Today LinkedIn announced that they are creating an exclusive list of 150 celebrities and influencers who anyone will have the ability to “follow.” There will be no pesky 140 character limit on what these influencers can post (there’s a new blogging feature too) and the assumption is that they will share mostly business-related thoughts. Some critics see this as yet another attempt to Klout-ify the web with artificial influence rankings, but the real significance of LinkedIn’s announcement may be something far more profound.
What if our one-button publishing economy isn’t the world changing equalizer we long for it to be? In a true democracy, people have the freedom to be prolific in things they have no talent for. Don’t get me wrong, I think the benefits of having open tools for anyone with a dream to be able to make it succeed far outweigh the negatives. But let’s focus on the negatives for a moment, shall we?
Content creation is exploding, as people upload 300 photos from a weekend vacation instead of just the 15 good ones – and post grainy, shakey videos to YouTube that even they can’t watch more than twice. Blogs are created purely for SEO and to embed affiliate links, or for dairy-style personal confessions that only 2-3 people in the world would ever want to read. Corporations are getting into the act by trying to create more content as well. Some succeed by adding value, but many still focus on the “5 reasons to buy our product (now in a YouTube video!)” style of “content.” And perhaps most significantly, the status-update model used by just about every social network puts continual pressure on everyone to always have something interesting to share or something witty to say. A lot of it is noise.
Several years ago, the brilliant Clive Thompson wrote a piece for the NY Times about how all these pockets of noise add up to meaning through “ambient awareness” – making the comparison to a pointillist painting where the individual dots are meaningless until you look at the bigger picture. It is a sophisticated way of seeing the broader impact of social media. But what if you only want the dots?
There is a reason why the “30 Best Books To Read This Summer” style lists get so much attention. We want someone to curate the world for us. In fact, we need them to. So in that context, what LinkedIn has chosen to do isn’t at all surprising.
Curation will be the future of the Internet, and that’s a good thing. We can finally offer a voice to the people and organizations that are far better at collecting and aggregating great content than actually creating it themselves. It is a natural place for any company to add value – and lets individuals share their passions and micro-expertise in an easier and often more valuable way.
Curation turns noise into meaning – solving the web’s biggest problem in the process.