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Curation and the enterprise: part 2

[Note: This is a follow-up to my earlier post on Curation in the Enterprise, and seeks to develop some of the themes introduced there.]

First, a quick recap.

Machines can filter. Only humans can curate.

When a human curates, she does three things. She selects something (or things) from a larger group. She organises those selections cohesively. And she arranges to present those things in such a way that people find it easy to engage with those things.

What I thought I’d do in this post is to look at all this a little more closely, all in the context of the social enterprise.

First, let’s look at selection.

The simplest and commonest form of selection in social networks is the asymmetric follow (a phrase I first heard used by James Governor). You follow someone or something, you subscribe to that someone or something. Elect to receive updates, alerts, reports. That doesn’t mean they follow you.

This can be permanent or temporary, you can undo this relationship at will. Unfollow the person or thing. Even block the person or thing. Stop receiving updates.

The social enterprise comes into its own because you’re not restricted to subscribing to alerts and messages from people alone, you can also follow things. Projects (you receive a status update whenever there’s a change, perhaps even at data element level) bills (you get told when it’s paid) complaints (you’re informed as to where it is in the process) orders (has that order closed yet?), companies (you receive news about competitor product releases, market activity, stock price movements, the lot).

If you find that someone or something is too noisy, just turn it off. Your call.

This is social 101, since you’re able to communicate with a real community, consisting of your staff, your partners, your customers, your products and services. But that’s only the beginning.

Once you’ve selected the publisher nodes you want to subscribe to, you start getting into second gear. Of course you receive direct messages from your network, but you could argue that it’s just email fit for purpose, made to work a little more sensibly. From people you trust, from people you’d like to hear from.

But that’s only the start. You have many more powerful selection tools, based on the network, its participants and the tools and techniques available to assess the information. You can check on what’s popular…. What are your customers talking to you about? What about your partners? Your staff? Separate views, yet compressed into a single whole if you want.

An order, a blog post, a presentation, a complaint, a bill, a sales success story, a promotion, a really clever way to solve a problem, a thank you note…. Each of these in turn becomes a social object, gathering the moss of comments from all and sundry. The rich interaction is captured in one place and congregated around the object in question, simply and conveniently. Threaded mail solved some of this, but only for the contents of the mail itself. In the social enterprise, you don’t have to worry about versioning either (which presentation are you looking at? That’s not what I have on slide 3?) since the “attachment” is always the same one, held centrally.

Selection is not a one-time administrative process redolent of the desktop productivity tools of the ’80s and ’90s. Instead, it is dynamic and responsive, driven by you and your network of choice.

The social enterprise is able to vote up the importance of a topic in a number of ways: direct messages, “hotline alerts”; “re-tweeting” the update, link or post so that more people see it and can engage with it, rather than the linear paths of the past; voting or just “liking” or “thumbs-upping” something; rating it; reviewing it; just by talking about it, making the topic “trend” so that it rises to the top of the pile; raising the frequency of the words used so that they appear in relevant tag clouds; driving engagement through the use of collaborative filtering techniques (people who read this link also read…. People who tracked this complaint also did… And so on).

So the linearity of past communications styles is no longer there; non-linear, non-hierarchical, pattern-based rather than process-based communications take place instead. The likelihood that you see what is important is increased in quantum leaps because people you trust have true 21st century tools.

Just over a decade ago, I had to ensure that the bank I worked for was prepared for the euro. We’d made all the changes, tested them, run them ad nauseum. Soon we were in dress rehearsals, simulating the triple-witch of month-end, quarter-end and year-end as part of going live with the euro. [I wonder which genius chose to make the go-live at such a time...] as the cutover drew near, one of the year-end reporting suites blew up. To cut a long story short, the program causing the problem was reporting on client turnover for a company that had been shut down seven years earlier. But the reports chugged on.

Getting information in an enterprise has never been a problem. More reports than you can shake a stick at, more enquiries than the average sports ticket desk. At least nowadays the outputs are emailed rather than printed, but the emails carry the same curse. Too many of them, with haystacks of information rather than needles.

So the first job of curation is selection, and you should (by now) have some idea as to how that is made more effective.

Let’s move on to the “organisation” aspect of curation in the social enterprise. I’ve already spent a little time talking about the value of tag clouds, of collaborative filtering, of social objects gathering moss via comments and observations, about voting processes, like buttons, thumbs up and down, rating mechanisms…. All these are ways to make the selection process easier, to make the curated information more valuable, more timely, more relevant. So we need mechanisms and conventions to assist us. Not everyone likes hashtags, but some more generally accessible equivalent is likely to be needed. Simple ways of getting collaboratively filtered information have to be built in, still bearing in mind that the filter may be automated, but not the curation.

When it comes to presentation, the world of the social enterprise is replete with mobile devices, multiple devices, mobile apps and native HTML5. So the minimum requirement is that the curated information is made available to the device of choice, and in the form requested. SMS alerts where required, email alerts only when absolutely necessary (why add to the waking nightmare of too much email?) Where and when the information is persisted, archived, retrievable and searchable matters.

I’m still on vacation, sharing these “provisional” thoughts as the rest of the family sleeps. Your comments are welcome, they help me figure out whether I’m making sense or not.

My next post is going to concentrate more on the topic of how to make the curated information actionable, how to learn from what people like Esther Dyson have been saying about search.

Posted in Four pillars .


11 Responses

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  1. Sean says

    Somewhat off-topic but this post reminded me of GrapeVine and how ahead of its time it was/we were and we didn’t even know it. Twitter before twitter, or more precisely Yammer or Chatter before those…

  2. JP says

    Not off topic at all. Much of what I think about, see, visualise about the social enterprise has its roots in what we already had, working and in production, at DrKW. Not just grapevine but mind align as well. The work done with evolutionB2B. The work done with twiki and to a lesser extent social text. Much earlier, what we were trying with wecomm and the compaq ipaqs, getting to stream prices to mobile devices before we had any real bandwidth. The web station concept. The commitment to publish subscribe that was explicit in deal bus. The insistence on master files. Bringing CRM together across asset classes, and at least trying to do that with analytics, opstracker, shiva, ebookbuilder, the whole research set. Most related institutions don’t have today what we had a decade ago….

  3. clive boulton says

    Wish we’d had JP around when developing Social CRM.

    We conquered machine filtering by aggregating collections of social feeds with back office master files, but got lost in Curation. Now clear employees yearn to search for action, to have pointed out what to do, without being told to do it.

    Can’t build purposeful applications without purposeful design direction!

  4. Mary Trigiani says

    As a conventional user, I’m still working on the organization aspect of what I “curate.” There are some wonderful first generation tools, yet I look forward to seeing how they mature. And whether a Holy Grail arrives fresh on the scene. It will be interesting to see if it emerges from within the social enterprise, which perhaps has more pressing reasons for advancing what is being called social curation.

  5. Aviral says

    JP – first of all thanks. To me, extraction, presentation and easy contextual access to information has been a sticking point in any knowlede management effort. I heard the term duration very recently and you have now put the two together for me.

    Now, thinking about it, citation is an appropriate term for this. In my opinion, the curators job of gathering, catalogueing, and presenting information; along with the librarian’s skill of organizing and providing access to it are going to be needed sorely.

    With these skills being discouraged in today’s day and age, especially the librarian, where do we stand?

    Your views?

  6. Aviral says

    Sorry – meant curation, not citation above.

  7. Steve Ellwood says

    … all about the culture.

    Folksonomy, shared bookmarking, comments, ratings… all depend on a culture that espouses this sort of activity. As a sort of corollary to Linus’s Law, we can’t get useful ratings/tagging unless you have enough folk *doing* the tagging etc.

    The dead hand of the the 1.0 organisation on the tiller, and the way some insist on measuring what their people do solely in respect of their organisational position work against the success of this type of path in a lot of enterprises… which is why lots of players focus on working *outside* the organisation.

  8. William Mougayar says

    “Machines can filter. Only humans can curate.”. Very true, but when you combine the two together, then you have very powerful tools in the hands of the curator. The curator must be very productive during their curation. That’s why the choice of tools will be important, especially for the enterprise where the consumer oriented curation products won’t cut it.

    I would argue that the first job of curation is not selection of content. Rather, it’s the accurate codification of the context in a way that the computer filters can do their job and channel the best content to the curators who can then decide upon it.

  9. Dave Walker says

    I see your brain took a break from holiday to write this :-).

    The built-out view you present of social objects reads like it was written by a friend who’s been doing this stuff for nearly a decade – this is A Good Thing, but you really put your finger on an interesting point when you discuss choosing what to curate.

    Imagine being the curator of the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli, if Pompeii, Herculaneum and Paestum were all being excavated at the same time; not only is fascinating stuff piling in at an astonishing rate, but some of that stuff can look like stuff entirely unconnected with it (some Roman gladiatorial armour looking almost 14th-century in design). Categorisation error creeps in. Thus, we come to hashtags.

    I don’t use hashtags, beause I don’t speak hashtag. I don’t speak hashtag, because there isn’t a hashtag dictionary I can find, which is updated in a timely fashion. I might want to tag something (and deciding whether to tag can itself be vexing), but I wouldn’t know what to tag it with, and by the time I’d searched through the various hashtag dictionaries or the whole of Twitter to determine whether there was a good tag already floating around to re-use or whether I should create one, the apposite time to post the tweet would have passed. I really don’t know where to start on this one; I’d like to see what Emily Tweet (niece of Emily Postnews) has to say on The Art of Tagging, but she doesn’t appear to have commenced her writing career yet.

    So it goes, with curation; the problem’s bandwidth, but you have to start somewhere.

  10. Begum says

    How to Curate Content for Thought Leadership #RLTM NY Workshop [Best of the Backchannel] Part 7 of our summary of the June 6 #RLTM NY 11 Realtime Conference, based on the best tteews sent by attendees during the event. These tteews are from Source: therealtimereport.com

Continuing the Discussion

  1. Reading: Machines Can Filter Only Humans Can Curate | Simbeck Hampson | Innovation linked to this post on November 5, 2011

    [...] http://confusedofcalcutta.com/2011/08/21/curation-and-the-enterprise-part-2/Source: confusedofcalcutta.com, via Content Curation, Social Media and Beyond [...]



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