Introduction to Personal Content Curation

Introduction to Personal Content Curation

Joash Xu
·Apr 8, 2022·

10 min read

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If you are like most people, you have a lot of information coming at you from all directions. It can be hard to keep track of it all and even harder to figure out what is important. That is where personal content curation comes in. By assembling a tailored selection of books, articles, videos, images, and other online content, you can create a personalized digest that helps you stay informed about the topics that matter most to you. In this blog post, I will introduce you to the basics of personal content curation and show you how to get started.

What is personal content curation

Content curation is the process of sifting through the vast amount of information available and organizing them in a meaningful way for an audience. Content curation is not about mindlessly collecting links; it is about putting them into a context with organization, annotation, and presentation. A content curator continually seeks, makes sense of, and shares the best and most relevant content on a particular topic online to share with their community.

Personal content curation is no different from content curation. The work involves sifting, sorting, and arranging. The main difference is that you are the primary audience, which means that the value of the content lies in its usefulness and application to you, first and foremost.

Why you should curate

We live in an age where there is simply too much information. Even the most minor niches like growing bonsai or home hydroponics gardens have excessive information. This is why curating content plays an essential role. Here are three reasons why you should curate content.

  1. Tackle information overload. There is so much information available to us today. Social networks, websites, emails, and other digital sources make data that is now measured in exabytes, equal to a quintillion bytes. The problem is not the amount of information per se but our consumption. We are indulging too much in the easy access we get to the information. Content curation can help in this regard because mindful consumption of information is at the heart of content curation practice.
  2. Build knowledge. Information is not equal to knowledge. Just because you have access to information does not mean you are more knowledgeable and skillful. To create understanding, you must know how to sift through the vast amount of information and judge the value, organize, and connect that information. The amount of available information leaves many unable to organize their thoughts and ideas. As a result, their work is merely information without knowledge. Content curation can be an essential tool for you to start building knowledge. The process of organizing resources forces you to construct connections between concepts and identify areas of synthesis, encouraging critical thinking and rhetorical engagement with the information.
  3. Develop your tastes. Content curation teaches you to distinguish what is excellent from merely good. It teaches you to see what is missing or not working. It helps you uncover what you like or dislike, what you think is worth your time, and what is not. Why is this important? Content curation helps us form our tastes, and our tastes influence our work.

What to curate

If you are unsure what to curate, you can start by asking yourself some questions. In "Show your work!" Austin Kleon, the author, suggests that you ask the following questions to kick off your curating journey:

Where do you get inspirations? What sorts of things do you fill your head with? What do you read? Do you subscribe to anything? What sites do you visit on the Internet? What music do you listen to? What movies do you see? Do you look at art? What do you collect? What's inside your scrapbook? What do you pin to the corkboard above your desk? What do you stick on your refrigerator? Who's done work that you admire? Who do you steal ideas from? Do you have any heroes? Who do you follow online? Who are the practitioners you look up to in your field?

How to start curating

It can be tough to know where to start when it comes to curating content. But do not worry, I am here to help! Here are five ways to get started:

  1. Create a repository. Create a place where you can put your collections. This can be a Pinterest board or a Raindrop collection. You can start by collecting a small set of valuable sources and personal insights for yourself.
  2. Filter your sources. Pull from a consistent set of high-quality sources to save you time. Be intentional. Good content is everywhere, and you do not want to be overwhelmed. Pick a handful of great blogs or newsletters and start from there. Do not capture unless the content is of high quality.
  3. Add your personality. Think about why the content is relevant or interesting to you and take some notes. Always add your interpretation or commentary.
  4. Organize your judgment. Take important critical takeaways from the content and turn them into an outline. Compare it with other content. Whenever you choose one piece of content over another, you refine your judgment about what is essential and what is not. Curating requires and improves your judgment skill.
  5. Learn and fail in public. Consider sharing your curation with the public. When you share with others, you might get comments and complaints that test your understanding and surface doubts and weak points. This will lead you to an even deeper understanding of your collection.

Personal content curation tools

There are numerous tools to help you curate content. From the supply side, there are a lot of websites (example: Medium, Hackernews, etc.), news aggregators (example: Google news), and countless newsletters (example: Hackernews, Python Weekly, PyCoder, etc.) for you to curate content. Remember to start from a small set of high-quality sources and build up from that.

Once you have read them, you want to store some of them. For this, at the moment, I am using the following platform:

  1. Raindrop. I am currently using Raindrop most of the time. It is a bookmark app with a lot of features. You can save a bookmark, move it into a collection, give it proper tags, etc. It supports multiple viewing modes. You can display your bookmark in list format, card formats, headlights format, and mood board. It is not perfect by any means; for instance, you can only save a bookmark to a single collection. You can work around this issue by playing around with the URL a bit. But it is a bit annoying having to do that.
  2. Notion. I use Notion to create lists, tables, and databases. At the moment, Notion is mostly for storing programming problems or security hacking writeups. But I am also experimenting with using GitHub for this. So I might stop using Notion in the future.
  3. Pinterest. Pinterest probably is the most well-known curating platform. It is effortless to use, and there is a lot of great content on the platform. The downside, it can turn into a rabbit hole. For this reason, I only use it for several types of content. But it is by far the easiest to start and use.

I should also mention Feedly. It is a news aggregator application. It compiles news feeds from many online sources, and you can customize this, of course. You can even subscribe to a newsletter via Feedly, so any email from the newsletter gets into Feedly, keeping your mail inbox a bit more tidy. But it also has a curation feature called Board, similar to Pinterest board or Raindrop collections. This idea of having a news feeder and a curation platform in a single place is excellent. So I am looking into this app at the moment.

Tips for content curation

Here are some tips for staying organized and efficient when curating your own content.

  1. Select a theme. A theme is a unifying idea. You should decide on a theme when you make a repository or a collection. For example, suppose you are learning about Algorithms. In that case, you can have a narrow collection such as "Top 5 resources for learning Algorithms" or a broad theme like "Algorithms." It is easier to find content that will fit a broad theme. But a narrower theme makes your collection more cohesive.
  2. Know your space. Know the parameters. Is it a Pinterest board or a RainDrop collection? Both can have an unlimited number of pins or bookmarks. Think about what it means if you put a lot of items, say a hundred items vs. ten items, in your collection. A hundred items may sound significant, but it might make sense for some collections. A "Top 100 resources for learning algorithm" might be too significant to be useful. But a "A 100 of most influential persons in history" collection, a hundred makes a lot of sense. There is no right or wrong answer to the number of items you can have in your collection. You decide the number based on the theme you chose.
  3. Provide information. Curating is like writing an essay -- you want to present your work in a certain way. On Pinterest, you can add a description to any board. Unfortunately, you can not do it on Raindrop. On both platforms, you can manually arrange the position of the curated content. In Raindrop, there are more options; you can use lists, cards, headlines, and mood boards. So you can set up the collections a bit better. For instance, you can set up a collection in chronological order.
  4. Selecting work. You should start by choosing a lot of content. But, select only a handful of content that best fits your theme and is of high quality. This is where you do the work of comparing, connecting, and making sense of the information. For instance, there is a lot of book on Algorithm out there. Which one should you choose? Some books are rigorous with math, and some are not. Some start with Graph, and some are not. There is also a matter of personal preference. Maybe you like the way the author writes. It makes more sense to you. And so on.
  5. Write a note. Add standard labels like name, title, and other basic information. This should be automatic if you are using Raindrop and Pinterest. Both Pinterest and Raindrop also allow you to add a description to a pin or a bookmark. Always write down a description. Even a short commentary is better than no note at all. You should also write additional available information or comments if available. For example, why it fits in the collections.
  6. Think about anchor pieces. Every collection has certain elements that stand out. Think about which content stands out. And what makes that content an anchor piece. When you share your collections with the public, think about how these anchor pieces can direct your audience's attention. For instance, my anchor piece in my top learning algorithm collection is the "Algorithm Design Manual" book.

Example of a collection. Image by author

How to use curated content in different areas of your life

Curating content does not have to stop in the digital world. The concept of curating, which is selecting and organizing items in a meaningful way, can also be applied to other areas of your life. Here are some examples of how to use curated content in different areas of your life:

  1. Content creation. Curating content is one of the best ways to start creating content. The act of curating the works of others can help you in creating your own work. Examples of things you can make as a curator include curated news feeds, guides, comparison tables, diagrams, learning curriculums, etc. Maybe you can be a part of the new curator economy.
  2. Fashion. In the fashion world, there is the term capsule wardrobe. A capsule wardrobe is a small collection of garments designed to be worn together, harmonizing in color and line. If you think about it, a capsule wardrobe is essentially a curation. Instead of having a lot of pieces of clothing, you can start curating a handful of pieces of clothing items. A collection that suits you better saves you money and that you can wear for any occasion.
  3. Books. You probably have heard about the "100 books to read before you die" collection. If you are an avid reader, maybe you should start your own collections. And you do not have to stop at books. You can make collections of movies, wine, art, etc.

Summary

Content curation can be a great way to tackle information overload, build your knowledge, and develop your taste. Although it takes time to develop the habit, personal content curation can boost your productivity and knowledge development. It allows you to focus on learning what is important to you while building a valuable reference library along the way. By using the tips I shared in this post, I hope you feel inspired and motivated to start curating content for your own use. Remember, the key is to find what works best for you and to stick with it. The more personal your approach, the better. What are some of your favorite methods for finding and organizing information?

 
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