Vable's essential guide to the evolution of content curation
by Clare Brown on April 17, 2023
It's astounding. Every day, Google receives over 9.6 billion search queries and around 333.2 billion emails are sent. To say that we are living in an age of information overload where we are bombarded by white noise is, quite frankly, an understatement - but I’m sure you’ve heard all that before. What we’re more concerned about here is the necessity of content curation to enable people to rise above this sea of information.
We are now in the age of curation
One of my colleagues forwarded this TikTok to me and seems to sum up exactly how I've felt for a number of years now. What is it that information professionals do? We set up searches to scan through lots of content and choose articles which are relevant to our end users. They then use this content to become the equivalent of influencers - their clients trust and follow their content.
What is content curation?
According to one definition, "content curation is the process of evaluating, selecting, and sharing quality content from other sources onto your website or social media pages. Some examples of curated content include images and videos, statistics and infographics, quotable quotes from industry experts, links to blog articles, and social media posts from fellow content creators".
To succeed with manually curated current awareness, a librarian or information professional must follow a process. First they must be able to effectively source and research worthwhile information on a range of topics. Then they must filter through it and verify the information to assess its significance and relevance to their organisation and end-users. It must be categorised into different topics and subject groups before presenting it in a digestible and easily understandable manner. This is no mean feat.
The move to an age of curation
Once upon a time, we recorded human ideas through simple cave drawings, we told stories and performed music from memory, and master craftspeople handed down specialist knowledge to their apprentices by showing and doing. As civilisations established themselves, so did our means of documentation, we saw the introduction of clay tablets, stone, bone, papyrus scrolls and manuscripts. Libraries and private repositories stored enormous amounts of knowledge but access was severely limited due to literacy, geography, fragility of materials, status, etc.
As one of my favourite early modern historians wrote,,
The path from cogitation to publication has never been as smooth as it is nowadays, technically speaking at least. A scholar reads documents and articles on screen, takes notes in Zotero [or Evernote or an AI note taker!], writes in Scrivener, and finally sends a file to a journal or publishing house. Most of her friends and colleagues will read the finished product not on paper but on screen.
The concept of reading and writing as back-breakingly laborious work is familiar to anyone who has untaken academic studies - even in recent times when everything is supposedly freely available on Google. Happily librarians, archivists, and other keepers of knowledge, have always used methods appropriate to their situation to ensure information is stored and accessible.
The debut of the modern day printing press and the post-Industrial Revolution means that technological innovation rapidly accelerated over a comparatively short period of time. We were suddenly able to produce and distribute information quickly and cheaply. We are now at an astonishing stage of information creation, dissemination and storage, with library and information professionals taking the lead on managing digital and online resources.
But what next? What is the role of AI in content curation?
We have gone way beyond any human capacity for manually collating, scanning, summarising and disseminating information. All types of professionals are happy to embrace the rise in digital assistance in our day to day work - we appreciate that we need help. We also need to understand how to incorporate the human factor with the artificial intelligence to impress our clients.
When I asked how open access AI/ChatGPT could assist in the legal information world, it gave me these options;
Reference Services and chatbots: ChatGPT can be used to provide reference services to library users. Users can ask questions related to various topics, and ChatGPT can provide quick and accurate answers based on its knowledge and language processing capabilities. Chatbots can help answer frequently asked questions, provide information about library services and resources, and direct users to appropriate resources based on their queries.
Collection Development and Personalised Recommendations: ChatGPT can assist in collection development by analysing user search queries and providing suggestions for resources that may be of interest. It can provide personalised recommendations for library users based on their search history, reading habits, and preferences. This can help users discover new resources and materials that are tailored to their interests and needs.
Metadata Enhancement: ChatGPT can be used to enhance metadata for knowhow and information resources, such as books and articles, by analyzing their content and suggesting additional subject terms and keywords. This can improve the discoverability and relevance of resources for all types of information consumers.
Further reading has suggested that AI software can assist with content curation in several ways. For instance, identifying trends and hot topics, monitoring social media feeds, and creating content in multiple languages. Greg Lambert has done some interesting initial investigations. You can check out Greg's method of setting up an automated feed of useful information. In January 2023, he concluded that,
But, while I don’t think that ChatGPT is ready for anything that you would need to stake your reputation on, I do think that there are some real advantages available to law librarians and other legal professionals currently. Summarizing text is one of those useful tasks that I thought of.
We are merely at the beginning of the process and if legal information and BD professionals are imaginative enough, we can help our clients with the tech which will find what they need. However, one thing is certain, the tech industry will definitely identify and provide solutions and law firms can't stand still from a tech point of view. Even since Jan 2023, I feel that ChatGPT and related apps have undergone a great deal of refinement.
A current awareness case study
Anh Tran, Knowledge and Evidence Specialist at UK Health Security Agency, talks about the importance of focussing on adding value. Before she started using Vable, Anh managed a short current awareness bulletin where she restricted content to just 20 items of information. Back then, adding hundreds of sources simply wasn’t a possibility, it was too time consuming.
With Vable, Anh is now able to produce and maintain half a dozen alerts with ease, managing a much greater volume of sources and information without the added time pressure as Vable filters through the noise for her. As she explains, “it helps manage the process and manage the administration”. She is now able to focus her expertise on content curation and the value added, spending the time she saves selecting the most relevant content for her end-users, whose needs she knows so well.
Using content curation to differentiate your organisation from the competition
It is the librarian or information team whose actions mean that content actually has an impact upon the reader. This quest for impactful content brings with it further new developments - librarians curate actionable content, encouraging the reader to share relevant news stories with clients. Business development teams can take this further so build relationships and spot potential opportunities.
At a time where the right knowledge at the right time is often one of the few differentiators between competitors, the personal touch of curation has never been so relevant as it is today. All organisations have access to the same sources and read the same articles, it is the trusted advisor who the extra commentary and understands why that insight is relevant.