Blogs, Tweets, Pins and Podcasts – why you should make a curation map

I have a serious case of DCSD (Digital Content Stress Disorder).

I fear that the web is not making me smarter. It’s distressing my synapses and dumbing me down. Not because the content is junk but because there is too much good stuff. Amazing material at my finger tips – TED talks, zeitgeisty blogs, beautiful pins and seriously meaty journal articles.

Like a kid on a post-party sugar high, I’m over-stimulated, feral and I need to have a nap.

Last week I wanted to learn more about ethnography. Since I write instructions for ethnographers and other qualitative researchers, I need to keep tabs on current practices and emerging trends.

Here’s what happened:


Look familiar?

Like all good explorers I started out with idealistic intentions—to chart new territory and bring back useful knowledge. But like James Cook, and his philandering in Tahiti, I ended up in a narcissistic haze on LinkedIn (wow, who are these people checking my profile and endorsing me for skills I didn’t know I had?)

So, how do you gather content in a meaningful way? How do you keep focus? How do you venture out on the wild web and bring back the intellectual goods?

I think it was Marshall McLuhan* who famously said “the medium is the message“. Even though he came up with this idea in 1964 – it still resonates with me and my curatorial woes.

The web, as a hyperlinked social medium, encourages us to move seemlessly between very different types of content—which is liberating in one way and downright confusing in another. There’s too much noise, too much variance in credibility, and too many distractions even for the best multi-tasker.

Maybe a curation map would keep me on course (enough with the buccaneer analogies already). It could look something like this:


For each content platform, I could timebox my activities and maybe even align them with my physical location:

  • Serious academic articles at my desktop – 4hrs
  • Blogs at the cafe with coffee (or when in-laws visit) – 1 hr
  • Twitter on the couch or in bed – 1 hr
  • Podcasts while running or bathing – 1hr
  • Pinterest on Sundays with breakfast – 1hr
  • LinkedIn at the end of the day – 1hr

Then, how do I process and make productive use of all the interesting issues, predictions, advice and points of view that I stumble across in a single web session? Maybe I need to stop and take stock—write some notes and put my own spin on what I’m finding.

Am I going over the top? Am I’m becoming a content control freak? Are you?

Maybe I should just relax, let the words wash over me and simply sail by the stars.

*I’ve been known to get him confused with Malcolm McClaren—he was busy with the Sex Pistols right?

19 thoughts on “Blogs, Tweets, Pins and Podcasts – why you should make a curation map

  1. thanks Allan 🙂 To make the pictures I printed screen grabs and logos, cut them out and stuck them on some graph paper and then photographed them with my iPad. Channelling my inner kindergartner!

  2. Kath, as an information junkie myself, I like this approach. My own passion is finding ways for people like us to organize all the great information we find, in such a way that it pops up for us precisely when we need it. So I research all the apps and techniques I can find to help do that, which leads me down a rabbit hole much like the one you describe. Setting an itinerary before I set out each day would really help me find my way back to the task of sharing what I find.

    What is your favorite technique/tools for capturing and retrieving the goodies you find?

    • Hi Sharon – thanks for jumping in here – it’s good to know I’m not alone in trying to navigate the rabbit hole!

      I use NVivo to capture and organize the resources I find on the web. My company develops this product so maybe I’m a little biased 🙂 but I really do think it’s an amazing tool for getting a handle on all the good stuff you find online. When I’m on a web page or even watching a video on YouTube I can press the NCapture button and bring it into NVivo. Then I can tag all the content and retrieve whatever bits I need.

      I also LOVE Evernote for collecting content when I’m on the iPad or phone (then I bring this stuff into NVivo when I’m back at my desk)

      I’ve been using the curation map idea but gee it’s hard to stay disciplined – your comment led me to all the great content on your blog and that wasn’t on today’s map!

      • LOL! There is no escape, is there?

        I hadn’t heard of NVivo before. I’ve just gone through the intro video, and it looks like it addresses one of the things I consider most important: helping the user spot those subtle but crucial connections that can lead to real breakthroughs. I think I’ll be spending quite a bit of time on that site.

        It’s good to see that the NVivo Getting Started guide is available as a PDF. I like to get a little familiar with an app before I download the trial version, so I can make the most of the trial period. Reading online manuals and help files can tell me a lot about the product.

        I just started with Evernote recently, and I think I’m in love. I’d been using OneNote in a similar way. Evernote is more portable and has more add-ons, but when I want to have a note + related sidebars all on a page together OneNote is the better choice.

        The tool I’ve been using to find unsuspected relationships is theBrain ( I’m looking forward to comparing it side-by-side with NVivo – which is best for what circumstances? How do they complement each other? Etc.

    • Hi Annelies – I never sleep! Sorry, I wasn’t very clear on this timeboxing idea – i just meant to say that before you launch into an online research session it might help to plan the amount of time you spend on each platform. My timings are more like what you might do in a week 🙂

    • Thanks Mark – your post is right on the money and full of terrific insights. Seeing how much more there is to know about a topic can leave us feeling dumber and a little paralysed. As you say, we have to overcome this and start “acting with a much greater awareness of how much we don’t know”. I just bought the book “Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now that the Facts aren’t the Facts, Experts are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room is the Room” by David Weinberger. What a great title – thanks for recommending it.

  3. Some time ago, I posed this question: What “knowledge” would be gained from the data that tells us the number of grains of sand on a beach? The web gives us access to data, not knowledge. The Information Scientist are still debating the question of “information” vs. “knowledge” so I’ll leave that alone.

    I own some seminal works in the literature of Software Engineering from the Seventies as bound cellulose [aka, books]. These works collected data and opinion to create what I like to call, “a knowing.” The web and other electronic sources of data coupled with the various technologies, make it hard to distinguish “a knowing” from just a pile of facts and opinions.
    In part because of the ethereal nature of electronic documents. In part because of the lack of an effective measure of trustworthiness. The bound book publishing hurdle was differently poor at trust determination. If someone did climb that mountain, they really believed in their words. Strong drink, caffeine and determination can crank an e-tome in a day or two that on the surface looks much like their cellulose companions. How much do we trust it?

    ~~~ 0;-Dan
    Austin, TX

    • Hi Dan – great comment. Do we trust books books because they take so long to write and someone has dedicated themselves to the task. Are blogs and other e-tomes (love that word!) less trustworthy?
      Should our curation maps reflect this? Should we more spend more time on trustworthy (but possibly out-of-date) sources? I really like your idea of “a knowing” – maybe it comes from stoping to reflect on what you read, making notes and figuring out how it fits in your own world view.

  4. Very interesting article! I love your approach and will try to use it to organize (somewhat) my exciting but crazy content travels on the internet.

    I love your drawings, btw!

  5. Hi Kath,
    Check out a little tool called If This Than That (@IFTTT). It allows you to create customizable rules to automate your various curations…errr creations. I’ve been playing with it today and I remembered this post. Cheers,

  6. Hey Kath, loved your post and all the comments too. I love the rabbit hole myself and plunge in often (eg right now at the tail end of the work day). I’m an information junkie like Sharon, feeling dumber by the minute, but even more so an inspiration junkie. As a research director with a team of brainiacs and plenty of resources at my disposal info is pas le problem. What I’m after is the insight inspiration understanding that takes you forward. That’s what I love about world wide web – ever since my mother cautioned me not to go there at night because it could be dangerous. Thanks for charting the rugged terrain out there and providing a road map. Now could you just turn that into an app please?

    • Thanks Lil – yes, an Inspiration app I’ll get on to that! Thanks for your thoughtful (and funny) comment and you should listen to your mother – they are always right in the end 🙂

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