Observations of the Infoglut: Information Curation

Art Monitor IIIf data visualization was the hot thing in 09 and 10 (and still is), then information curation is the new thing.

It’s a testament to our over-stimulated lives. The interwebs are projected to contain 1,800 exabytes of data this year. That’s a big number, so here it is with all the zeros: 1,800,000,000,000,000,000,000.

That’s a ton of wall posts, TED videos, cat pics, and memes. Info curation isn’t new of course, Mashable might not have been the first on the scene but it’s probably the biggest curator of internet information, covering the gamut from technology to non-profits.

Some new services have popped up to answer this Infoglut challenge. One of the more interesting services to me is Storify. As a user, you’re able to pull in pieces of a story scattered all around the web into one place. It’s a great way to synthesize data to create one cohesive experience. It was meant to be a hub where people can share the info that’s separated by social media walls. But as you can see it’s also become an aggregator and curation site.

The Storify crew had a particularly strong showing at SXSW, but I think this example shows what this program is capable of:

Japan Quake — How can I help

For someone looking to do something, anything, to help the Japanese people this is their one-stop page. I’d say this is more aggregation vs. curation, but the benefit is undeniable.

Another example is one of my favorite sites in all of the interwebs, Trendwatching. Just like Mashable, they’ve been at this for some time now and are certainly not the new kid on the block. They only post once a month (on freebie service). Their posts are pretty long, 2,700 words in the last trend briefing. How does this match up with our rush to be the first to know and tweet?

They are masters of curation. They constantly find the newest and coolest ideas in technology, retail and fashion based around an upcoming trend. The key is it isn’t just a bunch of links or pictures thrown together, it’s all selectively edited so it fits into a theme of what’s to come. Plus, they dig deep for their sources. Rarely have I ever seen one of their featured products, brand experiences, or technology before I read the trend report.

To me, that’s real value and that’s why I keep coming back.


Thoughts for communicators.

If you have curated knowledge to share this is a perfect opportunity to integrate into your fan community. Also, look for those opportunities to ask for information or to add your cause or company to a curation. Just remember, this isn’t a Google listing, it’s personally edited content so don’t forget to be a person yourself and show real value. Otherwise it might just backfire on you.


I’m sure there are plenty of info curation sites out there, I’m just scratching the surface. Do you have a favorite?

Hacking is the Sincerest Form of Fanery

You’re a company who’s put millions in R&D, testing, and marketing your neat gadget then hackers crack and mod it into pulling off cool tricks. What do you do?

And the cool tricks look like



and




Semi-approved hacking


If you’re Microsoft, you move from threats of working “closely with law enforcement and product safety groups to keep Kinect tamper-resistant," to looking the other way. A year or two ago they would have sued these hackers into oblivion. Cooler heads prevailed and amazing hacks have poured forth everywhere from home-brew motion tracking to MIT projects.

Microsoft has gone even further, it’s planning on releasing a Software Development Kit (SDK) to basically completely open up the Kinect and give developers the tools to see what they can do with the device.

I think this semi-approved hacking is an interesting approach for companies to attract fans. You only have to check out Etsy and YouTube to see People of all ages have a desire to adapt, customize, to products their own. This trend of giving up control to gain customer loyalty may become a reality for brands. 

Some other quick examples:

Apple

Say what you will about their “walled garden,” but Apple has pretty consistently turned a blind eye to hacking. Basically, the product is yours to tinker with, but don’t bring it back if you break it.

The original Apple TV has been hacked six ways to Sunday since it’s release and the latest version can now run XBMC & Plex thanks to an active hacker community.


Canon

The Digital SLR video revolution would have happened anyway, but Magic Lantern  and the Canon Hack Development Kit certainly give it a nudge. These hacker communities sprung up in response to passionate users’ pleas for more robust features that were software-limited by manufactures.

In the case of the Canon 5D MarkII, it took a great camera and made the video recording capability unbelievable. Magic Lantern unleashed the camera’s potential and turned it into a cornerstone in the DSLR film community.

Instagram API

There are a ton of iPhone photography apps. A good amount of these have social sharing built in. Instragram stands out by not only giving users a great experience, but allowing developers to create new extensions with the photo sharing company’s code.


Now users can do more than tweet their pics, browse the pics beautifully with Instagallery and connect your pics to other services like Foodspotting with just a #food tag.

Why?

Who cares about what probably adds up to 10% of your customer base? Well, those are the noisiest customers. Those are the ones driving trends. Those are the ones promoting your products. That’s why.

Check out Kinect Hacks for more hack examples.