Thursday, March 17, 2011

WTF is a "curation layer?"

To understand the term "curation layer," we should probably break it down into its two component parts, in reverse order.


I suspect that "layer" is one of those terms that's racing fast toward useless/meaningless status through over-use and constant recycling, but it's still just barely hanging on to its utility.

In the Open Systems Interconnection model (read all about it if you're that interested), a "layer" is "a collection of similar functions that provide services to the layer above it and receives services from the layer below it." That's not the only definition of "layer" in tech jargon, but it will do quite nicely for our purposes.


"Curation" is "the selection of, care for and presentation of the objects entered into a collection."

Still clear as mud, right? Let's get to a short, sweet definition that's a bit clearer:

A "curation layer" is just a new name someone (it may have been Demand Media) drummed up to describe the set of tools that a given web site operator uses to organize content in ways that maximize that content's accessibility for different purposes.

Why the new name?

Because for some reason, "curation" is all the rage lately.

Because IT workers are always looking for new labels to slap on what they've already done and thereby convince their bosses that they're still actually doing, um, something.

Because when you're taking it in the search engine shorts (cough ... Demand Media ... cough), the quickest way to convince stockholders, media et. al that you're doing something to address the situation is to throw out some new gee-whiz term. They'll pretend they understand what the hell you're talking about, then walk away convinced (hopefully) that you understand what the hell you're talking about and that things are about to start looking up again.

Look at the bottom of this post for "Labels." You're looking at part of this post's curation layer.

Wordpress (and other) tags are curation layer stuff. So are SEO keywords and descriptions. And tables of contents, widgets that gin up "related posts" lists, etc.

"Content curation" is nothing more or less than making it easier for users to find what they think they're looking for, whether it's all the posts from August of 2004, all of the references to some keyword or key phrase ("Ron Paul nude!"), everything pertinent to the politics of Central Asia, you name it.

The "curation layer" is nothing more or less than whatever set of tools you're using for "content curation." It's a "layer" because it sits between the user or the creator and the content, passing information back and forth between the two.

There. That wasn't as complicated as you thought it would be, was it?

Note: This post is the first installment of Tech WTF? -- yet another occasional KN@PPSTER series. The goal of Tech WTF? is to explain new Internet terminology during the short timeframe between its introduction and its reduction to uselessness/meaninglessness by marketers - KN@PPSTER]

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