David Pogue would rightfully reprimand me for using the term “content” which he considers to be an insider’s word, meaningless to the rest of the world. He’s probably right, but content curation just sounds good because of the alliteration. There isn’t a better noun for a collection of writing, videos, text, pictures, diagrams, comments, articles, and so on that is available on the web and on paper. Or is there?
Curating is the act of collecting, preserving, and organizing. It’s usually associated with artwork, museums, education, and research institutions. Archiving is the act of collecting, preserving, and cataloging archives. So, as technical communicators, is there more value in content curating or content archiving?
From Wikipedia’s English-language definition of a Curator, I learned that “In larger institutions, the curator’s primary function is as a subject specialist, with the expectation that he or she will conduct original research on objects and guide the organization in its collecting.” In technical communication, becoming an expert quite quickly is highly valued by employers in high technology and the sciences. Original research is not usually needed by the employee, though.
There’s also a lot of interesting information in the entry for Archivists and Curators on the Bureau of Labor Statistics website. After reading about archivists, I now wonder if that is the better term for what technical communicators do as they collect relevant information to help people learn how to use a software product or a particular gadget.
If part of your job is to go through customer support forums, seeking information worthy of archiving, you might be a content archivist. If moving content from WinHelp to HTML Help is part of your job, you might be preserving important artifacts – your online user assistance system. If your job is to go through community content and even create a Google Custom Search Engine for certain communities or blogs or wikis, you might be a content curator. You are building a collection that others can wander through at their leisure to learn about something.
What do you think? Curator or Archivist?