific issue is the best way to understand it and to evaluate the best available strategies to resolve it.
But while it is easy and natural for you to do this when you are familiar and competent with the matter at hand, things change a great deal when you want to learn something new, or you approach a field of interest you know little or nothing about.
How beneficial would it be to have a pair of additional eyes that can see further and deeper into the issue than you can, and who can suggest where to start looking, where there may be complexity or ambiguity, and where to look for real-world examples?
That’s when you need a little help from your expert friends.
Who Can You Trust?
But, who do you go to ask for help?
The natural thing we do, is to go searching for an “expert”, possibly a friend or contact, who knows more than us about the topic we are interested in.
In an age with so much information, new tools and products, and of “fake news” everywhere, such experts can save a lot of time, avoid unnecessary risks, while providing access to more ideas and viewpoints outside our typical horizons.
But the key thing, is that this expert, we look for to get some advice, has to be “trusted”.
You don’t want an expert, who recommends solutions based on his personal interests and advantages, of which you know nothing about.
You prefer the advice of someone, even if he is not famous or popular, who is going to make his recommendations out of true interest for your specific need, without expecting anything in return.
This is who I call a “trusted guide”.
“Trusted guides” are gradually replacing appointed officials, big celebrities, TV hosts, brand experts and other influencers who, for decades, have been advising mass media audiences on what to look, read, watch, wear, eat and pay attention to.
These traditionally beloved and highly trusted sources of influence and advice have rapidly lost their appeal and their trustworthiness.
Because we have discovered that, more often than not, they lie for money.
They advise, promote, suggest and report news and stories because they have a “personal” (often “economic”) interest in the matter at hand.
Thus, although a bit late, many people have come to realize that most institutional and commercial communications are driven by specific political or economic interests, by propaganda goals or by hidden agendas.
That’s how, as more and more people have realized that “brands”, “celebrities” and “institutions” were not honest and transparent about what they publicly said, these same people have started to turn to friends and to direct personal, trustable contacts for news, advice, and for keeping themselves updated.
Already in January 2015, Edelman identified and reported in its Global Trust Barometer that people sitting at the crossroad of those who we know well and who are also subject-matter experts are the persons we trust the most. More than appointed officials, personalities, celebrities, journalists and top brands.
Source: Edelman Trust Barometer 2015
In this light, those who ethically and independently take care of selecting, organizing and making sense of resources (information artifacts), and do so consistently and systematically, naturally become “trusted guides” for anyone interested in learning more about a topic
Trusted guides are curators. They curate information around a specific topic over time, while sharing it publicly with others.
They differentiate themselves from collectors and coaches because they openly and publicly share their discoveries and know-how without asking anything in return.
This is what makes them trusted.
It makes them trusted the fact that there is no petty, personal, interest, advantage or greed, driving their actions, but rather a sincere interest and desire to help and guide others by sharing high-value information.
This does not mean that trusted guides and curators work for free or that they do not get paid when they offer their know-how and expertise to interested commercial parties. It means though, that while they do act as any other professional paid consultant, who gets paid to offer custom information and advice to his clients, they also go out of their way to freely share valuable information to the public at large, for the simple sake of:
- Informing the public
- Improving the general well-being
- Helping specific interest groups acquire more knowledge
- Changing how things are.
Due to these characterizing factors, trusted guides are en course to gradually displace appointed “information authorities” salaried to execute a specific propaganda mission or to serve specific business interests.
Trusted Guides Profile
Trusted guides are the new go-to, emerging reference points in any subject matter area.
Trusted guides are not the top celebrities, the stars, the institutional officials, the big name authors that everyone knows.
They replace mainstream sources, appointed media experts, professors, celebrities, officials, journalists and traditional brands in becoming the most reliable and trusted sources of information in any specific interest area.
But who are they, and what does it make them so special?
Trusted guides are individuals who offer valuable information, in the form of articles, courses, tutorials, video, podcasts or in other formats, on a specific subject-matter.
Trusted guides have earned, over-time, credibility and deep-trust from their readers, followers and fans by sharing valuable content and resources in specific areas. It has not been appointed by passing exams or tests or by earning academic degrees or certifications.
Trusted guides are seen as credible authorities outside the mass-media and the academic systems.
Here is what characterizes them.
- Build their know-how mostly on experience, not on academic study and research.
- Publicly share high-value information in the form of articles, guides, collections, tutorials and more.
- Contribute value to society and not just to their own economic interest, sponsor or subsidizing brand / institution.
- Demonstrate capabilities, values and ideals / ethics through tangible projects, actions and tools.
- Act in their own interest and in the one of the people they want to help, not in the name of greater entities or brands which could pay them a fixed salary.
- Prefer not to be employed by anyone company or organization in order to maintain their independence and credibility.
- Are driven by a deep personal non-material interest and strong passion for the topic area they curate.
Trusted guides are individuals who possess specific know-how, expertise and ability to evaluate and judge, and who continuously search, verify, vet, collect and organize the most relevant news, stories, resources and tools on a specific topic, while contextualizing and commenting them publicly.
Trusted guides may include friends, family, experts in our network of connections, as well as people we follow on social media and with whom we share common interests, as well as life ideals, principles and ethics.
Trusted guides are immediately recognizable individuals who have become known because of their ability to publicly share insightful, competent and independent reviews, analysis, recommendations and advice while being upfront about their true interest, partnerships and ties.
They vet and check tons of potentially relevant information, content, resources and tools, looking for those rare wisdom pearls that can be found only after a dedicated and sustained search effort.
Trusted guides showcase publicly these resources, often within dedicated channels, blogs, podcasts, news streams or into growing collections while adding additional context, reference information (authors, sources) and related resources (where to find out and where to go to explore for more).
Independently of the field / industry they work in, these trusted guides are recognizable by the fact that they:
- Strive to highlight and distill what is most interesting, representative, rare and unique on a specific theme, subject, issue
- Are subject matter experts, researchers or explorers
- Sign their work with their name and last name
- Provide valuable context and reference information
- Add and illustrate their viewpoint and perspective
- Disclose their bias, prejudices as well as their interests and ties (commercial and not)
- Cite and systematically credit their sources
- Share openly
- Do this voluntarily, out of personal interest, passion
Just like when confronted by an unfamiliar jungle or the exploration of a new territory, when we are surrounded by an ocean of information of which we know and understand only a very small part, having good sherpas and expert guides becomes indispensable.
When we explore new grounds, when we are in doubt or we are trying to grasp and understand a new subject we do not know too well, we have learned to seek the help of someone who has more experience than us.
Someone who has already been there, who knows the trails and who can share valuable advice on which path to take.
Someone who knows, not someone who sells or pushes. Someone you can trust that he is not taking advantage of you. Someone who can truly help you.
That’s why if you don’t know someone personally who has those traits, you look for someone that at least shares some of your key values and aspirations (ideals, enemies, ethics, etc.)
These people are what I call trusted guides.
Today, acting as expert “trusted guides”, a new breed of content curators are emerging. They help us manage the overwhelming amount of information surrounding us, by helping us uncover rare gems and unknown treasures, and in making sense of the issues, topics, events and people that interest us most.
These individuals are not just passionate editors who like to create collections.
They are passionate, highly focused scholars, who enjoy being a reliable sources of info by finding, collecting and showcasing/sharing best resources, news, info or tools on a specific topic and for a specific tribe (audience characterized by a common need / interest). They add context and value and transparently share bias, prejudices, preferences as well as personal and commercial interests.
By adding their own viewpoint and disclosing their prejudices, bias and interests, curators offer a much more credible profile for themselves than the typical official, celebrity and institutional spokesperson.
Curators key added value is their genuine and independent viewpoint, not influenced by personal or commercial interests.
Of course you don’t have to take curators’ recommendations as face value, just because they are coming from a “trusted guide”, but you can leverage the extra work they have already done in researching the topic and the affinity they may have with you, to save time in identifying key solutions that may best fit your need.
Trusted guides, even if they don’t label themselves as such, are essentially content curators. Subject-matter experts who act as competent guides in suggesting relevant resources, readings and authors in a specific field and for a specific group of persons.
Examples of Personal Trusted Guides
Here a few of my personally chosen trusted guides in specific areas I am interested in (for the sake of providing real-world examples to what I have described above):
- Julian Stodd (Social Leadership)
- Harold Jarche (Knowledge Management)
- Maria Popova (Culture)
- Howard Rheingold (Digital Literacy)
- Kevin Kelly (Future, Tools)
- Alfonso Furtado (Publishing)
- Sepp Hasslberger (Health, New Energy, Economy)
- David Kelly (L&D)
- Joyce Valenza (Learning and Curation)
- Robert Scoble (New Tech)
- Michel Bauwens (P2P)
- Rohit Barghava (Influence and Trends)
- Beth Kanter (Marketing for Non-profits)
- Beth Kanter (Marketing for Non-profits)
- Peter Bogaards (Information Design)
- Nancy White (Online facilitation - Group collaboration)
- Silvya Tolisano (Learning)
- Those who curate can become trusted guides in their own specific sector of interest.
- Trusted guides are the future new experts / professors / teachers.
- Traditional teachers and educators lose credibility and reputation relative to trusted guides.
- Ability to critically evaluate potential trusted guides becomes of the essence. As traditional educational institutions gradually lose some of their value and power, learners are not feed-forced specific teachers/professors anymore. It’s learners who can chose their own mentors and thus, be capable of evaluating them beforehand.
- Knowing how to acquire authority, credibility and reputation, not by appointment or by certification, become critical factors for those who want to teach, educate, help others learn and inform themselves.
- Sharing truly outstanding high-value content becomes one of the key paths to acquire authority, credibility and reputation online.
- Universities and other academic institutions start curating human guides, training future curators — by cultivating and supporting the development of skilled information-guides and coaches that possess the skills of a curator and those of a great story-teller.
- Passionate, experienced individuals can become trusted guides, if they chose so, in their specific areas of interest by demonstrating their competence and expertise tangibly, rather than through tests and exams.
- Much greater opportunity to learn from great teachers and professors. The learner now takes full responsibility for his direction, approach and for who will want to trust as to provide him guidance during this journey.
Web app (free Chrome extension) which allows you to curate lists of experts, trusted guides, etc.
Paid online service offering the skills of human, search experts, to provide detailed and well documented answers to any information need. (Ask yourself: Why would any company pay $39 to get an answer to an information request, when there is Google available to everyone for free?
Answer: nobody can find and evaluate quality info as effectively as a skilled researcher/curator passionate about the topic?)
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- Weapons of Individual Transformation: Content Curation Tools
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- Content Curation Takes Time
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