To create or curate? That is the Apple question

I’m torn.

I really want to be sitting at Steve Jobs’ feet again on Wednesday as he introduces whatever it is he’s introducing. Largely rumored to be not just a slate of some kind, but a new Apple TV, a new iPhone update, and new iLife suite.

If you’ve been living under a rock or in a coma for the past few months this has thrown the tech press into a tizzy. Right now on Techmeme just an overheard item from Steve Jobs has the top place (who cares if it really is true or not, as long as it has the words “Steve Jobs” and “Apple” in the headline).

Don’t believe me? Look at my list of 500 of the world’s top tech press. In between messages about football this weekend has been tons of speculation about Apple.

But that got me thinking “should I go to Wednesday’s event or not?” I thought I’d put it up for a vote, so here’s the pro’s and the cons. But deeper than that, I wanted to show there’s value in curation, not just in creating content. Let’s talk about that later more.

PROS OF GOING TO APPLE EVENT AND “CREATING CONTENT”:

1. I’ll get to see the new device a few seconds before Engadget will get to upload pictures of it to its live stream.
2. I’ll get elbowed by CNN in a fight to get close to Steve Jobs for an interview that won’t be exclusive anyway.
3. I’ll get a free donut or bagel and some lukewarm coffee from Starbucks.
4. I’ll be able to tell my grandchildren “I was there when Steve Jobs introduced the iSlate.”
5. I’ll be able to argue with Katie Cotton, head of Apple PR, about whether I can use a Google Nexus One to Qik live video out to all of you.
6. I’ll be able to hang out with the God of Gadgets, Ryan Block, who co-runs GDGT along with Peter Rojas, the guy who started Engadget.
7. I’ll be able to beg Walt Mossberg for a ticket to All Things D, the conference he does every year with Kara Swisher.
8. Speaking of Kara, if I’m there she’ll interview me with her Flip cam and ask me a funny question, usually along the lines of “how did you sneak by Katie Cotton?”
9. I’ll be able to race the entire press corp down to the Apple store which has decent wifi and try to upload a video from there, since Apple doesn’t give you good wifi at these events because they want you to see the device first in glorious HD from ABC or CNN, not from some blurry Qik cam. Seriously, at the Apple event I was at you aren’t allowed to use video devices in the first few rows, so there’s no chance to get decent video. And, anyway, unlike at Google, Apple will have a glorious HD version of its own up on its own website within a few hours anyway.
10. After working my behind off trying to get SOMETHING that one of the other press people won’t get (yeah, right Scoble, you’re going to get an exclusive that CNN or BBC or New York Times won’t? HAHAHAHHAH) and giving Apple even more free press than I will anyway they won’t give me one to try for a month, like Google did with the Nexus One. No, I’ll have to wait in line and buy my own. On the other hand, Walt Mossberg and four other hand-picked journalists will get a press demo unit to try a month before anybody else.
11. It’s possible this is Steve Jobs’ last “big product” development at Apple so there may not be another chance to be part of a press event like this again.

PROS OF STAYING HOME AND “CURATING” THE EVENT:

1. I’ll be in my pajamas and won’t need to wake up at 5:30 a.m. to make it to San Francisco in time to beat Ryan Block in the door.
2. I’ll have great wifi and four computers with more screens than the average Avatar special effects nerd at Lucas Films has (really, I visited there two weeks ago and they have small screens).
3. I’ll be able to watch 500 of the world’s tech journalists in real time and will be able to pick out the best reports.
4. I’ll be able to write a blog in peace and quiet and put together the best reports.
5. I’ll be able to make it to the Palo Alto Apple store before any of the Press Corp will, and since they are all up in SF I’ll get the best geek story of reaction from Silicon Valley store visitors.
6. I’ll be able to mix Engadget, Crunchgear, Gizmodo, Gearlive, and all the other blog posts together and put together a more complete picture than any of them will give.
7. I’ll be able to talk with my friends in China, who probably know more about this device than anyone except for Steve Jobs anyway. If I’m stuck in the event I won’t be able to make phone calls to do original reporting while the event is going on.
7b. I’ll be able to call — while the event is going on — other execs at other companies like Google and Microsoft to get their take on things and will be able to report that in real time.
8. Unlike most tech journalists, who will only link to their own stuff, I’ll be able to tell you — in real time — who has the best photos and best streaming video or audio from the event. After the event I’ll be able to link you to the best reports. Yes, Techmeme will do the same, but Techmeme has its bias. Just tonight Techmeme linked to a story about YouTube that had been broken by someone else a week ago.
9. I’ll be able to get on audio shows, like those from Leo Laporte or Steve Gillmor or Clayton Morris or Louis Gray and get the first punditry out. I’ll be available in a quiet place to do shows from BBC, Fox, etc that would be very difficult to do from the floor of the event.
10. I’ll be able to hang out with the other hundreds of thousands of geeks who didn’t get invited to the press event and since I won’t be able to get any exclusive news by going anyway they won’t be jealous of me and might invite me over for a beer in the afternoon while griping that they, again, have been locked out of an opportunity to sit at Steve Jobs’ feet and drool on the floor while seeing stuff that will cost us all at least a few hundred bucks and probably thousands over the next few years.

I guess you can see I’ve pretty much made up my decision, but what about you? Would you go? Why?

BACK TO CURATION AND ITS IMPACT ON NEWS

OK, that was all pretty tongue-in-cheek, but there is something to this curation argument. After all, where is the value in the news chain? Is it taking a photo that 60 other photographers will take? Is it trying to compete for video with CNN, ABC, BBC, etc, all of which have $100,000 HD cameras, not to mention that Apple has its own multi-camera video crew that will shoot video that’s better quality than anything you’ll be able to make anyway?

Is it in writing an article about the specs? Come on, please do be serious. Engadget, GDGT, Crunchgear, Gearlive, and Gizmodo will all do those and have distribution to boot. Plus they will each have teams of people there and, probably, will have the spec sheets in their hands hours before the event anyway. When I was at the Palm event at CES last year I saw several journalists had their entire articles written BEFORE the event and were just waiting for a quote and the embargo to end before posting them. You really think you can add more value there?

How about thinking you’ll get an exclusive by hanging out with Steve Jobs and he’ll whisper in your ear something he isn’t going to repeat to everyone else. Hey, it could happen, right? And I could win the lottery too.

But, look at curation. I know all of the tech journalists and have been studying them for years. Here’s a set of my Twitter lists, which you can watch yourself in real time:
500 of the best tech journalists.
433 tech venture capitalists.
500 company founders.
339 tech company executives.
500 iPhone developers, businesses, and influentials.
493 of the world’s top tech news brands, from CNET to Techcrunch, and have a list of them.

I can watch all of these lists in real time and curate news from any of them. Also, because I’ll be home in front of big screens I’ll be able to see patterns, like the differences between how tech journalists and tech company executives are reacting to the news, and report that to you. That’s something that very few tech journalists have demonstrated they are willing (or able) to do. Look at how few tech news brands have created comprehensive lists like these of the tech industry.

Add to that over on Facebook I have a list of the world’s top executives, including those who run Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Salesforce, and lots of other companies and I’ll be able to call and do reporting from my seat.

I can watch all of these lists in real time and put patterns and reports together from across the industry. To me that’s more valuable than even just watching the keynote live. Which explains my choice.

But none of that really compares to the real fun we’re going to have on Wednesday: we’re all going to be able to curate this event together in live time thanks to Facebook, FriendFeed, and Twitter.

See, I’ll be also watching my stream from 17,500+ of you. So, if one of you gets some exclusive news (which is more possible than if I went to the Apple event, since some of you probably have relatives building the device, or friends who work at Apple who are giving you a sneak peak, etc) then I’ll be able to see it and retweet it before anyone on the event floor will be able to see it.

Already if you watch my favorite tweet feed, which this weekend passed 13,000 tweets, all hand favorited by me in just the past eight months, you’ll see the best of the Apple news.

To me THAT is what really has changed about news in the past few years. It’s not that any one of us will get an exclusive but that those who are good at sifting through large numbers of tweets, most of which have tons of noise, will be able to curate a story that no one journalistic team will be able to build on their own.

But, either way, it’ll be fun to watch on Wednesday and my curation hat will be on. Which would you rather do? Create or curate?

Oh, by the way, I bet that Steve Jobs shows off a system on Wednesday that will let you BOTH create and curate and that is why Apple will win this week, big time.

UPDATE: On Wednesday I’ll be giving away my Kindle 2.0 (the small one). It’s not heavily used, in perfect condition. After Wednesday I doubt I’ll use it much so might as well give it away. And, if Apple’s tablet is a huge disappointment (yeah, right) I’ll be able to buy the bigger Kindle anyway or try out Barnes and Noble’s Nook. Anyway, to win it just leave the best response in comments below. I’ll announce the winner at the start of the keynote.

About Robert Scoble

As Startup Liaison for Rackspace, the Open Cloud Computing Company, I travel the world with Rocky Barbanica looking for what's happening on the bleeding edge of technology and report that here.

132 thoughts on “To create or curate? That is the Apple question

  1. Curation is exactly the right paradigm for you to follow because the law of economic value is to “waste abundance and conserve scarcity” Since there is an over abundance of coverage, that should be “wasted” i.e., dismissed, as in dismissing the chance to attend the event for your own personal satisfaction at the expense of the value you can give to your audience through curation. Why is curation a scarcity? Because computers and automation can't do it. O.K. techmeme is trying hard and coming close, but it still doesn't have, or maybe never will, the human value of the emotional context in which this event and device means something to the audience, who is, after all, the market as well.
    Curation demands the “human” touch, the emotional mixed with the objective, which a machine can't deliver. And reporters, of whom there will be an abundance, must put themselves in “machine” mode in order to report the facts as fast as they are happening, at the speed of life.
    Another reason curation is a “scarcity”? Not many people want to do it. Even the venerable Leo Laporte is bowing out and giving in to the urge to attend, leaving the mothership in the hands of, while certainly worthy co-horts, not he himself, the sort of “Walter Cronkite” of the scene. Curation is not as sexy. But in this context, where there is an over abundance of “creation” or I would call it “coverage” (for the only creation that's being done is by Steve Jobs and Apple, I would argue), the most value that can be added to the stream, is a highly passionate curator, who is able to filter out the noise and add the kind of context that only a human being can deliver. For it is a human audience that he/she is translating, filtering, discerning (emotional as well as factual) the mountain of data, the digital 1s and 0s, into the analog reality in which we experience life, which is best symbolized by, ironically enough one of the main features of this event, the sensation and the emotional response associated with the experience of “touch.” The art of value is exactly that of work of craft mixed with emotion. That is the scarcity in this moment, and the place where you can add the most value.

  2. I thought I'd try to win the Kindle. When I got through the first 2 parts, I was set to say, “Obviously you want to stay home and curate, so do it.” Then I read the next part, where you made it clear that you intend to stay home and curate. Now that I have read the whole piece, I have an insight and then a conclusion.

    The question isn't “Create or Curate?”, the question is “Live or Memorex?”.

    You made it very clear that even if you went to the event, and experienced it “live” you wouldn't really be creating anything. You would just be in the room reporting on a stage managed, controlled, fairly predictable show. The only surprises would be the random scoop you might get or if something went awry or if Jobs announced he was selling the whole company to Facebook.

    If you're home in your jammies monitoring newsfeeds and seeing what everyone else produces and pulling it all together and discussing it on Twitter, with people in China, etc., that's the Memorex part. You're kind of taping and collecting and then repackaging what other people put out.

    On one hand, I would argue that the latter – the curation/memorex part – would actually be creating. You would have to synthesize a lot of information, decide what is most interesting and unique and then get it out there with your own spin on it. On the other hand, it still would be mostly just compiling other people's stuff and not witnessing it in person.

    Which brings me to my conclusion. I had thought out almost all of what I just said, and had made my conclusion, and only then did I see the comment from pxlated. I agree with him/her 66.6%.

    Forget Kara Swisher. What if item 11 turns out to be true??? Would you want item 4 to be “I was home copying and pasting stuff off the Internet and reading Twitter feeds and eating Grape Nuts when Steve Jobs announced the iSlate and his retirement.”

    NO.

    So I say, here's what you do. Think of it as “Curiousation”. Go to the event as if you had never gone to one before. Make believe it's the first Steve Jobs event you have ever seen. Instead of writing about the tech or compiling what everyone else writes about the tech, write about the whole event and what was reported 3 days later. Go in with the curious eyes and mind of someone new to the whole thing – like you're an anthropologist – and write about the tech, the scene, the whole Steve Jobs experience. That will be so much more interesting to the broader world and to people like me that only know a little bit about this stuff.

    Creation vs. Curation may be Live vs. Memorex, but it may also be for you “Same Old vs. Same Old.” I think, honestly, you are saying you need to bring a fresh perspective to it. If you take my advice, I think it will be a lot more interesting to all of us, especially you, and you will have minor “I should have sat on the aisle” regrets, rather than major “I can't believe I missed Jobs last event” regrets.

    Let me know what you decide.

  3. I'm not necessarily disagreeing with your choice, but this is part of a slightly bigger debate, no?

    The concept that the media (whatever size) will report everything relevant, and that no individual could do a better job at reporting or uncovering a new insight or angle, is a concept that's been dying in the last few years.

    Maybe you can do more good at your desk, but surely something will be lost.

  4. I'm not necessarily disagreeing with your choice, but this is part of a slightly bigger debate, no?

    The concept that the media (whatever size) will report everything relevant, and that no individual could do a better job at reporting or uncovering a new insight or angle, is a concept that's been dying in the last few years.

    Maybe you can do more good at your desk, but surely something will be lost.

  5. Where would we be without Scoble's curating genius? He adds an entire dimension to real-time conversations. When hordes of digerati like ourselves gather in the virtual chambers of friendfeed and twitter to discuss the latest thing, we should say “We're Scobling the X”. On Wednesday I'll be Scobling the iSlate et al with the rest of you.

  6. But, see, that's the rub. If I were the only one creating it'd be OK (see the Google event, for instance, where I had one of the only video streams) but at Apple I'm going to be competing with the best news crews in the business and, because this is an event that actually matters, every major TV network and local station will be there too. This will be the most over created event in tech industry history, I guarantee it. If I thought I could get even a little angle on this story by going I'd be more interested.

  7. Going to lay it on the line..I think I deserve the Kindle because each year I go to the golf tournament here in Scottsdale. It is a huge party..beautiful women,great weather, and when I pay attention, great golf. Has been called many names in the past 70 years, but the Phoenix Open is now the Waste Management Open. Not a joke. http://wastemanagementphoenixopen.com/. So if you do go to the Apple event, remember I will be at the waste management Phoenix Open. That is pro am day. Might see Courtney Love there :).

  8. Oh, there's nothing that drives traffic like Apple news, so you can bet that people will still want to come. Especially to Steve Jobs events, which ARE the best produced in the business (I was sitting at the feet of Steve Ballmer too at CES and his events aren't nearly as interesting).

  9. +1 Curate. Then I will know where to go to get up to speed after I wake up. (4am Australian time it starts I believe. 10+GMT)

  10. I don't think the actual choice you make is that important. I think the fact that you have the choice and that either choice can really produce an interesting output is what is cool. A year ago this would have been a much harder choice. (heck 6 months ago it would have been hard), but to your point, the tools at our fingertips have blurred the need to be there in the flesh. In fact, one could argue that being present and accounted for could have real limitations to how one consumes a story like this in real-time. “Reality” is getting blurring. If Apple does Wednesday right, we are in for a ride that might make the iphone revolution seem pretty tame. The rebirth of publishing, the death of TV, a new way to define a website, a complete mashup of video, social, location? We'll see.

    You can keep the Kindle. I have one I don't need either. ;)

  11. Think about which choice, in the end, will give you the most happiness. Will it be participating in the event, getting to see the various folks you mention, etc? Or will it be playing that role of curator: watching, analyzing, reviewing, re-arranging, and ultimately adding your own insight and commentary to an announcement that desperately needs some cutting through the hype? Choose wisely, Robert.

  12. as a freelancer myself – I say stay home – throw on a nice t-shirt with your PJs and pundit to your heart's content…be sure to let us know on FF! ;-p

    So what's up with iSlate name? this is Apple – right? shouldn't it be iSlice? iSauce? iGrannySmith?

  13. It seems like the big question is what purpose do these events serve? I understand that the news media, well the main stream media anyway, need an event – a show to report on. Other than having crowd shots what would be the difference from posting a video on the net and handing DVDs (or otherwise handing content over) to the media?
    As you point out the people Apple see as key already have their data and their stories written. No one is getting to talk to Jobs and likely few will get to touch the hardware there and so unless they had an early preview they will be nehind the people who show up at the stores.
    So in the long run will people keep coming? Or more properly, will people who matter in terms of getting the news out keep coming. Sure the fanboys and employees will show up. The people who want some free food will show up. But assuming someone has access to the live feed and all the Internet conversation at home or office why come?
    But these events are expensive so will companies keep on holding them? What is the advantave to the companies?
    Seems like the two reasons to do it are: We;ve always done it this way. and If we don't have a big event no one will cover it – it will not make a splash like we want.
    The first reason is foolish. Only time, and some brave attempt, will tell if the second has merit going forward. The world is changing with candidates announcing races on YouTube and Twitter. Why not business as well?

  14. Robert,

    Curate. Analyze. Provide some context and depth to the conversation. The real time is great; but it's a crowded space. A million places to get the information. No thought, no insight, no added value. When you strip out your expertise all you have is speed, and speed is now a commodity. It's your experience and insight that is the real value.

    The real time web first sped up the reporting cycle, from days to hours to seconds. Now it is speeding up the analysis and commentary portion of the cycle. Where analysis is done faster, opinion levied sooner and insight brought to the public almost instantly. This is curation, and this is what we want from you.

    Access is now a commodity – your insight is still one-of-a-kind.

  15. It actually isn't a choice of either/or. To curate in the manner you describe is to create because you are creating the tone and stream of the news that your readers digest. If they were to read from each individual outlet, they would get a different picture than the one you will create by curating.

  16. Honestly I think you should stay home and collect information. Do you really need to go to the show ..awe and shock of it all? You have the contacts to spread the word in the comfort of your home or office. Just my opinion though. Whatever you decide, looking forward your honest thoughts.

  17. Create or curate? … it'll be a mix of both no matter what they name it and it will be cool! … so, as an answer to the question, Create or curate?

    To the tune of Louis Armstrong's “Let's Call The Whole Thing Off Lyrics”

    Create, Curate, iTablet, iSlate, Let's call the whole thing cool

  18. Robert, Curate because by CURATING the content you are CREATING something more valuable. It is like Invent versus innovation. Inventing creates something new, but innovation is where the value is created. Use your skills to curate the best content from hundreds of sources to create something valuable to all of us.

    Besides, I would like to come visit you on Wednesday. We can talk about the transition from Microsoft to Google, and I want to introduce you to Liz Brooks, former VP of marketing at Napster.

    Double bonus, I can pick up the Kindle prize :-)

    Don

  19. Go. Synthesize an environment of both creation and curation by stationing yourself inside long enough to get a feel for the presentation, then leave and kick back near a WiFi connection and watch the reports come rolling in from others.

    Laugh a bit, enjoy your caramel macchiato, then move outside to talk with the journalists after they've hit send on their blog posts, to gather their opinions about the thing. I do believe it would be a lot more fun to find out how the hype plays out, how it grows through the sure electronic watering by Apple Inc. over the course of the day.

    People enjoy your opining, but also like to know that you actually were there, and are not just rehashing the words of others. Find a happy medium, and we can all be happy!

  20. Well..I am sure Dvorak would make fun of the hype. Might even get him to buy you a drink at the local bar.

  21. The noise in the room? Did you realize Apple seeds the audience with employees who actually do almost all of the cheering and clapping? That's one reason I'm not so enamored of going. I've been there and done that.

  22. Curate. No sense in getting dressed for an overhyped and over-speculated event celebrating the next revision of the iPod nano. Plus, you won't have to deal with those obnoxios “worst keynote ever” whispers.

  23. Assuming at least some of the rumors are true and that an iTablet or Mac Canvas or something is showing up, curation will be much more useful. The odds that this is a new product that will be highly disruptive in typical Apple fashion means the bigger picture view is going to be as important as ever. If the announcement were just another refresh of the MacBooks, all that would really matter are the new specs. I would be amazed if the actual reveal is as mundane as that.

    Granted, if nobody went, it wouldn't be much of an event now would it? Still, what will matter is how the new iTabulaRasa fits in to both Apple's own line-up, the general tablet market, as well as the overall content creation/consumption realm.

    Personally, I would rather go to the event in this case, if only for the chance to see a Steve Jobs presentation in person for once. Other than that, curation is the way to go on this one.

  24. I think staying home lets you get to do both, create AND curate. You want to add to the conversation, right, so you don't want to just do the “best of…” anyway, no? Just by not following the crowd to the city, and instead reporting on the immediate ripples across the social web, the reaction in the PA store, the predictable Apple online store crash when Steve gets off the stage, and the stock market reaction, you get a meta view that the folks in the room don't have. I am borrowing someone else's live feed and enabling myself to actually be more productive by staying home, because I am not traveling to and from and waiting in security lines. After all, we're technologists, and so why not use the amazing technologies our friends invented to create original content from out here in the world at large.

  25. I know there are a lot of compelling reasons to stay home, and you are well over the first time excitement of attending this event. My only question is, years from now do you to say to your kids and grandkids, “I remember when the tablet was launched, I was sitting at home in my pj’s at my computer talking on the phone while twittering.” Or would you rather be able to say “You should have heard the noise in the room or the look on Steve’s face when he FINALLY announced the tablet.”

    Either way it will be quite the day, but if I’m honest I hope you take the seat that millions of us wise we could have. Enjoy the warm coffee and make sure you give an extra elbow to the guys at the NYT for me.

    Cheers,
    Rob

  26. Have you considered creating a Friendfeed Room, pipe your favorite tweets and blog posts into it and see what the results turns into? I would be that it would be a more connected experience than a bunch of tweets flying around.

  27. I guess you forgot that at the iPhone launch only a few journalists were even able to touch the thing. Most had to look at it under glass. So, don't expect a detailed review.

  28. If you look at it from a purely economic perspective. Curating has much better future cash flow potential. Creation will be much too saturated by others who have greater resources than a single individual. It sounds like you already have figured out how to level the playing field to your advantage. I say Curate in your PJ's

  29. I say create!!! You never know what could happen, you might even win the lottery! To see events unfold in person is always more exciting which will show in your later curation.

  30. Hi Robert. To me create >> converse >> curate.

    Create would be you doing a detailed review of the device or talking about a few developers about how they plan to build new experience for the device once it SDK is available.

    Converse would be you sharing a few of the interesting posts in Friendfeed and other people joining in to have a heated conversation on the plus and minus of the device. Or a Gillmor Gang.

    Curate is seeing you reduce 1000 blog posts/tweets into a list of 30-100 you select in your twitter favorites.

    All 3 forms have value. It is just that 1 and 2 offer more value and are more unique/fun.

  31. Skip the hype and spend all day watching Cranky Geeks . Will get you in the mood to for next show of TWiT discussing the hype.

  32. While I agree with all of your curate posts and equally the create. Perhaps go to the event for the experience. Not to implicitly create. Even as your seasoned tech pundit self, as you said yourself, this may be the last big Jobs product announcement, hell for that it’s worth going. Hey, if I was in your position, I know which I’d be doing, but that’s just me :)

    I hope I get to enjoy your instantaneous tweets from the event Robert ;)

  33. Amazingly fatuous post. You must really be in love with yourself. You self-importance surely resides in some sort of inferiority complex from childhood. But, hey, if you've got nothing better to do on Wed., go have fun with the boys!

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