I opened one of favorite research emails — the weekly roundup by The British Psychological Society of interesting new papers in psychology — read it, relished it as usual, and then asked myself a question.
Why doesn’t this suck?
Because almost all link roundups are mediocre — even the ones sent by people who are supposed to be super-interesting. I’m looking at you, Shane Parrish. You too, Azeem Azhar, Ben Evans, and Kyle Westaway.
Most link roundup emails seem like good ideas when we signed up. And then we open them and go: Wow, links. So…many…links. Again with the links this week. Some of these I’ve actually seen already. Well, great catching up with you, curator. Heading back now to more cat-on-a-bicycle videos on Tik Tok…
And yet: curation can work.
It works when you become a human bot like Corey Quinn and collect everything worth noting in your niche every week. This works, at least until something gives way in your cervical spine and you have to swear off keyboards for a decade or so. (Believe me: I tried daily curation of great soccer writing for five months. It got my blog mentioned in the book “The Best American Sports Writing 2012.” It also got me admitted into the ER of George Washington University Hospital.)
Curation also works when you follow the below rules of audience physics — which is akin to threading needles with herds of camels. But BPS follows them — and, in a very different way, so does the artist Austin Kleon. Together, they point the way toward a unified field theory of non-sucky link curation — or, if you will, strategic curation. Those rules:
- The list has a tight theme that serves your audience. “Things I noticed this week” is neither a theme nor a service. “Innovation” fails both tests as well. Position your curation as you would your organization — it does this, it doesn’t do anything else.
- The list is limited to the absolutely fascinating—in its links or in your annotation. Don’t give us the world. Give us far less than the world, but make sure everything you give us — three, five or ten links — will explode in our minds. Develop a reputation for diving deepest and coming up with the biggest pearls.
- The list is you. By which I mean: The list should express your own brand and positioning— as an organization, as an expert, as a person. BPS exists to “promote excellence and ethical practice in the science, education and application of the discipline” — and its weekly list is very much an expression of that, in ways unimaginably more interesting than that description. Austin Kleon’s links are all over the place, but together they express the eye of the artist. They replicate an artistic way of seeing that I don’t get anywhere else.
It’s super-focused and of utility.
Everything in it is can’t-miss.
And it’s you.
You might have other rules — if so, please share them with me.
Next: Another way of curating effectively — slow-rolling it.