Top 5 Social Curation Sites
These days anyone can become a social curator, sharing links, sites and information with the rest of the world. Pandia takes a look at the best curation tools.
Digital curation is the selection, preservation, maintenance, collection and archiving of digital assets (according to Wikipedia). Curation used to be the domain of archivists and librarians. But the brunt of curation has moved over from the shelves and archives onto the Web.
These days your daughter and your grandmother might be doing it. And recently the Web has added a social aspect to curation: You don’t just collect and preserve information, you share your collections with the world. This is social curation and here is a look at the best social curation sites right now
The belle of the ball
Pinterest is the big thing in social curation right now. Numbers from Alexa suggest it has surpassed veterans such as Delicious and Reddit (below) in traffic. Pinterest is like a collection of online pin boards where you pin images that fascinate you.
But even though Pinterest has a visual and aesthetic focus, there is more to these “pins” than meet the eye. Each image links to the page or article where you found it and you can add a comment or excerpt when you save it to one or more of your pin boards.
So each pin is essentially a visual bookmark and the pin boards are tematic collections of such bookmarks, where you add context to the information you collect.
The social aspect means that your pins are public and others can comment on them, making each item a potential discussion forum. Other users can also add items as favorites (“like”) or add them to their own pin boards (“repin”). This way the item gathers even more context — a way to gather lots of potentially useful information.
Pinterest is not just a place to store information. It is also an excellent place to find information. You can browse the most recent pins in some 30 categories and re-pin what you like. Or you can find people who post information you are interested in and follow their activity or just the most relevant of their pin boards. There is even an RSS feed for each person.
For some reason there are not feeds for individual pin boards, though, which is a shame. Another problem is that the visual character of Pinterest makes search hard. The objects often have little meta data, which makes for inaccurate search. And even though I can find a lot of info by searching Pinterest as a whole, I can’t search my own pins. This is why I’m leaving Pinterest after three weeks.
Digg and Reddit are among the veterans of social curation. On these sites, you can add stories or items, like or dislike items entered by others and leave comments. Items that are liked or commented by many, rise to the top of the front page.
Reddit has recently had a surge in popularity. Here you can add items (URLs) or browse those of others: choose the main tabs (hot, new, most controversial and top scoring stories) or browse by category.
You can also create communities, where people with common interests share stories. Communities can be private or open.
Reddit extracts images from posts to add a thumbnail to the preview, but the site is still not very pretty — the years are showing.
For the pros
Social bookmarking is not what it used to be. Many of the services that used to be big have lost importance next to other ways of sharing and curating, such as social networks and yes — social curating.
Even though social bookmarking has always been about curation, the recently introduced stacks adds to Delicious’ credibility in this respect. With stacks, you can bundle bookmarks on a theme go your choosing and Delicious will present them with illustrations and excerpts from the web pages in question in something reminiscent of a magazine.
Diigo is a far more powerful tool. In addition to sharing bookmarks and building a network, you can join groups. Any tag or topic can have a group where like minded people discuss common interests.
Diigo also adds a community to each page bookmark, so you can see who else has added it and what comments they have added — a nice starting point for your research.
And there are other social aspects to Diigo. Here, I want to mention one more: annotation. You can highlight passages and/or add sticky notes with comments to the pages you bookmark to leave your point of view on any page you bookmark. Your annotations will be visible to the people you choose to share them with. This feature is great for collaborative teaching and learning and has made Diigo very popular in education.
Your own newspaper
If these five great tools are still not exactly what you were looking for, perhaps presenting your finds as a newspaper sounds tempting?
On Paper.li you add streams from Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or any RSS feed. Paper.li then automatically generates a “newspaper” with daily or weekly news, which you can choose to publish to friends and followers.
This service is especially popular on Twitter. If your Twitter stream is focused on one topic or a couple of related topics, this can make for interesting reading for people in the same field.
Scoop.it also publishes a kind of magazine, but it is not generated automatically. Here, you set a topic and add items one by one. Scoop.it extracts images and adds layout and makes it all pretty and easily accessible.
In this particular field, the good stuff is not created by the old giants. Notably, neither Yahoo more Google have succeeded with social curation. Google’s Search Wiki and Knol were both recently shut down.
Yahoo chose to sell Delicious just as social curation became a big thing. This is another strange diction from Yahoo, which is even neglecting Yahoo Bookmarks and Flickr — two other popular social curation style Yahoo properties.
Microsoft has launched MSN Now, where you can see stories that are popular on Facebook, Twitter and Bing. And you can comment if you choose. So the curation aspect is not strong. This site has not been a huge success so far.