This is an updated version of a post which was first published in November 2017.
I have a Safe Hands Facebook page on which I share my own writing. I also use it to share links about topics that interest me: editing, writing, journalism, business models for journalism, health and so on. I try to share often on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter as part of promoting my business.
All this takes some time so I was gratified when a friend thanked me for the links, calling them: “Curation at its best.”
Which made me think that it might be useful to write a little about curation, and to share where I find my links.
The Collins dictionary definition of the verb “to curate” goes like this:
To curate something is to carefully choose, arrange, and present different items in order to get a particular effect.
In newspapers, this function is carried out by a person called a copytaster who scans the publication’s news sources (ie the “wires”) and suggests possible articles that will work for that publication’s readers. That function carries over to online news, though it might not be called copytasting. (See this article for more on different kinds of editing).
How the big players do it
Curating for a newspaper or an online news site is demanding and stressful, but it is made easier by a set of limited parameters:
- there will be finite list of sources which the publication has the rights to use
- the feeds will usually sit inside the company’s content management system
- and the prism through which articles are filtered will be the publication’s known policies and leanings, and the copytaster’s understanding of the interests of readers.
When done online, knowledge about the interests of readers is derived from the publication’s own tracking systems and from external systems like Google Analytics.
How I do it
For a freelance curator like me the landscape is considerably bigger! My potential links exist in the whole of the internet, so how do I find them then? Here are my secrets:
Feedly allows you to get RSS feeds from websites, and to organise them according to categories as you see fit. I have categories for editing and writing, for journalism and for news (among others). Then as I am going about my way on the web, I find sites that are interesting and add them, like this:
Every day, I visit Feedly (which I have bookmarked) and find a list of headlines, organised into topics that interest me. Fabulous!
I follow over 800 people/organisations on Twitter – there just isn’t any way to keep track. So I use Twitter’s lists feature. As I find interesting people or organisations I add them to a list (often I do this rather than following them). Every day, I check my lists quickly and see who has been saying what.
Tip: You can have other people do all the hard work and subscribe to their lists. Mine are here.
Extra tip: I have written a detailed post about how to set up Twitter lists – get that here.
This changes all the time. I subscribe to sites or aggregation services as I go, and then unsubscribe as they turn out be useless (or not). I have them filtered into one folder in my email, and then just skim through that folder once a day. My current crop are detailed in this blog post.
This is a really old-fashioned way of finding things, but it finds gaps that other kinds of searches don’t. Essentially, you ask Google to let you know whenever any article containing a particular search term appears on the Internet, and to send you the results in an email. So, for instance, I have a Google alert set up to send me results for the search term “Terry Pratchett”, and I get those emails once a week.
Google has (as usual) a good how-to article on setting up alerts, which you can read here.
So there you have it: four ways to impose order on the chaos of the Internet.