Searching for the Moon

Shannon Clark's rambles and conversations on food, geeks, San Francisco and occasionally economics

Curate for me – an idea for a simple web service

Posted by shannonclark on February 19, 2010

As always, I am posting this business idea publicly and “as-is”. Feel free to build it. If you do and want to give me credit that would be greatly appreciated – if you want me to be involved I would likely be willing to be and am always happy to talk further. But I’m not going to sue you if you run with this idea and build something that makes the web better.

Yesterday my friend Marshall Kirkpatrick tweeted about how few pages views a post on Read WRite Web about Google Maps in Africa had gotten. This post in turn sparked a discussion this morning on Google Buzz.

In that discussion I suggested the following:

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to filter content – tweets, blog posts and more. I don’t want “the most popular” (or the most retweeted etc) – that’s the stuff I’m most likely to have already seen, already heard about. Instead I want some way to see what people who’s opinions and views I care about think is the most important stuff they have created recently (and this also includes companies and brands – if I’ve chosen to pay direct attention to them – for example following Ford & Scott Monty on Twitter).

So that is my idea.

Create a very simple web site & service which would build two very simple sets of services.

Service 1 – Very simple tools for people to curate their own content & republish it into a consolidated feed

Service 2 – Very simple tools for people to link up who they follow (across many other services) to these new, curated feeds.

One key to this service would be that it has some real constraints built into it – restrictions that help force people into making real curatorial decisions about what amongst a bunch of content they have created it worthy of making this “must-see” list. I don’t know what the right constraints are – but I’d guess they are something like limiting people to less than 5 items a day (perhaps fewer).

Another key would be to make the process of using this service simple yet not too simple. Again the idea here isn’t to be an automated, full feed of everything you generate but to represent real thought & effort, real decisions about what is truly most important, most worth people seeing & noting even if it isn’t what is “popular” (or most retweeted, linked to by others etc).

Other constraints such as expiration of content might be helpful and important in keeping this service limited to just the most important stuff, just the really useful & interesting items (though I’d also keep this history of what you thought was important at various points in time as I think that too would be really useful and interesting to study).

To launch this it could probably be a web service with linked Oauth (Twitter OAuth, Facebook Connect, perhaps Google’s stuff as well). Ideally the interface would make it really easy for someone to login, see their content from many services and filter upon that content to just the content they most want to highlight to others.

The site/service would grow organically as people then promoted their new, filtered feeds/page out to their current followers across many services (and on their blogs etc). These feeds of “the best, must-see stuff” would make very natural widgets to be embedded across the web in many ways (on people’s blogs & personal websites, in their profiles in Facebook or LinkedIn etc).

I do not know if this service would have a real business model (I have some ideas but I’m not certain). Nor am I sure if it would meet a large demand or need – but I know that I, for one, would really like to see what a bunch of people who I care about, who I deeply respect and am very interested in, would think is the most important stuff at the moment. It might not be what I would think is the most important – but that is the point.

I want to learn what I have been missing, what my friends (and companies I care about) are most passionate about at the moment.

From businesses this might be deals of the day or it might be Haitian relief efforts. From my friends it might be their pending wedding, new job, a great post they wrote or a fantastic deal they found.

It doesn’t have to be web-centric either. My friend Alex Steffen tweeted earlier today about the magazines he bought at the newsstand to read this weekend. That is the stuff that really does interest me (see my post on my Media diet in 2010)

I’m happy if my friends and businesses I choose to follow use this for commercial purposes.

If they start to spam this service I have a simple way to stop that spam, I can choose to unfollow them.

The service should have a “block” or “mute” option unique to the service and could also suggest that you mute/unfollow/unfriend those people on other services where you were already following them (i.e. the services you used to authenticate and link to this new service).

So who wants to help me build this into a real service?

4 Responses to “Curate for me – an idea for a simple web service”

  1. Shannon, I think you’ve got your finger on something that might really take off and be very useful, if you can reduce it down to the essence, like Twitter.

    I’m pursuing my own business idea “12 Questions” http://www.12questions.org as a way for people to show that they are “for real” and thus can work together to create a culture.

    The “12 Questions” are the memes for a culture of independent thinkers, they’ve come up as I’ve engaged independent thinkers, and they help establish their credibility.

    We offer free service for people like you who answer the 12 questions – we’ll create artwork with you to illustrate your answers, as you like.

    We offer paid service if you’d like us to then engage, include, interview, present other people (partners, workers, colleagues) who might not take the initiative themselves.

    What do you think? Might you participate? Who might I interest in the business world?

  2. P.S. I think your wish “Instead I want some way to see what people who’s opinions and views I care about think is the most important stuff they have created recently” speaks to the very first question #1. “What do I care about?” and helps people answer that question by listing the people they follow.

    • Actually you slightly misinterpret my interest.

      I don’t actually care about who folks I am paying attention to are following or even what they find most interesting among that content (though this is of interest to me in other contexts). Rather I am asking for a way to people, such as yourself, to curate YOUR OWN content and just share with me the highlights. The single tweet I can’t miss, the blog post (or wiki edit or email) I really have to read. But even more than the content (in whatever form) I’m interested in the summary – in the “why is that small set of things the most important things for you” (where “you” can and indeed does include companies & brands as well as individuals).

      i.e. I want each person or company to be able to pull out and highlight what is currently most important to them – from amongst their own content (which could after all be a short note w/a link to another party).

      Then I want a service that will take the list of “who I care about” (folks i follow on Twitter, Facebook connections or some other source) and use that to pull these highlights out for me.

  3. Shannon, thank you for your reply. I wasn’t clear enough but I think I intended as you explained. “helps people answer that question (What do I care about?) by listing the people they follow.” I meant that your list of people who you are following helps me (indirectly) get an inkling of what you care about.

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