Curation - the next big web thing?

Patrice Lamothe, CEO of Pearltrees, the curation site I blogged about last year has written an interesting piece for (complete with 2 typos in the first paragraph) about what he considers to be the next big thing. If things go as he foresees, the new wave of information curation will quell the information deluge.

He mentions the technical bits - the real time web, collaborative systems and location-based services - but more importantly goes on to look at the social interaction bit. Rather nicely summed up by this question: ‘If the development of the web cannot be directly attributed to technologies, products or usage patterns, and if it cannot be reduced to the efforts of a small, identifiable group, how can we hope to understand where it is going?’

I hear the bane of all tech watchers’ lives there - too much going on, too much information...

Lamothe characterises the development of the web as being in three main frontiers: First frontier: a small number of players creating, organising and disseminating content, consumed by the majority. Portals and search engines were the key products, with HTML and PHP the main technologies. He mentions accessing information as the primary use, and that this model still applies to most current web activity.

Second frontier: All the web 2.0 stuff we’ve been happily playing with for the last seven or eight years. Blogging, sending out stuff on RSS feeds, MySpace, Wikipedia. ‘Blogs, social networks, and wikis are becoming icons of the democratization of speech and open debate,’ he says.

What do we do with all this stuff then? That’s the third frontier: curation.

‘Now that the web allows everyone to read and disseminate everything, it should also allow everyone to do what its first users were always able to do, the feature that lies at the heart of its radical originality: organise / curate everything... allow everyone to manipulate content created by others, gather material, edit it, prioritise it and give it meaning.’

That sounds great, but is it the whole story?

Let’s take Pearltrees itself, which describes itself as a network of interests, allowing its community members to organise / curate, connect and easily locate all the content of interest to them. It does that. But that’s not really how I use it. I seem to have landed up using it an excellent graphical way of storing my favourites ‘in the cloud’, or at least non-local to any particular computer of mine.

It has helped me make interesting collections, and made them easy to navigate, but as yet I’m not ‘picking’ other people’s Pearltrees to see content they’ve curated. I suppose this could change if I see people I know and trust creating them... but as yet I don’t. Perhaps the trust element is the bit I’m missing at the moment. Without the trust, curation could be a blunt tool.

Perhaps it’s just me, and perhaps it is because curation is a newish trend.

The other issue that comes to mind is the trend for more and more non-web applications; closed proprietary approaches (I’m looking at you, Apple -  Microsoft in sheep’s clothing).

If everything is done in a closed system then curation becomes selective, which by definition it does need to be, but by criteria which would make many people uncomfortable - by those running the closed system. Edited curation. In other words, not true democratisation of information.

It will be interesting to see how this develops.

Patrice’s full (English) article

A longer version for French speakers

Comments (2)

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  • 1
    Oliver Starr wrote on 10th Jan 2011


    Great article. As the Chief Evangelist for Pearltrees I wanted to reach out and engage with you. Hopefully we can continue to discuss curation and you will be willing to provide me with some additional feedback with respect to Pearltrees. As you can imagine we are very interested in the opinions of prominent users such as yourself.

    I saw that Patrice has already tweeted you about Pearltrees collaborative capabilities but I thought I'd do one better and invite you to actually team up with me on a Pearltree I've been curating about the curation topic in general.

    The URL for that Pearltree is here: and I'll @ you an invitation as well. Hopefully you'll accept my "team-Up" request and discover the pleasure of curating a topic with someone you may not yet trust but could potentially learn to through the act of collaborating on a Pearltree.


    Oliver Starr

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  • 2
    vedradijaus wrote on 13th Sep 2012

    I enjoy reading this kind of stuff. Thanks for sharing good knowledge

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Brian is Head of Content at BCS and blogs about the Institute’s role in making IT good for society, historical developments in computing, the implications of CS research and more.

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