Content Curator Identikit: 3) Technology Know-How
key skills, character traits, attitudes and abilities of professional content curators
I have identified three groups of elements that characterize the profile of professional digital content curators:
For each one of these, I have highlighted key elements by defining what each one means (DEF), why it is important for a curator to have (WHY) and how it can be cultivated (HOW).
In this section I analyze the key Technical Know How areas that a professional content curator needs to be familiar with.
- Online Search
- Collecting / Gathering
- Archiving / Storing / Preserving
- Managing RSS Feeds
- Online Publishing
- Social Media
- Digital Images and Video
- Content Scheduling — Automation
c1) Online Search and Content Discovery
DEF: Ability to use digital/online tools to find and verify relevant information in a specific interest area.
Searching skills in this context include both the ability to search for and across all possible source types, from blogs to news sites, as well as having the ability to configure precise alerts (persistent search queries) on specific subjects, topics, keywords, places, people.
WHY: To find and to discover rare, quality content gems, online search skills and in particular Google search syntax know-how are essential.
Online search is a fundamental, strategically important skill for any curator. It is through search that a curator finds many of the gems he seeks and it is through search that he is able to check and verify them. For these reasons a curator needs to have good competence and knowledge of how search engines work and of the tools, methods and commands used to effectively extract specific information from them.
Without strong search skills there cannot be any valuable and verifiable discovery .
- by developing great familiarity with advanced search and filtering skills, and especially with the ability to filter out content based on keywords, age, language, and other variables inside search engines like Google
- by mastering all of Google search syntax commands and search options
- by familiarizing oneself with other complementary search engines. Google is good, but not having to rely exclusively on it, is best
- by culling and cultivating interest for curiosity, for the why of things, and for asking difficult questions.
- by personally investigating a topic rather than relying exclusively on what others have said, seen or reported.
- by learning key skills from information librarians and other similar professionals (investigators, hackers, etc.)
- by adopting tools that are capable of indexing, memorizing and easily retrieving any document, website, image or video you have ever seen, opened or saved on your computer screen (e.g.: AtlasRecall, Meta.sc).
c2) Collecting — Gathering
DEF: The ability to use digital tools to gather, collect and organize relevant content that needs to be yet evaluated, vetted or curated.
WHY: Collecting and gathering are essential activities that complement the curator research process by helping him organize potentially relevant information, in an orderly and efficient way.
It is not uncommon for a curator to run into new sources and information, that while not immediately relevant to its present focus and research, are nonetheless valuable and worth coming back to.
Thus the skilled curator must always know where and how to preserve, store, and pre-organize, just-in-time, the interesting material he discovers.
- by getting into the habit of archiving and preserving in an organized way all of the relevant and potentially useful resources that one encounters
- by immediately categorizing and annotating collected resources
- by becoming familiar with the use of popular bookmarking and collection tools like Pinterest, OneNote, Evernote, Pocket, Diigo.
c3) Archiving, Storing / Preserving
DEF: The ability to safely preserve digital content for future reference, retrieval and use.
a. Content on the internet is volatile. Todays is there, tomorrow you don’t know. Even valuable research, guides, video clips and articles, get moved, are deleted or somehow lose their original location online and become hard or next to impossible to find.
However absurd it may sound, now that we have all of these means to publish, share and disseminate information, we are also at our negative peak in having reliable ways and solutions to preserve it for the future.
b. Curation is responsible also for the preservation of information so that future generations, centuries from now, will be able to better understand who we were and what thoughts and interests permeated our culture.
c. Curators who want their information streams or collections to be long-lasting need to address this issue as a critical one. If they don’t, it is more likely that a good percentage of the information resources presented in their collections will grow plenty of stale, broken links that will rapidly devaluate their good curation work. This process of gradual link-rotting, unless systematically cured, may in turn gradually affect their own credibility and authority on the subject.
d. Curated collections and resources disappear just like other types of content. I have myself lost several good collections that I had curated, simply because the tools and services I used to build them up, simply went out of business before I was able to save, backup and preserve the good work I had done.
- by taking extra steps to safely store and archive curated collections so that they can stand the test of time (e.g.: backing up to one or more of these dedicated services )
- by carefully evaluating tools and web services to be utilized to create collections so as not to use those that have high risk of closing, pivoting, or not being 100% reliable in the future
- by utilizing tools and web apps that allows for easy export /download of the whole collection at any time
- by not blindly relying on online backup services, as there is no certainty about their existence in the future. Reliable and permanent archival of content by using an Internet-based service is an illusory ambition. Since any company offering such service can potentially go out of business, no such solution is 100% reliable.
- by adopting the 3–2–1 Backup approach:
- store three copies of the original content
- save the content in at least two different formats
- keep at least one backup copy off-line.
c4) Managing RSS Feeds
DEF: Ability to understand and use RSS feeds technology to gather, monitor, discover and to publish content online.
WHY: RSS feeds are a uniquely valuable technology, accessible by anyone for free. There is nothing to install, configure or register to, to start using them.
RSS feeds greatly simplify the amount of work and time needed to gather and monitor content coming from a multiplicity of sources in a timely manner.
RSS feeds allow constant monitoring of specific online sources, authors, keywords. They can also be used as an additional free (or paid) content distribution channel.
- by studying what RSS feed exactly are and how they work
- by actively using RSS feeds
- by becoming familiar with a few RSS readers available online, what they do and how they work (e.g.: Feedly)
- by using the free Google Alerts service. With it you can create persistent searches on very specific topics on which you want to be alerted when there is new relevant content. Google Alerts can output its results in an RSS feed (which you can add to your favorite RSS reader / e.g.: Feedly).
c5) Online Publishing
DEF: The ability to reliably publish content online across a variety of platforms types (WordPress, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIN, Pinterest, etc.).
WHY: Unless shared, curated content is nothing more than a private collection.
Whether for the public at large, or internally within an organization or team, curated content becomes such only when it is openly shared.
For this reason knowing how to reliably publish any type of content of online is a core skill requirement for any would-be content curator.
HOW: Practice, practice, practice.
- by opening a personal site, blog or other online outlet and learning how to reliably publish, modify and update content on the web
- by familiarizing oneself with the use of WordPress
- by learning how to use the FTP protocol to access a web server
- by knowing how to post on social media across different social networks.
c6) Social Media
DEF: The ability to publish, promote, interact and respond to community needs, requests and desires via social media channels (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, G+, LinkedIN, Pinterest, etc.)
WHY: Curated work has to be shared. As of today (2017), social media is the key online vehicle to expose, distribute, promote and give visibility to any type of curated work.
- by working as a social media manager or by maintaining a Facebook Page for a brand
- by learning what it takes to grow a fan base and to listen and interact with it
- by gaining competence and familiarity with Twitter reading and publishing technologies (such as Tweetdeck), social bookmarking and social monitoring tools, as well as some basic competence in HTML tags and traffic analytics tools.
c7) Use of Digital Images and Video
DEF: The ability to use hardware and software technology to shoot, record, capture, edit, encode and publish video content online.
WHY: In the digital content universe, video and images are everywhere. Pages containing only text have become a rarity.
Thus, technical and practical know-how on how to manage, download, edit, any type of image or video (audio too) is a critical requirement for any would be professional content curator.
- by practical use: shoot photographs and videos and learn how to edit and upload them online
- by curating a personal collection of videos / images
- by learning how to use basic image and video editing tools (Polarr, iMovie, Sony Vegas, etc.)
- by learning how to use YouTube Playlists for curating video collections
c8) Content Scheduling — Automation
DEF: The ability to use tools to schedule and automate repetitive content publishing chores.
WHY: Any job dealing with information gathering, collecting, curation and distribution, involves many different individual tasks that need to be carried in a specific order.
Independent curators and small businesses curating a specific information space may find increasingly difficult to manage all of these tasks while having to research, curate content and cultivate a community of readers.
In addition, online audiences are awake and curious to be informed 24/7/365. There’s no sleeping in the digital online world.
Content curators who want to provide a consistent presence and an uninterrupted flow of relevant content to their readers, need a simple and reliable solution to schedule and automate some of these repetitive tasks.
By taking advantage of good planning practices, content scheduling and automation tools, curators can gain the extra time and attention required to better evaluate, assess and provide insight into their curated selections.
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