The 3 Immutable Laws of Content Curation

A recent parody post by George Snell III on his blog High Talk got me thinking about the etiquette of online curating. In the post, “The Greatest Most Accurate Predictions About Social Media Ever Made”, he included a section on content curation:

                Content curators are forced to share revenue with the actual content creators

  • Supreme Court laughs like hyenas after hearing the argument that “curation is an art form”
  • Curation officially made a synonym of “thievery”
  • Ariana Huffington breaks down weeping on “The View”

Snell’s snarky comments about content curators struck a chord with me as I would consider myself a content curator on Twitter. Many of us mine links and stories from social media to pass on to our followers. But it can be a Catch 22 of sorts. There are a number of curators on Twitter that have a habit of “stealing without citing”, something that not only is ethically wrong, but is blatantly obvious to many.

I have a feeling this is what is irking Snell—the number of people on social media (and digital media) who make a living or build a reputation on the backs of others. There’s always a bit of disappointment that wells up within you when you see something on social media that you know started with you, but the tweeter makes it look like their own. But such is the media, folks. I always believe that what goes around comes around—it will bite them in the end. Or not.

Curators might do well to consider three immutable laws. To me, these are the behaviors of leaders. There are always excuses not to follow them, but if you truly want to be respected in the space, “think on these things.”

  1. Cite the source. If you saw the link or idea in someone else’s Twitter feed, Facebook post, or blog, give them credit. I’ve talked to people that think this is just a pain in the behind given the constraint of 140 characters. But smart tweeters know how to do it within the limitations. I think of Jason Falls as a great example of a succinct tweeter. If a citation puts you over the 120 characters you are aiming for to get the RT, then so be it. I guarantee that citing the source will lift you up in the eyes of the social media community. Nobody really believes you are finding all that material on your own anyway. Maybe use one less hashtag?
  2. Occasionally RT instead of repurpose. Some think that a retweet is lazy. After all, it’s just a click of the mouse. You don’t have to repurpose a tweet to make it your own. I’m not talking about adding a comment at the front of a RT—that’s why many people leave 20 or more characters of room in tweets. But honestly, if you see a tweet from someone that you know your followers would like, just retweet occasionally. Don’t make a habit of repurposing tweets to make them look like you were the originator of the information.
  3. Use the same rules on every platform. If you blog and use somebody’s thoughts, cite them. The highest form of dap is to include a link back to the article you got the information from. If you’re on Facebook, you have no excuse not to cite—many more characters to use. No matter where you use other people’s material, cite it. And don’t forget photos–something I need to remember.

I know many of you may be rolling your eyes. That’s okay. Within a sector, I know we’re mostly reading the same blogs, following the same people, and mining the same information. But adding value to others is the highest form of reputation-building. Use it to your advantage. What are your thoughts? Start a conversation in the comments.

cartoon from

  • Pingback: The 3 Immutable Laws of Content Curation – My Website / Blog()

  • Thanks, Chris. Count me among the old-inked stained wretches now on the digital side.

  • cksyme

    Thanks for commenting, George. I read your writing with great interest and respect. Also, thanks for the links. My problem with Twitter (and it’s a minor one) is that some there are stealing content to make it look like their own As an old school journalist, I guess I was always taught to cite the source, not pretend I was the source. New media, new rules–or no rules.

  • Hi Chris:
    Actually, have no problems with tweeters. Twitter is an excellent platform for sending traffic to the original source of a piece of content. It entices, provides the headline, and the interested have no choice, but to follow the link to the original source for the full experience. This is how content curation is supposed to work.

    My problem with content curators is more along the lines of the Huffington Post model: Where the original work is rewritten to such an extent that it is unnecessary to click on the link to the original source material (even if it is provided) because the entire piece of content has been provided. And when “content curators” are selling ads on their sites around content they have “curated” – I’ve got a problem with that.

    BTW – I see you’re affiliated with AllTop (as am I), but they are one of the guilty ones.

    Thanks for posting my parody link. I’ve explored this issue in greater detail (and with less sarcasm) in other posts:

  • Pingback: The 3 Immutable Laws of Content Curation - Curation News and Tips from Curation Traffic()