Meta-curation

Just thinking out loud here.

Was looking at some of the absolutely awesome things coming out of TWINE-that hyperlinked game creation thing that’s ultra-hot right now.

(Maybe a link later; go google “Porpentine” if you’re curious, since Porpentine seems to be at ground-zero for this thing. Wrote a great piece on it at Nightmare Mode. Anna Anthropy’s done some good analysis of it too.)

The nice thing is that these things make game-creation absolutely accessible. Almost anybody can make a game with TWINE; it barely requires programming, and isn’t really any tricker than just making something in HTML, which most people who’ve written things on the Internet for any length of time can do without too much difficulty.

Every time something becomes easier, though, more people end up doing it. That’s when you get back to the whole Clay Shirky problem of information abundance. Instead of having to seek out material, the problem becomes sifting through the dross to find the good stuff: the stuff that really turns your head and blows your mind. You have to, or else you end up being overloaded.

(To put it a perspective that old book readers will understand, EVERYBODY has a slush pile now.)

That’s the role of curation. That’s what review sites and journalists and critics and bloggers and social media people are doing to a great extent. They’re looking at what’s out there and pointing to the stuff that they think you should pay attention to. It’s pretty critical these days.

Problem: the Internet is so vast and the number of people who are into games are so numerous that we now have a glut of curators too.  Almost everybody who says “I want to get into games journalism” is basically saying he or she wants to play this curatorial role; all the professionals saying “don’t try it, it’s impossible” are acknowledging the glut. It’s a sort of meta-glut where you’ve got a “slush pile” of curators.

So, now, the problem is meta-curation. It’s finding the curators that will find the things that you enjoy. Even worse, you can find yourself looking for a meta-curator that will find the curators that will find the things that you’ll enjoy. It’s turtles all the way down, each one with their own blog and YouTube channel.

MetaCritic solves this problem by boiling everything down to numbers, but it doesn’t work very well, since almost no games curator truly believes that the numbers they choose really reflect how they feel. Besides, people will game that system by deliberately giving outlier scores, and others will be left out by their choice to avoid scores.

(Leaving Rock Paper Shotgun and Kotaku out of your meta-curation tool basically invalidates it.)

Google solves it with PageRank, which is a bit better, but is also somewhat of a popularity contest that ends up getting won by whoever can play the SEO game better. That’s not necessarily going to be the curator that best fits your need. It’s almost never going to be the curator that best fits your needs.

And then there’s Facebook. Hell with that.

So what to do? How to decide? What happens when there are too many meta-curation options? Will we need meta-meta-curation? And most importantly, how the hell can anybody make a living? Where will the money come from and go to?

I don’t know. Like I said, I’m just thinking out loud. Interested in your thoughts, though.

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