Robin Good
Mar 15, 2016 · 6 min read

I really love to search, find, vet, organize, add value and share collections of resources, tools, articles on topics that I am highly interested in, and more than that, that are of great interest and use to my readers.

I am lucky to have at my disposal tens of tools and web apps that can best assist me through the different steps of curating a collection. From searching and collecting to vetting, from organizing and presenting to publishing and distribution there is no lack of good tools that can help me curate anything I want and publish/distribute it on any site or social network I wish.

But…

Unless I create these collections on one of the major publishing and distribution platforms, I risk, not just of going unnoticed, but of seeing suddenly my work of love disappear from the Internet, together with the tool that allowed me to give birth to it.

Yes. You probably have seen this happen to you too.

Here’s how it happens.

You get excited by a new tool or service that does something useful for you, you sign-up and you start using it and pouring hours of your free time to create bundles, galleries, compilations, reading lists or collections that allow you to learn more of what you are interested in and to express your competence and view on something.

Your collection gets published, it starts to gets noticed and appreciated. You maintain it by adding more value to it over time. The collection becomes so good that tens of thousands of people view it and refer to it, link to it, use it to do other work. It becomes indispensable for you as well, because, in it, you have organized your best information artifacts about a something you deeply care about and it has become a resource you often use and refer to for your work.

Until one day, all of sudden, with no announcement or note, you wake up to find that your collection has suddenly disappeared, alongside with the startup that made it all possible.

Other times, it is a little less sudden, as more civilized startups which get acquired, bought out or that decide to quit, alert you in advance of their plans, so that you can bang your head against the wall way ahead of the day in which that will actually happen. But, when a startup goes down or gets bought out and the service goes away, your wonderful work may be lost forever.

That’s pretty bad.

That means I now understand that if I do not back up myself these collections I create online, I have no assurance at all that they will remain available for others for a long time. In fact, in my experience, a good percentage of these collections gets lost, and even if you have made a backup, there’s a lot of work to be done to carry all that info to a new platform or service.

As I want to keep investing time in curating more resources I am interested in, I must now evaluate carefully where to create a new collection based on how likely the service I use to curate is likely to remain online and available for a long time.

But having to choose only among the big guys as tools for curating collections would mean that no new startup that allowed me to curate content online would ever have my consideration as a platform of choice, because my greatest concern is that one day, they go upside down and with them, my content.

That wouldn’t be very good either.

If that was the case, the “reliable” platforms to curate content on would likely be a handful:

* Google+ Collections (though they do not preserve but point only to original content)

* Facebook — (not very good for curation and does not preserve content unless you post it there first)

* Pinterest
and a few other ones.

Could I trust Diigo? Delicious? ZEEF? Scoop.it and others to remain alive and well for many upcoming years?

While I definitely would want them to and hope they will, I have learned the hard way that there is little certainty that things will stay the way they are now. Each one of these companies may transform itself, change or disappear without us being able to tell in advance. Probably it won’t happen for all of them, but I am 100% positive that will happen for some of them.


Solutions

  1. Curate firstly on your own computer with your own tools. This way you run no risk or losing the good work you create. If it goes down somewhere, you are ready to rebuild it / republish it on the next day somewhere else.
  2. Favor curation tools and platforms that can backup and save your content to major players like Google Drive, Amazon S3, Dropbox, iCloud and others.
  3. Utilize curation tools that do have an export / backup / save option for all of the content you save in there. The ability to export a collection with all of its reference data will become a must-have requirement for any serious curation tool.
  4. Curate directly on publishing / distribution platforms that are unlikely to disappear altogether: Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter (?).
  5. Curate content on other platforms only where their existing accumulated content value create by users is so large, that even if they fold or get bought out, that content is likely to remain available, even though under a different owner / brand. For example: do I consider risky curating news on LinkedIN? From a business standpoint I really have no certainty that LinkedIN will remain around for a long time, but, I am pretty sure that if they will give up, there will be someone else picking up the company and all of the content and information created by users to new shores and business models.

Conclusions

Startups entering the digital / content curation space should take into serious consideration the fact that in the immediate future new users will increasingly shy off from services and tools that do allow them to find, organize and share valuable resources, but which cannot guarantee safeguards against the possible future loss of their curated collections.

I expect the normal person to reason this way: “Why use this new service to collect all my favorite resources if I am not 110% sure they’ll be around 5–10 years from now?” “I can be safer saving these to Pinterest, even though it’s not my best choice, because I want to be sure that these collections will not disappear.

So there’s a lesson for both us curators and for the startups that want to help us do what we love.

For us curators the take-away is that we cannot and should not trust any new web app or tool to curate and preserve valuable information unless the service offers functionalities to reliably back-up or export content collections.

For content curation startups the take-away is that they must plan and engineer in their new tools, features to export, backup and save to the cloud / offline / the value users create with their collections.


Tools to preserve digital content


Content Curation Official Guide

Curation dissected. For the journalist, publisher, educator, change-agent. Focus on how to create value for others by collecting, verifying and organizing existing information.

Robin Good

Written by

Explorer of new media technologies, communication design tools and strategies as enablers for 21st century individuals. Curation, collaboration, design.

Content Curation Official Guide

Curation dissected. For the journalist, publisher, educator, change-agent. Focus on how to create value for others by collecting, verifying and organizing existing information.

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