June 22nd, 2010
On the Content Strategy Mailing List there’s been a discussion about using the term curation. Amy Thibodeau asked if people were comfortable using it, and several folks mentioned it was working well to communicate what they were trying to accomplish with their content strategy.
Amy responded to people’s enthusiasm with this interesting point:
“For me there’s also a difference between the act of curation (pulling disparate ideas together, making meaning and creating opportunities for experience) and being a Curator (capital ‘C’).”
I agree with Amy completely about the difference between curation and curators. However, this isn’t a unique pairing.
Amy was commenting on the difference between the skills and the roles. What we’ve found is that you have to separate the two, then, if you want to create great user experiences, ditch the roles and focus on the skills.
“In my experience in museums, curators (at large institutions) tend to wear one hat and they are often seen as arbitrators of culture and taste and, with a few exceptions, slightly out of touch with the average gallery visitor. […] I love museums and think the curatorial role is crucially important; but it tends to happen in a bit of an ivory tower and is driven by the academic interests of the person filling the role, which may not necessarily be what the community wants or needs.”
Because of her museum background, Amy has obviously had issues with people in the role of curator. But that doesn’t mean curation can’t work. You shouldn’t blame DVD players for bad Jim Carrey movies, I always say.
The focus on roles happen when we’ve got a severely uneven distribution of skills across the organization. When this happens, we find the small group who have the skills necessary to accomplish something and we appoint them with the roles. Others, who have different skills, get appointed with other roles. The thinking behind this age-old approach is that if the person with the role can apply their rich skills to the problem, they’ll move the work forward.
But anyone who has been watching the World Cup this week has seen one thing: vuvuzelas are annoying as hell. Ok, that’s true, but there’s a second thing: if the ball comes your way, you kick it. You don’t say, it’s not my job to kick it, so I’m going to wait until my team mate with that role gets here.
To do this well, everyone on the team has to have basic skills. And to be in the World Cup, those “basic skills” have to be at the top level.
So, when we’re talking about a content strategy effort, there’s another approach that’s emerging from the organizations that are doing the best: everyone on the team has to have World Cup-class basic skills. They all have to know what it’s about and how to deal with the ball when it comes their way.
In terms of curation, you can’t have a single curator who going to do a crappy job, playing to internal politics, and focusing on their own goals instead of the users or the organizations. Instead, the entire team, under the auspices of good, focused leadership, curates the content. They work as a team.
To this end, if content strategy is going to succeed, the community needs to know how they’ll get every team members skills dialed up to world-class levels. Once they do that, they’ll see a world of difference.
No ivory tower or self-serving academic interests here. This is the real world, baby.Tweet