Friday, December 24, 2010

Can Grassroots News Curation Replace Mainstream News?

News and the way it's coming to us has already seen profound changes but as new and more better sites come on line it's only going to continue to change. As the filtering and depth of coverage increase we will all soon at least augment our TV and Newspaper news with online services that go far beyond the news readers most are now using.

For us news/info junkies it's a wonderful time to be alive.

Amplify’d from

The 'interestingness curators' of social news

Maria Popova calls herself an "interestingness curator". On
average 55 times a day, the 35,000 followers of her @brainpicker account are
sent links to "stuff that inspires, revolutionises, or simply makes
us think". It might be vintage photos she's discovered of Soviet
schools in the LIFE Magazine archives, "21 films to
inspire entrepreneurs", or a fascinating new book about sex and
consumer behaviour. In a world saturated in information, Popova
sees her mission as helping her readers "become interested in
things they didn't know they were interested in", thus enriching
their "creative capacity".

It's more an obsessive hobby than a job -- Popova works in New
York for an ad agency -- but to thousands of iPad users @brainpicker now serves as a
radical new form of daily magazine. A free iPad app called
Flipboard turns Popova's links into elegant magazine-style pages
that you can flip through simply by swiping the screen. One moment
you're gazing at a photo essay she's recommending, the next a long
Washington Post investigation she considers important.
Suddenly, you've gained what's missing in the vast impersonal
openness of the internet -- a trusted curator.

In his prescient 1995 book Being Digital, Nicholas
Negroponte, the visionary founder of MIT's Media Lab, described how
customised daily news would one day find you through "personal
filters" that would understand your desires and interests. "You
would consume every bit (so to speak)," he said of this futuristic
virtual newspaper. "Call it The Daily Me." Flipboard isn't it --
but it is an important step towards a level of personal news
curation that lets you cut straight through to what's likely to
interest you. As well as giving you a choice of recommended
link-streams to follow -- apart from Popova's, Flipboard offers
options ranging from the New York Times to fashion
bloggers -- it lets you turn your personal Facebook and Twitter feeds into your very own digital
magazine, based on what your circle is getting excited about. The
more of your friends are linking to a particular item, the more
prominent it becomes in your Flipboard magazine.

Welcome to the new era of social curation. We're drowning in
data: Google's Eric Schmidt is fond of
pointing out that five exabytes (billion gigabytes) of information
were created between the dawn of civilisation up to 2003, yet that
much digital data is now generated in just two days. So we all need
a little help in smartly filtering which of those unmediated news
items matter to us. And though I'd love to think that, as a
professional magazine editor, I know what's right for you, I'm
honest enough to admit that your social network understands your
interests better than I do.

Popova, for one, is convinced. "Social curation is already
beginning to substitute the editorial model of traditional media,"
she says. "More and more, we find out about the latest 'it'
restaurant from our Facebook friends, and Twitter streams are
replacing AP newsfeeds." If I think of my own media
habits, I'm now getting most of my news from carefully selected
people I follow on Twitter, from journalists and politicians to
musicians and science bloggers. Sure, I love the expert curation
that shapes the many high-quality paper magazines I still daily
plunge into -- but my social feeds are now a welcome substitute for
what used to be my daily print newspapers.

It seems I'm not alone: a Pew survey of more than 2,200
Americans recently found that 75 percent of news consumed online
was via links from social networking sites or email. And it's not
just news: TV is about to become a much more socially defined
experience. From Sky to Microsoft, big money is being invested to
let you know what all your friends are watching, so that your
television pulls in whatever content it thinks is most relevant to

As for the wider web, services such as Pearltrees are seeking to
map people's online interests as well as their friends', so that
they can "individually and collectively [be] editors of their own
web". Plenty of Facebook-based services, such as, are making it
easier to follow what your friends "like" as they journey online.
Even clothes-shopping is becoming a socially curated experience:
Diesel stores in Spain now feature the Diesel Cam, which allows you
to try on jeans and then upload photos to your Facebook account to
seek your friends' instant opinions. Even the New York
is backing a personalised news service called
that relies on social sharing.


No comments: