Personal curation is one way in which we create good experiences. We choose how to use our time, choose the friends we have, and choose the things we collect.

Feeling dispassionate about my experiences on Twitter, I decided to spend some time curating it. Like an overgrown garden, I needed to cut back the branches and pull out some weeds.

I mute keywords. I mute some people. I turn off retweets. (People often retweet different content than they produce.) I switched to Tweetbot from the native Twitter experience to help facilitate some of these changes.

On Facebook, I realized that I don’t have the same ability to curate. All I can do is tell it to show me less of “posts like this” and hope it figures out what I meant by that.

In the name of holy engagement, the native experience of products like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are moving away from giving people the ability to curate. They do this by taking control away from you, the user. By showing what other people liked, or by showing recommendations, without any way to turn it off, they prevent people from creating a better experience for themselves.

Curation as Expertise

I think curation, in and of itself, is something that experts do. Beginners need time to acclimate and learn what they do and don’t like about a particular thing. With art, for example, we need to sample a wide variety of works before we know what we prefer and can curate for ourselves. The same applies for wine, whisky, or whatever wonderful object you wish to collect.

For beginners, services push the act of curation as a way to educate, build interest, and create engagement. Like getting a flight of beers every time you go to a restaurant. It’s an important process to learn what your preferences are.

For experts, though, this forced act of curation is intrusive. When I order my Rochefort 8, I don’t want the waiter to keep dropping IPAs at my table. Curation is an active task that is often treated as (and seen as) an act of intrusion to those that have already gone through a lot of curation. It sours the experience.

And to that end, many services are geared towards the beginner. Getting new people onto a platform and getting them engaged is how they make their money. An advertising revenue-driven platform rarely caters their experience to the experts. A platform, however, can create an ecosystem that is friendly to experts.

Twitter does this (both well and poorly) via their API. Third-party apps like Tweetbot and Twitterrific give experts the tools for curation.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Many services, with their walled gardens, don’t let you pull out the pruning sheers. As a result, people are leaving these services. Maybe not in droves yet and maybe not enough to offset the new users coming in but enough.

I believe it is important that platforms consider people at all points in their journey—from onboarding all the way to being experts.

Published December 13, 2017
Categorized as Opinion
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