Why I support content aggregation and curation

Reuse and recycle filters out all that noise.

Even after 30 years of the World Wide Web, the community - content providers and content consumers - remains confused (and divided) over content aggregation and curation. Both processes, if you were to ask me, are welcome given the surfeit of content today.

All of us are groaning under the weight of content overload. There`s just too much to take in, so if someone wants to serve me content to my liking without me having to do any of the heavylifting, why not? As a consumer, I am willing to even pay for the effort. It`s a service, after all.

Allow me to indulge in some fun exercise to explain better. Uber is a cab aggregator, NOT a curator. What does that mean? It means Uber will not tell you which is the best cab service in town. Instead, it partners with the unorganized cabbies in a city and brings all of them under one brand, which is Uber. The same model is followed by Food Panda, GoShare, Airbnb, etc.

If the market has accepted peer-to-peer ride-sharing companies, and food delivery services, why not content aggregators and curation services then?

Aggregation is the collection and re-publication of common interest content without any intervention. Curation, on the other hand, requires a re-write of the headline, and even the paragraphs from the original content you gonna use. Best practices means it needs a new intro; a comment or observation, even. That`s the “value” added to that piece of content.

It is but inevitable that the conversation turns to the law and ethics around curation and aggregation. As a “digital” newsman, being “guilty” of both practices, I recall the reaction of an old journalism pal of mine when I told him I, too, was indulging. “But how can you take someone else`s content and pass it off as your own”, he asked?

True. Using another`s content, even a sentence or a pocket-image, was and remains a crime. The keyword here is, "pass off as your own”. It would be legal harakiri for anyone to plagiarize, or showcase the entire work of another under his/her own name.

But aggregation and curation are children of the World Wide Web, as are a million other “unique” things. Like Uber. Or Airbnb. Or Zomato.

There`s a thin line separating aggregation, curation, & copyright violation. I agree it is very thin. But the line does exist.

Here`s an advisory - don`t get into this business it if you don`t know what you are doing. Or, at least read up the legalese, and have a lawyer at hand.

Curation and aggregation, from the viewpoint of the original content provider, could be distressing. It`s like stealing. Or is it?

In the digital/internet era, I, as a owner-publisher of a few Sites, am delighted when someone “uses” bits of my content on their own websites or on social networks; all hands on deck for more eyeballs. As long as my websites and blogs are acknowledged as the creators of the content, I don`t mind. And, as long as only “tiny portions” are appropriated, and the curator ensures I do not get penalized by Google for duplicate content. When I was an old-world journalist, my publication would have probably sued.

Even Google`s algorithms seem to have started to learn the difference between duplicate and copied content.

SEO experts say that duplicate content is now treated differently by Google than copied content, with the difference being the intent and the nature of the duplicated text.

There are laws, ethics and commonly accepted styles to be followed if you don`t want to be called out while curating or aggregating. Slip up and your content vehicle will go careening off the highway and land in a pit of legal trouble.

So why do I support it? Time and data. At last count, there were 2.5 quintillion bytes of data created each day. Who has the time to get through some of that, keywords not withstanding. If someone wants to put content of my taste on my platter, he/she/they are most welcome.

The argument that at this rate there will be no “original” content generated is specious. Life has moved on, so has content. There`s no going back to the “good old days” now.