Several content curation tools have hit computers and tablets in the past six months. Broadly speaking they fall into two categories: automatic curation, where an application pulls in content from a Twitter stream, facebook account or RSS feed; and edited curation where end users select the content themselves.
I’ve already written about Flipbook
a tablet app, that turns twitter streams, lists and hashtags into an electronic magazine. It makes for an engaging experience but you don’t really have that much control over what goes in (or what gets left out).
Paper.li presents similar challenges. The ubiquitous Twitter newspaper is a great way of gathering and filtering information from your stream, but it can also throw up surprises, some delightful, some less so.
Where Flipbook and Paper.li do work well is when you put the work in up front to prepare a carefully filtered Twitter list or seek out a consistent, reliable hashtag.
We’ve been running a successful #mhealth
(mobile health) Paper.li for a few months now as part of Ideaworks for Healthcare and our followers really love it. It’s also a useful way of sourcing content for additional coverage on the blog.
Bit.ly bundles, Storify (and to a lesser extent Montage) give you a lot more control. With bit.ly bundles, several articles can be combined under one shortened URL. Click on this link and it takes you to a page where each article appears with a headline, thumbnail and introduction copy.
When you pull these links together you can also add your own text commentary underneath each one. Typically each bundle covers the same theme or topic and gives you the opportunity to express your ideas or your personality in greater depth compared with a fragmented stream of individual tweets.
Storify works based on a similar approach, except this time you get to drag and drop content from multiple sources including Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and Flickr. Again, you can also add your own commentary. Storify, as the name suggests, will appeal to journalists. It’s a more versatile than Bit.ly bundles and Montage, but you need to invest the time to search and organise content into a compelling narrative.
Finally, Montage, the most recent content curation-publishing tool from Microsoft Fuse Labs. Imagine building a web page from live twitter streams and news feeds, images and video and you get an idea of how Montage works. It also has a fabulous user interface that helps you to divide a page up into tiles of content.
Here’s mobile health again, this time as a Montage page
. Again, you need to be very careful when including live feeds. Either seek out streams where you have plenty of control, or make the client aware of any risks. In both cases you should run the page unpublished and monitor content carefully before pushing it live.
There’s something else to add here. You don’t need to be a designer or a developer to use these tools. But to make them work properly, you do need to have good editorial skills. As a member of the Metia content team, it’s good see new publishing applications that cater to writers as well as developers and designers.
They also force us to think about simple page design, branding and even ease of use. Telling a great story with words is one thing, being able to reinforce that within the wider user experience becomes a real pleasure thanks to these new applications.