Curate your editorial world!

Content curation update! has just written the most detailed account I’ve seen of content curation + its uses. Check it out at the Altimeter Research Group site. For me, the most interesting part of this research is that content curators seem to do their curation because they know they need to know more – not because they’re experts! See, the best content people stay open-minded and admit they want to learn more…

Regular readers will know that I enthusiastically seek out new writing about editing. I want to read – either online or in print – anything that will help me to become a better, more thoughtful, more effective editor.

I say new but, actually, I’m constantly revisiting the resources that I know already. It’s so tempting to stick with the authorities you use daily, and not explore further. Those dog-eared editions of the Australian Style Manual, the Oxford Style Manual, or the Chicago Manual of Style will definitely see you right on anything and everything that needs a strict house rule applied to it.

But once you know your standard resources inside out, where do you go for information that will keep you current?

I’m talking about finding active and engaging content about editing – exciting writing that will get you thinking analytically and creatively about what you’re doing when you change other people’s content.

One approach is to start curating your editorial resource list online. Lots of people are doing it – why not give it a try?

What is online curating?

We all know how to bookmark websites, right? You know how it goes: visit an interesting page, hit ‘bookmark this page’, and never… visit… the… page… again.

Ignoring your endlessly growing list of bookmarks is way too easy to do, and that list that looked useful at the time represents a lot of unexplored adventures in your editing life.

What’s the answer? Curating. Curating online is easy and, with the right tools, kind of fun. Check out the lively introduction to curation – and continuing coverage on this topic – at the Tacit Thinker blog.

When you curate resources, you’re doing something more when you curate materials from the internet. You’re selecting, organising, and making meaningful arrangements of online material.

Curate to your own beat!

The aim of a curating tool is to run searches, collate, and present information in a way that is meaningful to you. Nobody else – not the style guide authors, not your editorial supervisor, not your clients, and not your mother (that is, if your mother corrects greengrocers’ apostrophes while shopping, like mine does).

With so much information available online, you are the only person who can navigate and interpret the editorial advice that is useful to you.

Why you’re perfectly placed to curate your editing world

You know what your niche is: for example, I’m passionate about educational editing and publishing. So, at this point, I don’t need resources to support editing of creative writing, YA, or self-publishing. So I can look only for what I’m working on right now, because that works for me, or I can look at those other areas knowing that I’m really digging into ‘interesting’ not ‘core’ materials. There’s an excellent piece at Get It Write that focuses on the value that the individual curator can add to any set of online resources by, among other things, knowing a market better than anyone else. 

You know what kinds of writing/presentation you like: inevitably, we all do. You may love blogs and the twittersphere, or you may want to stick with only authoritative or scholarly editing references, such as online style manuals and dictionaries. You could look for tips and lists or go deep into an area you work in.

You know what an expert looks like: because you are one! Curating means you can choose the sites you think are useful, reliable, and up to date. If you think someone is talking nonsense, feel free to ignore them. If you love what someone is writing, then include them in your curation. Then, visit their site regularly, let them know what’s useful, and engage in the conversation – all springing off your curated resource list.

You know what your strategy is: when you start an editing project, you don’t just pitch in and fix everything at once, because that would be an unfocused and inefficient use of your time and skills. You develop an editing strategy. In the same way, when you’re curating, don’t try to find everything on every topic at once. That’s information overload. Know that curating can be an ongoing project, and you can build up slowly if that’s what you have time for.

Check out some online curatorial tools

If you like the sound of all this, I strongly suggest you take a look at the tools that are out there to find one that works for what you want to do when curating. There’s a helpful and quite recent review of the most popular curating tools at the Digital Inspiration blog.

The names you’ll come across include Storify, Pearltrees, StumbleUpon, Del.i.cious,, Tumblr, and many, many others. There are dozens of curating services, for free, and in a quiet moment it’s fun to try a few and see which model works best for you. It will depend on what kind of organising principles grab you, since some services work in a conventional text-editor format and others offer a spatial structure.

Having dug around for a while and thought about which site is right for me, I’ve been trying out Storify. It’s pretty easy so far. I simply create your list of resources and write my comments inside a text-editor, drag-and-drop environment. From there, I can publish if I want to (which I haven’t done yet), or use it for checking during editing or for background reading (which I certainly have!).

I like it because its format feels familiar – its interface is set up just like a regular text editor – and I can edit my writing/commentary in the same place as I’ve just dropped my collated links. Frankly I’m not a strongly visual person so I prefer the approach to something funkier, like Pearltrees. My next step will be to use the search tools to curate materials for a blog post here, so I’ll let you know how I find that more task-specific work.

Growing and learning from your collections

I’d love to know if you give this a go and if you like it – I hope you will. Mine is a baby list right now but already I’m getting use out of it, both in writing PublishEd Adelaide and in my day job.

What to do next? I recommend that you revisit your list once you’ve created it. Think of it like a bookshelf gathering dust: the difference is, though, online resources change while you’re not looking. You’ll need to refresh and add to your collection to keep it current.

I also try to learn from my curating activity. What have I learned in the short time that I’ve been curating my editing resources?

I like professional societies. A lot. Society of Editors (SA), Society of Editors (other states), the Institute of Professional Editors, and associations in other countries too. This isn’t too surprising, since I’m passionate about and write this blog about professional development in editing. Perhaps it speaks to a desire to keep in touch with ‘authoritative’ perspectives on the editing profession.

I love reading about what other editors do and think. I have connected with lots of blogs and love to visit them to see what other editors and publishing types are up to. It’s only partly that I want to spy on other editors, honest. What I’m really looking for in connecting with blogs is the personal voice that tells me why that editor cares about their work. An engaged and thought-provoking editorial perspective, to me, is worth an awful lot.

What about you: are you already a curator of online editorial wisdom? Has your online writing been snapped up by an online curator? If you decide to give curating a go, I’d love to hear how you find it – and [immodesty warning] why not add PublishEd Adelaide to your collection?