Aggregation, Curation, and Commentary

Here’s a quick post based on an email and reply from last night about the differences between aggregation, curation, and commentary (from my viewpoint).

An aggregation site receives stories or news releases to post, and publishes them based on an intentionally loose set of criteria to maximize the number of posts. Ideally – and it’s only an ideal – the aggregation site mirrors the publications from which it collects. (Even aggregation requires criteria for publishing, but those criteria are meant to be as permissive as possible to allow in as much as possible.)

A curated site may start with aggregation, but it has a more narrow set of criteria for selection, so fewer items are posted online. The curator looks over what he or she finds, and selects only a few items.

Although both methods rely on selection (of an algorithm for aggregation or personally-applied criteria for curation), there’s a far greater level of personal selection for each post in a curated site. Aggregation sites bear a responsibility, but a reduced responsibility, as against curated sites.

An aggregation site takes what it gets, mostly – a curated site selects and sometimes refashions or augments what it receives.

A change from aggregation to curation necessarily involves a greater degree of agency and responsibility.

A site of commentary, like FREE WHITEWATER, is a curated site. Indeed, it’s all curation. Each and every one of the posts published here is deliberately selected and crafted. Someone may like or dislike a post on Trump, or cats, or boosterism, but those choices – including all the words therein – are deliberate in both general and specific ways.  (This blog has one author, with one voice, and every choice here is from an emissary of one, so to speak.)

A traditional newspaper, by the way, is curated – which stories are editorially chosen, which words are editorially approved, how stories are editorially placed on the page – it’s all curation. A good paper is curated well; a weak paper is curated poorly.

These are imperfect distinctions, but they work well enough, I think, for ordinary use.

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