1 June 2013

A year of content curation with scoop.it

May 4th, 2012 I decided to collect and share interesting tidbits on networked learning and learning networks and use Scoop.it as my content curation conduit. A year and 379 posts later,  I have noticed that content curation with Scoop.it has taken an important place in my academic life.

As an academic, you want your work to be noticed by your fellow academics and, if at all possible, you want to hear their comments on it. Until not so long ago, speaking at conferences, writing conference papers, writing journal articles and writing book (chapters) were the sole tools with which to achieve that. However, nowadays the social web affords a much more fine-grained tool set. Thus I have explored such tools as Mendeley for sharing papers I find interesting (see my public Mendeley group on networked learning), Slideshare to share presentation, Research Gate and LinkedIn to maintain a public, professional profile; and I have of course engaged in macro (ordinary) blogging. and micro blogging (tweets). Rather than just broadcast my work, which is essentially one-way communication, using the social web has opened the gates for two-way communication. Put differently, it has allowed me to start building a my personal learning network (cf. Rajagopal et al., 201;, Rheinhardt, 2012). Content curation plays key part in this. Let me explain.

I have been using Twitter (username @pbsloep) for quite a while, since June 2008 and I have been blogging since well before then (2002, initially in Dutch only, later on in English in the present blog). Always, I've been using both to enrich my professional identity, as means to let the world know what I am thinking and doing an invite reactions to that. And whenever I wrote a new blogpost, I would send out a tweet about that. However, it always felt as if a piece was missing between macro and micro blogs. In my case, blogs tend to become rather long, certainly if I try to express new ideas but even if I comment on work of others. The reason is that often blogs are try-outs for full-fledged academic articles. Tweets on the other hand are short of necessity. They are ideally suited quickly to test the waters on a particular topic. Retweets are signs of approval, being ignored is at least a sign of not striking a chord with others. What I missed was something in the middle, that allowed me to comment on others, yet have more space than a tweet but not necessarily as much as a full-sized blog post; something which also would allow me to explore topics I grew an interest in without necessarily committing myself to pursuing it more deeply. Came along Scoop.it. which exactly fitted this bill.

I guess in part I am like any Scoop.it curator in that I want to 'scoop' pieces of content - a blog, diagram, picture, video or even just a tweet - and share that with others. The content that gets scooped falls within a particular overarching topic, has some novelty and is striking in some sense. The curator thus functions as an expert content filter. He or she does so, probably as a handy way to keep up to date on a particular topic, but also to maintain an online presence as a (budding) expert on the topic in question (cf Jeff Bullas). But over time I noticed merely collecting and sharing was not satisfactory to me. As a content curator I want to go beyond mere filtering and collecting, I want to explain why something is striking to me, to put it in the context of the Scoop.it topic on networked learning as a whole, and even to take an explicit stance on some issue or other. For academic topics such as mine voicing such an opinion probably adds much value.  Mark Carrigan has written about this more specific question of how Scoop.it can enhance academic practice; he compares Scoop.it with some other content curation tools. After a year of experience, with 379 blog posts and over 11000 visits, I will stick to doing this for some more time, I am sure.