Tools for Curation

Howard Rheingold got me thinking about curation a few months back, and I’ve been working to expand my understanding of the tools that folks are developing in support of this kind of sense-making.

The tools I’ve tried recently are Keepstream,, Prezi, and Storify, and I thought I’d be a responsible digital citizen and share my thoughts about them here.

Here’s Keepstream’s explanation of what they’re about:

Keepstream Tutorial from Keepstream on Vimeo.

Keepstream lets you pull together a collection of web content around any topic you’re interested in. Pulling in content from Twitter and Facebook is “drag and drop” easy, while other content is easily routed to your Keepstream account via a bookmarklet. The big positive of this site is its ease of navigation, but I ended up being frustrated by my inability to add sites to collections just by pasting or typing in a url. I also wanted to be able to re-order collections once I’d gotten all the pieces pulled in.

So I started a collection on Keepstream but then shifted over to (because founder @Basti was doing a good job of listening and invited me to check that out):

Like Keepstream, seems to start w/ the presumption that folks who are actively engaged in the real-time Web (mostly Twitter, in the current landscape) will ultimately have moments when they want to take a snapshot or paint a picture of a moment or series of moments in the stream. held on to me long enough to enable me to actually finish a bundle, mostly because they have a “toss a link in this box” feature right there on the site. (My bundle is of a bunch of the posts & articles that have sprung up around the idea of iPads and learning in recent days.) So, for me, gets a few more things right… they allow you to drop a url directly into your bundle, in addition to having bookmarklet & Chrome extension options. They enable in-bundle commenting, so that visitors can add value with their perspective. They’ve also explicitly let us know that they’re working on enabling collaborative curation, which seems like a smart move.

Prezi seems at first glance like it doesn’t belong on this list. It’s a presentation tool, right? But so much of what I do as I prepare to present is curation, and Prezi’s non-linear orientation gives it a huge advantage over all three of the other tools mentioned in this post if what you’re wanting to share is a cluster of related ideas, rather than a straight-line list. Automatic embedding of Tweets isn’t there for Prezi, but auto-embed of YouTube is… what I really want is auto-embed of everything, which is part of why Storify is getting a big thumbs up from me today. Here’s how they explain what they’re doing:

Storify demo from Burt Herman on Vimeo.

Storify is closer to my ideal curation tool than any of the others I’ve tried so far. It’s in private alpha, but I asked nicely and received a DM’d login key within a day or so. The things that make Storify a winner for me are 1) drag-and-drop re-ordering of content (I can just toss everything on the table and THEN start thinking about what I want to lead off with) and ease of adding stuff into my stories, through bookmarklet, typed url, Google search, or auto-embed of Tweets, Flickr images, FB content, YouTube videos, and RSS feeds! (More on why that last one is so exciting to me later.) A input box in between each new piece of content enables the would-be curator to signal his/her intentions or provide additional context/commentary. I’m having enough fun creating a story there that it’s not done yet… “sticky” = a good sign.

If you’re wondering whether you should care about curation and how important it might be to your life going forward, you might want to check out the recent Jonathan Fields post Is Content Curation the New Black? (As is so often the case, the conversation in the comments is terrific as well… and now I know about PearlTrees &, which I guess I’ll need to check out next!) Mashable just did a post on curation tools, too!

Hey, developers working on curation tools, here’s some closing feedback from one avid amateur curator and archivist.

1) Give me choices. Don’t assume you’ve figured out all the possible uses for your tool… instead assume that you haven’t! Let me put it all on the table and figure it out.
2) Give me control. I can imagine curation situations in which I’d want to open up and ask for collaborators as I’m working, others where I’d want to enable comments once I’ve finished a first pass, and still others in which I’d want my work to stand alone. Could I do all that with your tool?
3) Let me mix it up. Nobody wants to look at a thousand collections, bundles, or stories that all look the same. We need to be able to make our curated materials visually distinctive, for both our sake and the sake of the folks we hope will engage with our stuff. If a collected/bundled/storified site doesn’t come w/ a pre-fed image, I might want to snag one. How about font control? And I’m pretty sure everything doesn’t have to be so straight-line… but more on that another day.

(Thank you for taking the time to read this;
would love to hear your thoughts on curation
and these or any other tools…)

Posted on January 8, 2011, in tools. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Pearlrees is the most comprehensive because you can curate anything you find online. You can also embed other tools in Pearltrees suchnas Storify. And Pearltrees makes it easynfor others to grab your duration and add it to theirs. And there is a team feature too…

  2. Shelly, great post. Curation certainly is an exploding topic right now and I think, justifiably so.As the Chief Evangelist for Pearltrees I'm glad you're aware of our platform and it would be my pleasure to walk you through it at any time should you want to take a deep dive. You can get me @owstarr or via email oliver dot starr at pearltrees dot com.I really appreciated your commentary on what curation tools should be/become. There are a couple of really interesting threads on Quora about this (if you don't already know about Quora it is a must see for anyone with interests such as yours). addition, I have a Team Pearltree on Content Curation here: that I'd love for you to join. To do so, just click the big blue puzzle piece on the detail window and I'll approve your team-up request immediately.I hope you'll find Pearltrees to be a useful and engaging way to curate and discover well-curated content. Please let me know if I can help you in any way with respect to the tool.Regards,Oliver Starr

  3. Once again, you are doing a great job leading me–I'd never even heard of curating on the web but can't wait to explore more when the kiddos aren't home sick! Bookmarked galore…

  4. Thanks for these great comments… Tom & Oliver, I hope to be checking out Pearltrees over the next week or so… will definitely let you know what I think.And Oonie, it's always nice to have you swing by virtually; hope we get to see each other "live & in person" soon as well!

  5. Shelley, have you taken a look at yet? It worked for me.Easy to use and great to look at.

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