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Curation

1 January 2012
Tali Helman
A hand holding a stack of wooden blocks

Curation is the human action of collecting, aggregating, and organizing information received from search engine results.


In retrospect, it's hard to believe that until a few years ago, some dealt with how search engines could reach as much information as possible.


A search that yielded a small number of results was the nightmare of the people behind search engines.


But that's all history...


The central challenge that we, as users of search engines, encounter today is the flooding of search results.


Sometimes, the number of results received when we type a query into the search engine causes us, as users, to feel like we're getting lost in an endless forest without focus and accuracy, as partial information, ads, and irrelevant results overwhelm us from all sides.


Today, we know that to get complete, comprehensive, and accurate information on a particular topic, we need to take a deep breath, search for relevant sites, enter a relatively large number of sites, and then extract the information we need.


Following this challenge, blogs by individuals who manually collect, gather, and make accessible links to the most relevant sites on a particular topic have recently begun to emerge. For example, a blog on French plastic art will allow its readers to receive comprehensive information on the subject by referrals to relevant sites, YouTube videos, Wikipedia entries, Facebook pages, etc., thus saving the reader the need to browse through hundreds of search results and extract the essentials.


Many sites today recommend that bloggers and content editors add curation to their blogs to increase their value. As in the external Internet, the challenge of complete, accurate, and relevant information has also surfaced within organizations. After many organizations have incorporated advanced search engines into their systems in the past year or two and hoped that this would provide all the answers, as awareness of content entry into the systems increased, a different kind of difficulty began to emerge - a search query floods many and varied search results and the ordinary user has no way to distinguish which one is the most relevant or will allow them to get the best point of view for them.


Imagine an employee at a bank trying to get comprehensive and accurate information on "securities." He types those two words into the organizational search engine and receives dozens of documents containing the phrase "securities" in their title. In addition, he can see procedures related to the field and forms that a securities advisor uses regularly, as well as access to a community of securities advisors. But where to start? What from the search results will give him a general understanding of the field? What of the many documents is relevant to him as a branch employee? Which results were written recently, and what are the most significant?


These are precisely the dilemmas that curation addresses. There is no need for a content expert to write entire scrolls on the topic (these scrolls will also need to be updated every time there is a change in the field); all that is required of the curator is to compile on one page the most meaningful and relevant links in the field. It would be even better if such a curation page looked different for a branch employee, headquarters employee, or securities advisor.


The issue's importance has been increasing lately. Many software houses are beginning to offer curation tools to organizations to integrate with search engines.


Anyone dealing with knowledge management can sense the growing need, and I welcome the new methodology, which, in my opinion, is a guide for the perplexed.

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