The quest for a software platform to support content curation has been a little hit and miss
I write a lot about social media for external communications, but what about social media for work teams? Turns out there’s a lot of potential for internal communications, but it’s still a patchwork quilt of geekery and confusion.
I’m a huge fan of trying new applications in the cloud, adding in browser extensions, applets and bookmarklets, connecting cloud apps via API keys (secret codes) and automating as much as possible with scripts and procedures. I have come to accept that I am not the norm. Most people get overwhelmed when venturing beyond email and one web-based system.
Keep it simple
The average business user wants to email stuff, and receive email notifications about other stuff. If there’s a big button to click in the process, okay, but if there are too many settings, logins or passwords – forget it. I definitely have to temper my enthusiasm for systems to preserve my clients’ sanity.
One application that I’ve had huge success with (meaning my clients tolerate it well) is project management software Basecamp. It allows teams to share files, discussions, milestones, events, to-do lists and so on. Its new user interface (UI) is dead simple, using a papers-on-desk metaphor so people catch on almost right away. I use Basecamp a lot and really like it, but when they upgraded to the latest version it was hugely disruptive to me. Why? Because they require Internet Explorer version 9 (or other modern browsers). Guess what? Corporations are always two browser versions behind if not more, and corporate users are never allowed to download an alternate browser. That stuff is on IT lockdown. So I had a bunch of clients cry for help because they couldn’t access the system. Argh! Fortunately we found a little workaround plugin that most users can install without IT permission.
Why does Basecamp work well? As I said, the UI is gorgeous but importantly, much of the work can be done in email.
Other apps that work well for me to interact with my various teams, each with its own quirks and wrinkles, include HootSuite for social media management, Freshbooks for invoicing, Kashoo for accounting, Delicious for social bookmarking, Dropbox for file sharing, and Google Apps for calendar and file sharing.
But there’s a use-case (programmer talk for how a human might use the tech) that has me temporarily stumped: team collaboration on content curation.
Content curation is how content marketing (i.e. social media) experts refer to the act of gathering relevant content from the web, vetting that content, and sharing the best of it on social networks. It is simultaneously an act of harvesting, separating the wheat from the chaff, syndicating and conversing. The term curation has been borrowed from the museum world on purpose – the act of sifting through large volumes of stuff to find the few pieces worthy of public display is very close to what content marketers now do to attract attention.
Take an industry association for example, or a not-for-profit. Ideally, you’d have a team of staff, volunteers and freelancers all scouring the web for valuable content (blog posts, journal articles, white papers, videos, slide shows, etc.), dumping that content into some kind of digital holding tank, then vetting the content by commenting or rating it, ultimately trashing the off-brand stuff and releasing the gold nuggets through a well-defined approval process.
My quest for a software platform to support such a workflow has been a little hit and miss.
Basecamp isn’t built for this, lacking full link sharing and workflow or vetting tools. My instincts led me to investigate little known features of social bookmarking sites. Delicious has stacks (like photo albums of links) and you could make tags work as a primitive sorting system, but that seemed inadequate. Plus it’s too easy to mistakenly let your links and comments go public when you meant them to be private, so that made me cool on Delicious.
Diigo, a Delicious alternative, looked promising with its easy to use toolbar, public/private settings and sticky note comments, but a quick web search shows many Diigo users complaining about private bookmarks being visible in search. Back to the drawing board.
Cost too high
A quick Google search for “content curation tools” unearths several lists but, alas, many of the tools listed have gone the way of the dodo or are too expensive for my taste.
The one service that really stands out is Curata. Their site (curata.com) has excellent content curation info and a funny video on “feeding the content beast”. Sadly Curata pricing starts at $1,000/month, a price-point my clients are just not ready to pay for this function.
Thanks to the cloud I’ve had access to numerous team applications that would have been available only to very large organizations. Sometimes they work well together and integrate smoothly, sometimes not.
Doug Lacombe is a social media speaker and strategist with social media agency communicatto. Find him on Twitter at @dblacombe.