I’ve been thinking and talking a lot about curation recently. It is one of the things that I firmly believe will be a key differentiator for companies in the future — those that curate great content beyond their own for customers, and those that don’t. Some of this curation will be of the human varietal and some will be algorithmic. One of the things I had not been thinking about, however, is the danger of what happens when things get over-curated or over-filtered.
This morning, I listened to two thought provoking angles on the danger of too much curation. The first was via John Moe who does the Marketplace Tech Report on our local NPR affiliate, KUT. The segment I’m referencing was focused on Internet radio pioneer, Pandora, and it’s recent addition of comedy to its service. For those unfamiliar with Pandora, it takes a unique approach to serving up music (and now comedy) by hand scoring each song along hundreds of different criteria (genre, number of band members, male or female singer, etc.) What struck me as interesting was the concept of using Pandora’s Music Genome Project technology against news, the potential downside being only being served up news you want to hear versus news you need to hear.
On the heels of listening to the piece about Pandora, I watched a TED video I discovered courtesy of friend (and valuable personal filter), Adam Cohen. The video featured author, Eli Pariser, author of the book, The Filter Bubble. I’ve embedded the video below which I strongly recommend watching. The essence of Eli’s talk was what happens when the things we should know about or need to know about start to get curated out of our streams based on our natural preferences. As an example, he talked about seeing the balance of liberal and conservative friends posts in his Facebook newsfeed start to tilt completely toward just showing his liberal friends’ posts. The problem with this is that while he is self-admittedly liberally leaning, he values the opinions and links of his more conservative friends.
This got me to thinking more about the role of curation and the importance of showing us things that might be counterintuitive to what we’ve selected in the past. This may include things that make us uncomfortable, or unexpected. For instance, what if Pandora gave me a little Billie Holiday in my Red Hot Chili Peppers stream? At the end of the day, I can always vote with my feet and give the song the thumbs down. The same could be (maybe should be) true with Google and Bing. Or with any service that starts making choices on our behalf. As Eli stated in his video, it’s okay to filter for us but make sure that the criteria is transparent and easily changeable.
I’m still considering what this means for companies? Do they show competitor’s products along with their own in their curated streams? Or perhaps highlight the occasional negative review to reinforce their commitment to authenticity? I would love your thoughts.