Book Review: Curation Nation by Steven Rosenbaum

For today’s blog, I’d like to review a key book in the development of the content curation movement. In 2011, Steven Rosenbaum wrote Curation Nation: How to Win in a World Where Consumers are Creators. While his intended audience is for-profit internet entrepreneurs, the book offers a good grounding in the breadth of the content curation arena. Arianna Huffington, co-founder and chief editor for the Huffington Post calls Rosenbaum an “evangelist for the transformational power of curation done right — acknowledging the power of creation while respecting the rules of the road. Curation Nation combines a true believer’s passion with a clear-eyed practicality, and the result is an indispensable guide to the brave new media world.”

Rosenbaum does not intend the book to be a “how to” manual for content curation. You won’t find step-by-step guides to creating your Scoop.It account, or a comparison of the key features of various content curation tools. Instead, he offers up a valuable grounding of the importance of curation for publishers, brand marketers – virtually any entrepreneur hoping to launch a successful web-based venture.

Rosenbaum begins by describing what curation is. Curation, he asserts, was developed because of “our need to be able to find information in coherent, reasonably contextual groupings.” (p5) The Online Etymology Dictionary describes the roots of the term “curation” as “a taking care, attention, management” Indeed, when one thinks of a museum curator, for example, the image of an individual who is taking special care of his collection immediately comes to mind. Likewise, content curator takes on the responsibility for making sense of the content he captures online, providing a thoughtful collection for others.

Rosenbaum tells a number of stories throughout his book and introduces a number of interesting individuals. One of the best definitions for this new job of a content curator that he shares is from the 2009 Manifesto/Job Description of Content Curator by Rohit Bhargava (p. 14) who states: “The future of the social web will be driven by these Content Curators, who take it upon themselves to collect and share the best content online for others to consume and take on the role of citizen editors, publishing highly valuable compilations of content created by others.”

For several early chapters, Rosenbaum illustrates the history of curation by discussing various types of curation, from the Dewey Decimal system, to Reader’s Digest to Huffington Post to Shawn Collins who runs one of the advertising industry’s biggest networking conferences. This makes for entertaining reading and provides a broader view of content curation, taking us past the details of how we can best use content curation tools to curate blog entries from around the web, and instead giving us a chance to step by and consider the big picture of information and how it is created and spread in the world.

Rosenbaum believes that in order to successfully implement content curation in a business, there are three major areas of focus: the publishing end, advertising (or affiliate marketing) and syndication, or spreading your message in such a way that it draws new consumers to your site. Blogging remains the core of content curation. Rosenbaum explains: “Blogging and curation are like parts of a set of Russian nesting dolls, with individual bloggers increasingly becoming link gatherers and curators.”(p161) So, if all these individual bloggers on one side and the affiliate marketers and businesses on the other are all creating and curating content, how are we going to keep the web from being just one giant, mixed-up, unruly mess of content like the old days of the Wild West? That, Rosenbaum says, is where content strategy comes in! Created by Kristina Halvorson in her book Content Strategy, we need to plan for not only the creation and curation of content, but also to step back and define why this content is valuable to publish in the first place, where it would be most effective, and how we will take care of it over the long haul.

So what is my opinion of the book Curation Nation? I found it an interesting read with many anecdotes and factoids about well-known businesses such as Huffington Post and Pepsi-Cola and their DEWmocracy campaign to name only a few. It was a good book for the discussion of the theory behind content curation, its effect on business and the development of the web today. It did tend to ramble a bit, and there were some claims the author made that I felt were totally off base. “Search is dead. It’s over. Done. Gone” (p252) His grand example “proving” this was a Google Image Search of his own name which brought back a number of different people and.. a dog? Isn’t he just proving that either the searcher is not expert enough with his searching capability or the search engine is not robust enough? At least, that is the answer that cries out from the librarian in me. But I am only one person. Read Curation Nation for yourself and make your own opinion. At the very least it will encourage you to start a conversation with someone about it.  You can also listen to the TED talk that Rosenbaum did at TExGrandDRapids.

Links Roundup #49: Evernote, Mindmapping and Summer Reading Redux

saddle and ropeThe next evolution for Evernote apps:

Evernote for iOS, version 10.0 was released on Sept 16th. The iOS app will release in the next few weeks.  Releases for Windows, Mac and Android platforms will follow.  New features include an improved editor, enhanced formatting tools, better search, and a more consistent cross-platform experience.

The new version looks completely new with a much cleaner, updated look. The document scanner has an update, and there are easier ways to add images and audio recordings which is a much appreciated improvement. There is a new formatting toolbar and an updated searching feature.  If you haven’t tried Evernote before, you might want to consider a second visit.

Organizing Mind Maps

If you decided to give Evernote a second chance, then here’s a new way to use your new tool to help you organize your Mind Maps.  Chuck Frey, of the MindMapping Software Blog has a new article describing A Simple System to Keep Track of All of Your Mind Maps.

Catching Up on Some of My Summer Reading:

The Top Tools for Learning list compiled each year by Jane Hart from the results of the Annual Learning Tools Survey is in its 14th year  The latest results were released in September.

Gradhacker had several interesting articles this summer.  In June, Kate Litterer wrote 5 Productivity Practices That Helped Me Finish My Dissertation.  I really enjoyed her Goldilocks Approach to Productivity.

Another Gradhacker article from April talked about Joining a Reading Group.  I found this particularly interesting because some of my collegues had started a faculty journal club in the library.  I think the author had some good insights.  I hope more graduate students follow his lead.  It could lead to some fascinating conversations.

Book Review: Finding Your Element by Sir Ken Robinson

book cover of FInding Your ElementWe’ve heard about being “in the Zone” or more recently, experiencing “flow.” Sir Ken Robinson, Ph.D, introduces us to “The Element.”  The Element, like experiencing Flow, or The Zone, is that magical place where your intrinsic talent is paired with the explosive power of following your passion.  This is where we experience the highest levels of our success and where we feel the most inspired.

I had the treat of listening to the audio version of this book, which was read by the author. Besides enjoying his distinctive English accent, I also was able to experience his delightful wry humor all the more because he was delivering it himself.  If you’d like to get a peak into both his skilled delivery and message, check out one of the TED videos that he has recorded.

The most inspiring part of the book to me was the fascinating mix of stories that Robinson told of how many familiar personalities found their Element.  He recounted stories of Paul McCartney, Arianna Huffington (of Huffington Post fame), Richard Feynman, Mike Fleetwood (of Fleetwood Mac), gymnast Bart Conner and Vidal Sassoon to name only a few.  It is one thing to discuss a theory and quite another to see how many diverse ways individuals discover their Element.  And don’t worry, Robinson assures, if you haven’t found your Element yet — it can happen at any age, and you might even discover more than one passion too!

I loved seeing how creativity and imagination fueled great discoveries and advancement in so many varied fields from physics to math to journalism to music and art.  The author makes an impassioned discourse on how modern school systems are moving in totally the wrong direction with their focus on standardized test scores and No Child Left Behind.  These movements resulted in the removal of arts programs and many of the more creative and organic ways of learning through discovery in order to make time for extra teaching targeted specifically on teaching the material on standardized tests so as to boost test scores.

Robinson also does a good job of explaining the importance of finding like-minded individuals to support and stretch you.  They don’t necessarily have to share your particular passion, though that is ideal.  Individuals in complementary fields can often offer a broadening of the applications of your Element.  Robinson calls this important group of people your Tribe.  I really liked this discussion because I could relate to my personal experiences of having Tribes in my life.  Not only is it more fun to talk to others who share your passion, your tribe offers support and inspiration.  It was, in part, looking for a PKM librarian ‘tribe’ that led us to creating this blog in the first place, so that concept is near and dear to my heart.

Robinson closes, as do I, with a wonderful quote from the great Michaelangelo:

“The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.”


What IS Personal Knowledge Management Anyway?


I was recently asked why I wrote this blog, and how I would define Personal Knowledge Management.  As we approach yet another academic year, I thought now might  be an appropriate time to readdress this topic.  This seems like it should be an easy question, especially for an author of a blog about the topic.

The problem is, PKM is a slippery character, meaning different things to different people and used in totally different contexts.  One explanation that is simplistic, but that I particularly like, I first heard on an online video with Harold Jarche in October 2010.

In this video, he describes PKM as a process.  It is the way in which we make sense of the noise around us.  We process all that information in various ways, weeding out helpful from disposable.  We might write about it, talk to other people about it or simply think about it.  From that synthesis process, we begin to create our own ideas about the information we received.

L. Efimova in the 2006 article “Understanding Personal knowledge management: a weblog case”  defines PKM as “an approach that complements organizational KM by focusing on ways to support productivity of an individual knowledge worker.”  This places PKM firmly into the professional world without considering the after-work aspect of a person’s private life and the knowledge management needed there as well.  I feel like this is short changing the true personal complexity of the issue.

Patti Anklam from “the app gap”  described PKM in 2009 as “the tools that we use and strategies we employ that make it easier for us to identify, locate, and process knowledge.”

In each of these definitions, the emphasis is on the synthesis and processing of information into knowledge.  This synthesis and evaluation process is the facet of the PKM definition that I think separates it from another term that is often used interchangeably with it: Personal Information Management (PIM).

Priti Jan (“Personal Knowledge management: the foundation of organizational knowledge management” in SA JNL Libs & Info Sci 2011, 77(1) )  identifies several key characteristics common to PKM:

  1. The scope is limited to personal knowledge.
  2. It encompasses working, private and social knowledge of the individual.
  3. The goal is to make the knowledge easy to access and use
  4. The process never ends… it is dynamic.

So PKM is our attempt to make sense of our own corner of the world.  Isn’t this one of the core desires of most librarians who enter the field?  We all seem to have a desire to create some sort of order of all the information that our libraries collect so the user can access and use it.  Perhaps, instead of being something brand new, PKM is simply another library to order, albeit a library many times bigger than any other.  Therefore, who should be better equipped to tackle this 21st century problem than librarians?

Twitter for Researchers

I was recently revising my Library Research Guide on Productivity Tools for Graduate Students and found myself bounding down the Twitter for Researchers’ rabbit hole once again, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to share some of my latest findings with you as well as remind you of some of my favorites.

Nature offered a nice article several years back which is still relevant for budding scientists today: Social Media as a Scientist. Nature Methods also  looked at how scientists were using Twitter this past month with their informal survey of why being active on Twitter offers measurable benefits in Tweet, Tweet.

An oldie but goody is the 2011 article Using Twitter in University Research, Teaching and
Impact activities: A guide for academics and researchers where the authors take users from creating a twitter id through hashtags and to use Twitter in research.  A more recent book chapter on Using Twitter as a Data Source is from The Ethics of Online Research. Advances in Research Ethics and Integrity (2). (Emerald, 2017, ISBN 978-1-78714-486-6)

In these days of social distancing, many are faced with converting their university lab/office to the realm of online research, but Katy Hosbein and Joi Walker were far ahead of the curve since Katy has been doing remote postdoc work for Joi since July 2019.  Read their story in  It’s a Competitive Advantage:  Scientists tout benefits of hiring remote postdocs in May 2020 Science Magazine. Katy uses Twitter to keep connected with other researchers. offers this list of 101 Twitter Accounts Every #PhD Should Follow. It is a list worth evaluating for some real gems.  I did see The Thesis Whisperer, The Research Whisperer, and PhD2Published, so there are some must follow handles in there for PhD students.

Visualizing Twitter Communities

Ever wished you could visually explore for twitter connections on topics of interest?  Enter Bluenod. Bluenod lets you see Twitter community members and their connections, key hashtags and who are the key influencers based on your topic of interest. Its not free, but a free trial is available. For 10 other Awesome Twitter Analytics and Visualization Tools,  check out the list at  While you are there, wander over to the Ultimate List of Twitter Tools; it is pretty cool.

Want to dive down your own rabbit hole?  Try the Developer site for Twitter and start exploring their resources for Academic Researchers.

What is your favorite Twitter tool?  How do you best use Twitter for your academic pursuits?

Anxieties on Multiple Fronts…

Confused by decisions

As the world continues to reopen and take cautious (or hasty) steps toward a new normal, we are surrounded on all sides by competing voices, expectations, advisories and theories.

Do you see yourself in any of these descriptions listed by Richard Saul Wurman in his book,  “Information Anxiety 2”?

  • “I find myself frequently bemoaning the fact that I just can’t seem to keep up with everything going on.
  • I feel guilty whenever I think about all the reading that is piling up in my inbox, my briefcase, my ereader and desk.
  • Everyone else knows all about the topics that I don’t.
  • I have a fear of “missing” critical information when I’m searching.
  • I’m so busy finding all the information sources, I don’t have time to read and digest what I’ve found.
  • I have difficulty efficiently sorting through all the “noise” of information I receive to identify the nuggets of information I am seeking.”

If any of these sentiments sound familiar, you may be joining the growing crowd of individuals who are suffering anew from “information anxiety”(IA) in this brave new world of ours.  Information anxiety is the cost we experience when information overload occurs.  Wurman defines IA as “the ever-widening gap between what we understand and what we think we should understand. It is the black hole between data and knowledge, and what happens when information doesn’t tell us what we want or need to know.” 

Baldwin and Robertson (“The Dark Side of Information: Overload, Anxiety and Other Paradoxes and Pathologies”, Journal of Information Science 35(2) 2009, pp. 185) says IA is more than just a reaction to the volumes of information that we are faced with on a daily basis. Also adding to our stress is the difficulty experienced when trying to locate information when needed  as well as the inability to use and understand the information that is already available. Sometimes, they assert, the information may be incomplete, but just as often the problem may be that the information obtained is disorganized and gathered in a piecemeal fashion from a number of different resources.

Carol Tenopir (“Online Information Anxiety”, Library Journal  115(13) 1990, p 62) relates the effect of IA to the challenges faced by librarians, stating, “With access to hundreds of bibliographic, directory, full-text, numeric databases online, the fundamental problem of today isn’t finding information, it is filtering and helping users make sense of all we find.”

So what does this mean to us as librarians? Even as some voices are declaring the brick and mortar library (and its librarians) superfluous in this age where individuals can consult the Web for all their information needs, we also see a refocused attention on the issues of information overload and information anxiety (along with every other type of anxiety) in business, academia and the general population as we all struggle to cope with the deluge of conflicting information this pandemic has created.  And people are stepping up to address the issues.  They call themselves information experts, business consultants, social media gurus and productivity coaches just to name a few titles. The underlying concepts they are applying, however, are very familiar to librarians. They are simply applying and adjusting them to address the information environment of today: a world connected by information streaming from many different media forms at a faster pace than ever before.

We need to repackage our very capable skill sets and redefine what this new world imagines a librarian and a physical library to be.  Our users need us as never before.  We need to come together, all our creativity and skills in hand to meet the new challenges that are now before us.  We are supremely equipped, socially distancing appropriate, to join our virtual hands and meet the needs of our users with the united knowledge and expertise of our profession as never before.