Curation As Story – The Importance Of Human Filters

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Curation is a form of storytelling. Curation tools need to support this truth. 

Collecting content without qualitative human judgement is aggregation, not curation. The best automation tools alone will never replace the ability of a human being to provide meaningful context. And the best curation, the curation I subscribe to via email, takes context to the next level. It tells a story. This post is being written, primarily to serve as an example of what I’m calling “social curation.” The act of curating a conversation, like the one that took place this morning at #tschat, should be a storytelling act.

Elliot HarmonElliot Harmon – @elliotharmon
RT @linkedcontent: @herdpress Curation does not tell the story, you must, and use the curated content for context or support #tschat

I certainly think Elliot is right on point. Curation, in and of itself, is not telling a story. I often follow links to pages on or and find a myriad of excerpts with no connective story. The examples provided below are fairly typical. There is an collection of stories with excerpts, but the story telling side of the curation process is left to short header remarks and sidebar quotes. Is that enough?

Kelly HungerfordKelly Hungerford – @KDHungerford
@suzboop Hi! Following up from #tschat. Here’s an example for you.

This leaves me with questions. The question I often end up asking myself is this, “where do I want to send people when I’m curating content?” And, “can I effectively tell the story there the way I want to tell the story?” I believe I only have so many opportunities to engage someone in the social space, where do I want to send them when I finally do?

There is a concept in fundraising called “donor fatigue.” It’s a real a phenomenon in which people stop giving to a charity or charities, even if they have given to those charities in the past. In a very real sense, I believe supporters in ANY online community, charity or otherwise,  experience a form of donor fatigue when it comes to clicking on links shared by the people they follow. The quality of the link, and in this case, the quality of the storytelling, becomes a key factor in whether they will continue to click on your links. Are they being sent to an experience that looks and feels like every other experience, or are they being sent to a unique experience that tells your story unlike any other?

Buffy ByeBuffy Bye – @buffyb
RT @TechSoup: posting transcript writing a recap, curating all yr great tweets! 😉 Will post on our teams wiki: #tschat

Like me, @techsoup is curating the #tschat stream on curation. (It’s very meta. :)  I’ve simply chosen a different curation tool to tell a different story. Still, every act of curation is a storytelling exercise, whether you use a tool hosted on a third-party site, like Pinterest or Storify, or whether you choose to use tools that allow you to self-host your curation. In the end, the story is what matters. It’s what has always mattered. Have I told a story, or have I simply collected a bunch of links?

Robin CampbellRobin Campbell – @Robncampbell
Filtering and curating content well requires a mix of automation tools and human curation. There’s no 1 tool yet #tschat

“Curating content well requires a mix of automation tools and human curation.” This is a fact. There is no one tool that gets it all right and there will likely never be one tool that provides all of the different styles of curation necessary. But the questions we need to be asking about any tool all center around that story. Can I tell a story, or am I just collecting excerpts and links and gathering them all in one place? Do the tools bring the value of the human filter front and center? In the end, what we’re really looking for are the stories that only humans can tell.

Photo credit: Flickr creative commons license via and Beth Kanter

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  1. says


    This is an interesting idea as I have been attempting to flesh out my use of – I did, then I didn’t, then I did but I am not thrilled with it.

    I enjoy it for the aggregate…I hate it for the aggregate…still trying to be effective without spending all my time assembling information.

    Merry Christmas and big hugs to you and yours!

  2. says

    Yes… but… if I tell some of my stories from my years flying down the highways of the USA in my alternator-laden Chevy truck (CB handle “Virginia Slim”) with gigantic gas tanks pulling the 4-horse trailer with designer-decorated living quarters (and I do mean ‘living’), I would be forced to change the rating of my websites, ScoopIts, Tumblr, etc., etc. Hmmmm, I’m thinking it’s time to tell some stories to weave the technicolor web that fuels my passion for horses and cowboys. 😉

  3. says

    This is a beautiful post. The argument that “[c]uration, in and of itself, is not telling a story” is one I’d love to dig deeper into. I’ve been thinking a lot about this statement. With the endless sea of information and possible choices, if you make choices in a thoughtful, unique and consistent way, can you not tell a story by mere curation?

    One example that came to mind is the Tumblog It would be very difficult for a robot to copy what this curator is doing (could key word algorithms really replicate this with any accuracy?). I think this site is an example of a choice that may be creative and unique enough such that it tells a story.

    I agree completely with the notion that adding a human element to curation is necessary to tell a story, which should be the goal, but I question whether curation itself can’t be intriguing and human enough to tell a story on its own.

    In any case, thank you for writing this!

    • Jeff Turner says

      Rishi, I think much care needs to be taken to insure that the simple act of “collecting stories” is itself a story. Themes need to be explicit and some narrative may be necessary to tie them all together properly. I think literally unbelievable works because the purpose of the sight is so tightly focused. I don’t find this to be true of many curation sites. In this case, what I’m curating is a social media conversation. It’s possible to simply throw tweets on a page and make a story of them, but there would still need to be some connective narrative to make it work. Thanks for stopping by, Rishi.

  4. Kelly Hungerford says

    Story telling is a fascinating topic. Harry Jenkins says that “each media platform creates a relationship between the story teller and the lister” and goes on to speak about the use of multiple platforms to create canvases of engagement. So if we talk about story telling at the level of trans-media story telling, then no one platform alone can do it.

    If we speak exclusively about curation platforms and story telling, I believe each platform can have a role in it, but I haven’t found one to date that stands alone and can cover it all either.

    I see curation projects similar to chapters in a book. If the content is focused and well managed it acts almost as a stand alone chapter, and when pulled together and “bound” under one house, together they make a nice story.

    To create a story around what I am interested in, I need to use multiple services, which I do:, and Storify. As the creator though, I still need to add the overall context. Being able to point people in both the digital and physical world to different collections of content that I am passionate about is definitely a part of telling my personal story telling.

    Thanks for the thought provoking post!

    • Jeff Turner says

      Thanks for stopping by, Kelly, I appreciate your insight. I agree with the notion that the full spectrum of colors that make up a complete story may only be able to manifest across multiple sites/platforms. What is needed, at the center of it all, is the storyteller. I’ll be seeking out your story. :)


  1. […] RT @linkedcontent: @herdpress Curation does not tell the story, you must, and use the curated content for context or support #tschat I certainly think Elliot is right on point. Curation, in and of itself, is not telling a story. I often follow links to pages on or and find a myriad of excerpts with no connective story. Curation As Story – The Importance Of Human Filters | Jeff Turner […]

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