Neil Sanderson is the Chief Curator at Eqentia—a software platform service that enables professional users and organizations to easily aggregate, curate and republish the news that's important to them.
Eqentia's sites are both public and private—with some of the more public ones including Visability Marketing (visabilitymarketing.com) and Slices of Boulder (slicesofboulder.com) which is a local news website for Boulder, Colorado. More than 50 of the portals can be found at portal.eqentia.com/channels.
I asked Neil what a 'Chief Curator' does. "It's much like being an Editor, except that I do not commission original reporting or writing." And Neil went on to explain that his job has three main tasks; finding, managing filters, and providing human curation.
"I find credible, well-written, sources of online content to meet our customers' information needs, monitoring the feeds and ensuring that we keep them up to date when the publishers make changes" said Sanderson. " Then I manage our automatic aggregation and semantic analysis parameters which enable us to process thousands of pieces of content every day, for example creating and maintaining content taxonomies, or adjusting the various rules that determine which sources are used to build each customer's news stream."
And while technology is critical for his job—the key component of curation is human—as Sanderson explains: "I provide human curation of our customers' portals during the final stages of development when we are optimizing the system and training our customers to take on the curation role themselves. I also personally curate some of our showcase portals, such as "The Future of News."
So, what kind of background does it take to be a Curator in the new world? Well Sanderson began as a broadcast journalist, then tought journalism, then after four years traveling around the world on a sailboat with his wife, he began building web sites in the late 90's. That brought him to newspapers—where he grew a career that landed him as the Assistant Managing Editor at the Toronto Star. He joined Eqentia in 2009.
Today—Sanderson says the man / machine mix is critical. "The human element is extremely important, but it would be impossible to do the job well without good technology."
Machines may evolve, but they'll never have a human sense of relevance. "As curator, I need "gut instinct". As I'm scanning the web (with our tools), I sometimes find sources or articles that I think are valuable—even though they might not be a perfect match to our customers' specifications. In essence, the curator curates not only the content, but also the technology so that the results are always improving while the algorithmic rules are adapting.
Today Sanderson says he's never met another person with the same title he has—but he's quite sure that is going to change quicky.
"I can only see it growing in the next decade. Let's face it, there's an enormous amount of high-quality, interesting content being produced, and more of it all the time. But there's also a lot of mediocre material, not to mention the growing spam problem, showing up in search engine results. Expert curators are invaluable guides through the content jungle."