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Are You a Curator or a Packrat?

Curation

At first glance, the contrast between these two handles couldn’t be sharper.

A curator is a specialist who oversees a cultural institution’s collections. (S)he makes decisions about what objects to collect, oversees their care, and conducts research to share with the public through exhibitions and publications.

Conversely, a packrat is a disparaging term for an undisciplined hoarder. (S)he’s named after a bushy-tailed rodent that uses its well-developed cheek pouches to store food and miscellaneous objects.

Seemingly disparate terms, yet in the unwieldy world of digital content, there’s a fine line separating the two.

Most of us, of course, would much prefer to don a curator’s hat. We aspire to be that cultured – somewhat snooty – expert who has a skill for selecting and sharing content that’s ideally suited to whatever audience we seek to reach.

But who or what determines what’s OK to share? How much is too much? Is there a specific formula or general rule of thumb?

The frustrating truth is: it depends. One person’s trusted curator is another person’s annoying packrat.

Each morning, as I scour news sites and blogs for content that I think may be of interest to my Twitter community, I wonder which moniker I most embody.

Some mornings, it’s slim pickings. Others, it’s a bountiful harvest and I find myself fighting trigger-finger tendencies.

Regardless, it’s really hard to gauge whether I’m viewed as more of a curator or a packrat. I suspect the answer depends on whom you ask.

In many ways, trying to organize and serve up digital content is much more challenging and murky than it is for any cultural institution. Holdings don’t fit nicely within a discrete, climate-controlled environment. They never will. 

Instead, the goal is to cast a focused net within the seemingly endless ocean of internet content (estimated to reach 20 billion items by 2020).

The role of digital curator is in its infancy. It’s messy. Imprecise. And often like chasing the wind. 

But it’s an increasingly valuable — and valued — function.

So if you’re wondering whether you’re more of a curator or a packrat, you’re probably a bit of both. 

Welcome to the family.

Packrat

See Spot run. Help Spot help.

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See Spot run. Run Spot run.

These simple statements helped teach several generations of American children to read, as part of the reader series that featured the legendary Dick and Jane.

Two sentences. Six words. Six syllables. Twenty letters.

Contrast that clarity with the opening two sentences of this representative press release:

“Mavenir Systems, the leading innovator of mobile infrastructure solutions for LTE operators, today announced the VoLTE Edition of its mOne™ Convergence Platform. Available now, the Mavenir mOne Convergence Platform – VoLTE Edition provides operators with three options for quickly and cost-effectively deploying voice and messaging services over LTE.”

Huh?

I’d say we’ve lost our way, trading simplicity and clarity for cumbersome prose laden with jargon, hyperbole and empty-calorie phrases.

This is progress?

As our world becomes increasingly polluted with bulky, incomprehensible writing, there’s a simple way to reverse the trend and stand out from the fray.

By returning to Spot-like simplicity.

That’s one of the reasons I am such a fan of Twitter. It imposes discipline. Each thought is limited to a tidy 140 characters.

But I’m dismayed by the recent introduction of services like TwitLonger, which touts its service as “a way to let you post to Twitter when 140 characters just isn’t enough.”

Rather than forcing you to edit and synthesize your ideas into a shorter, more cohesive thought, it just facilitates your chronic lack of discipline.

In the words of Mark Twain and/or Blaise Pascal, “I would have written a shorter letter but didn’t have time.”

I’m reminded of the majority of my classroom teachers, whose essay assignments carried with them a required minimum number of words (or more commonly, pages). At the time, it seemed like a perfectly acceptable guideline for defining the assignment and establishing a consistent expectation for students.

Now, I think it’s a lazy technique that teaches students to value volume over substance.

Who among us hasn’t done some creative stretching to achieve page minimums – only to be rewarded with an exceptional grade? Not only did we learn that filling space is valued more than economy of thought, but also that length is one of the most significant arbiters of writing success.

It isn’t.

I’ve discovered that limits are much more effective than quotas in forging writers. I have become a much stronger writer and editor from having to shave down an article to fit a precariously tight word count. Painful as the process may be, the resulting piece is immeasurably stronger and more readable.

Do you think Hemingway would use TwitLonger?

Spot thinks not.

Seespotrun3

 

Very Grateful for a Very (Stylish + Comfy) Task Chair

Sitting has never been so sweet since I received my Very Task Chair from the very generous folks at Haworth.

Apparently, I was randomly selected from Haworth’s thousands of Twitter followers to win this stylish and ergonomically advanced new product.

Lucky for them, I just happened to be in dire need of a brand-new chair at my home office.

Special thanks to Haworth PR dynamo Julie Smith for graciously helping me to choose my ideal companion from among numerous fabrics, colors and finishes.

Bet you’re very jealous…

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My new chair, just aching to come in from the cold.

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The former top dog waits in the wings — and strategizes its next move.

Giving Thanks for a Bountiful Harvest

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About 20 years ago, my dad started a Plotnick family tradition. Prior to launching into our annual Thanksgiving feast, we would go around the table and each share at least one thing we were thankful for.

A corny exercise to be sure, yet this ritual developed into a cherished family tradition. Responses typically ranged from the trite (“my health”) to the heartfelt (“being blessed with great friends”) to the downright shallow (“having four TVs.”)

In the spirit of said tradition, I’m pleased to reveal that I’m thankful for Twitter and the bountiful virtual harvest of people it has brought my way, including (but not limited to):

Special friends from @HOKNetwork: 
@anicajeanne@knd7@ArchiDame@sustainableguy@jeffsetter@jvandezande
@jodephinea@johncantrell and another couple phantom tweeters.

A real Motley Crew:
@NextMoon@GinaRMiller@AllisonBroSco and honorary crewmate @bsco12. 

Elite tweeters from SMPS D.C:
@reillybri@mike_kohn, @markitectureDC and @ErinOrr (a fellow AEC turncoat).

Divine communicators from IABC St. Louis:
@dorasmith@Mgwilson and @loiterstein

A band of merry #SoMegos:
@galvinium@HollyBolton@scottdbutcher and @a_kilbourne.

A world-class: 
author (@judywriter), blogger (@GemmaWent),
consultant (@newvoodou), photographer (@BradFeinknopf), 
ringleader(@SuButcher), CMO (@kirstensibilia), 
futurist (@Urbanverse), entrepreneur (@KellyFerrara) 
and family man (@Matt_Hawk). 

With gratitude…

MIKE

Harvest

 

Get Thousands of New Followers…

…Be Worthy of Following.

Twitter

Pardon the glib counsel, but I’ve grown weary of the get-rich-quick-without-lifting-a-finger schemes being peddled to greedy little tweeters.

I’ll admit to being intrigued by these “services” – particularly during my primitive tweetin’ days, when I naively bought into the hype about the importance of building up my raw numbers. I assumed more followers must mean more power and influence.

Silly, silly boy.

The truth is, thousands of random, disengaged “followers” are virtually worthless for anything other than puffing up one’s sense of self-importance.

So, tempting as they may be, I will forego these promises of a gazillion instant Twitter followers and opt to get mine the good old-fashioned way. By earning them.