It seems like yesterday I was bemoaning the fall of Digg Deeper. Content curators need "intelligent news services" - and no, I'm not talking about AI (The fall of Digg Deeper and the struggle for intelligent news push notifications).
In that piece, I discussed options for social news curation, including Nuzzel. Well, that didn't last:
Don't need any hand holding on Fleets but a "we're sorry" would be nice for buying and unnecessarily neutering @nuzzel when you surely could have maintained it until you finished your navel-gazing on what it could someday be. https://t.co/rpV54dsMEI
— Jon Reed (@jonerp) July 14, 2021
After the bluster I saw from the Nuzzel team over the years, seeing them go from Nuzzel to muzzled was pretty pathetic. Get acquired by Twitter? Fine. But offering wet noodle excuses for shutting down while Twitter figures out what to do with you? Weak sauce. And yet, this shouldn't come as a surprise. From the infamous fall of Google Reader on down, curation services have a habit of folding at the drop of a hat.
Or, in the case of Scoop.it, leveraging free audiences only to impose a heavy-handed monetization scheme (The problem of curation platforms, and the Scoop.it monetization clampdown).
My content curation argument - with a modification
Ever since we started diginomica, I've extolled the underrated role of curation for content producers. But one important criteria has changed. This change is crucial - if we want to protect ourselves from losing services (Nuzzel) that are central to our workflows.
1. Curation is an outgrowth of your research process, a vital part of the 'deep work' cycle that results in exceptional content.
2. Curation is not just a tool for recognizing (and growing) the community that informs your thinking. It's a way to share as much of your research process as possible in the public domain.
3. Trusting social media algorithms to surface the best content is foolish. "Intelligent" push notification services make your social feeds more useful.
4. Most serious content curators are RSS die hards. Social curation tools also help to extract the best content from the noise.
5. (New rule): Getting by on free services is a mistake. If we want curation to be sustainable, we should pay for our content curation tools.
You can apply this thinking to individuals and content teams.
In the case of Nuzzel, mocking them publicly brought a nifty benefit: pings from new social curation tools.
They are adding features- they added RSS on my request, improved daily/weekly curations. 30 day trial, I'm on paid plan. Recommend for curators.
— Jon Reed (@jonerp) August 3, 2021
My enterprise curation process - from research to newsfeed to creative content
I use a slew of bookmarking and tagging services. Most I pay for; I've built in redundancy for the tools that go belly-up. I won't go into all of them here; I shared more detail as of 2019.
I have private bookmarking tools I don't share publicly. The engine for my public sharing is my trusty Newsblur RSS reader. Standout enterprise content from Newsblur goes into public boards, such as my enterprise Pinboard collection (8,700 articles and counting). That Pinboard RSS feed is the basis for distribution to various social media channels, including my Twitter jonerpnewseed and daily email curation.
If I stumble on a quality article via my social feeds that I don't subscribe to via RSS, I might subscribe. If I can't subscribe or don't want to, I'll push that to Pinboard via a bookmarklet. That also goes out to the jonerpnewsfeed. That newsfeed collection is the basis for weekly selections of standout content in Enterprise hits and misses. This is the foundation for our weekly diginomica missive, which our partner success manager Alex Lee expertly organizes (if you want, you can subscribe on the top right).
I explain this to illustrate: a curation workflow does take time to setup, but much can be automated (Dlvr.it is key for me there). Then your curation is multi-purposed across channels. This makes the toil worth it.
Why social news aggregators matter
Why should social news aggregators play a part in our curation workflow? I've addressed that in detail, but the short version is: trusting in the wisdom of social crowds doesn't cut it.
Most folks I talk to are willing to let their social networks surface what's important. Given the dual problems of flawed algorithms and the social popularity contest that's been hijacked by marketing and personal branding agendas, I urge readers to question the assumption that our networks will surface all we need. Investment in research and curation tools remains a differentiator.
Bring on the aggregated news services. Most have some form of push notifications as well, to make us aware of notable content that's bubbling up:
Push notifications matter because they give us the confidence to step away from incessant monitoring of a noisy stream. We can trust that the most important content will be surfaced for us.
Some of are lucky enough to have enterprise-grade curation tools at their workplaces. If not, there are good options to consider - even with Nuzzel out of the picture. Nuzzel had an interesting bonus feature, creating your own personalized newsletter each day, but to me, the real highlights were the breaking news alerts, which you could set to different push frequencies.
New curation options - tools to consider
Thresholderbot - this is a no-frills service, designed to make sure, via email, that you don't miss the most popular links shared by those you follow. As long as you're on Twitter, and you follow interesting peeps, Thresholderbot will surface useful things for you, in a timely way. Thresholderbot does NOT provide an RSS feed, though I can approximate this in Newsblur using Newblur's email newsletter import. I like it and use it, but I would urge readers to support paid services as well. The hard lesson of free services is their demise.
Murmel - Murmel, as referenced above, is a paid service with a straightforward-but-useful mission: "Get the hottest news stories shared by your Twitter friends without stress or missing out on anything." It's a paid service, but individual pricing for a "basic service" (with plenty of features) is reasonable. A "pro" version is coming, which includes tracking Twitter lists. The Murmel development team listened (and responded to) a bunch of my feedback, adding email frequency options, an RSS feed, and other useful tweaks. They gave me a (welcome) opportunity to test new features. The daily "Murmel digest" compilation from my feed is a highlight.
Tweetshelf - Tweetshelf is similar to Murmel, but with differences also. Tweetshelf does have a free account, but also a paid version. Again, I encourage paying for these services. Tweetshelf's premium plan, similar in pricing to Murmel's basic plan, is pretty robust, including multiple Twitter accounts, and list tracking. Tweetshelf added RSS to their premium plan after my Twitter feedback. I really like some of the creativity Tweetshelf is applying, including tracking content by category (e.g. videos). I also like their mobile app chops, for those who want that. However, I'm not a customer so I can't speak to how well it all works. Why not? Well, because Tweetshelf requires premium account activation within their mobile app, and I'm not sure I want another news/curation app on my phone at the moment. I'm also not crazy about 'thumbing' in payment info on my phone. To me, that's what a desktop site is for. If they make it possible to try premium online, I'll do it and report back.
Feedly with Twitter - this article is pretty useful for those who already use Feedly as their newsreader. I don't. The setup described here is a tad geeky to organize, but looks useful. Sometimes it's helpful to have all the tweets from a feed, not just the most popular. Example: tracking your own tweets or replies can be useful, or tracking all the tweets from a key client or contact. I use a paid service, RSS.app, for custom Twitter RSS feeds.
My take - paid curation services are maturing
It's encouraging to see the maturation of paid curation and bookmarking services. Investing our time in free services, only to get the Google Reader bait and switch, is beyond tedious.
Facebook and LinkedIn are missing here. Alas, both of these platforms are now black boxes. With Facebook, you can still pull content out of pages via feeds. With LinkedIn, there are no feeds. There is no way to determine the popularity of content in your network - outside of LinkedIn's dubious notification system and algorithmic surfacing.
To get something out of these services, you're stuck in Twitter. Whether to compile any dedicated lists is an open question. For most, just pulling from our overall follower network is probably enough. But, if you have multiple and distinct specializations, you might want to take the trouble to compile Twitter lists (e.g. retail influencers), so these services can work on top of them.
I made fun of "AI," but I do think AI could play a role in curation services. Depending on how you define AI, perhaps it already is. I would never rely on social curation tools, AI or otherwise, to take the place of RSS, where I impose my own algorithm based on the feeds I value. But, while I question the wisdom of crowds as an absolute, I do follow some very smart peeps. These services track them, so I don't have to. That's pretty handy.
Updated on Sept 11, 8am UK time, with a number of small tweaks for reading clarity.
This piece is part of my semi-regular diginomica series on productivity, filtering, and the art of content curation.