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. What I do is WAY beyond aggregation. First of all, I've spent 30 years building a network of people I've met, studied, know, had dinner with, etc. Second of all, I add my own experiences and point of view. Third of all, I can do my own original reporting (and I'll have a couple of people from Google over my house to get their take in real time too). If aggregation was enough all you'd need to do is watch the Twitter lists I made for you. That's aggregation, even if it's curated aggregation.

  2. “Create or curate” is really not the issue: you are actually asking little more than “attend in person or not.” Your plans include equal original content creation whether or not you attend in person.

    In my view, attendance buys you the opportunity to mingle in-person with others. Aside from that, there will be no meaningful difference whether you attend or not, since all the information will be on the Web within minutes anyway.

    My advice: stay home, focus on the event, and write (or record) great content without all the elbow-jostling of the live venue.

  3. Robert.
    Being in the Uk, I have no choice but to stay here, watch twitter, your lists and the gadget blogs, as well as TWiT.tv's coverage. And hopefully, someone will sneak a live audio stream out.

    This issue of curating or creating content is not just limited to the Apple event on Wednesday.

    We think of the terrible events in Haiti. the fact that just about every aid organisation is on twitter or facebook (or both), the fact that the US Navy, its commands, and its individual ships are all on twitter or facebook means that we get better content here on the other end of an internet connection. We can pick and choose the best tweets and articles as they arrive from those on the ground doing the hard work.

    And you can bet that alot of that coverage does not make the local news.

    Only now, with the gaggle of press tweeters that are on the ground, do we get the professional content creators giving us news. And even then, by curating the news, piecing together tweets, its gives you a much fuller picture.

    This applies to anything. Take Jim Long in the White House as the NBC cameraman. Its so much nicer to sit here and piece together his tweets with those of all the other journo's at the WH. Its suprising how much you learn just by doing that.

    I've spoken to Rory Cellan-Jones (who interviewed you last week) about he BBC's use of twitter versus that of others such as CNN. Why? Because we can't curate the news, we just get it given to us in a polished news article.

    I'd much rather stay here and curate and retweet those notable posts and tweets and pics that leak out during the event on wednesday – we'll get a much fuller picture that way.

  4. Isn't curate just a fancy name for aggregate, or are you saying that you will provide more value then aggregation by performing analysis on an aggregation of sources? Or, since it is Apple, do you mean the other definition of curate: person authorized to conduct religious worship? Scoble, the curate of Apple! Nice twang to it.

  5. Curate Scoble. Everyone at the event is curating, except Jobs and his development team. Who else has the experience and the network to curate like you do?

  6. There are loads out there who would sit at Jobs feet just to watch him open an envelope – but this really is exciting. You should stay at your tricked out Command Central and let someone who is really thrilled at the opportunity get in that room – I'll go!

  7. Curate please. I'm just your average gadget fan and if I could go to the Apple event I would, b/c for me it'd be a once in a lifetime opportunity. But as you said above, that part is old hat to you. With all of your contacts and knowledge, staying home and curating the event and distilling out only the most important and informative info, is what is most helpful to the average gadget fans like me. I and many others trust your opinion and judgements and so therefore the more well rounded a report you can give, the better, and it would seem this could best be accomplished at home, behind your desk, with your multitude of screens and computers.

    Thanks for always being on top of the tech news and for making reading about it that much more entertaining.

  8. I don't see what is wrong with attending the event and then writing your editorial. You are going to miss out on the buzz and the experience that only a live event can offer. Plus, you can chat it up with @Ryan before the event. I think that first hand reporting is the crown jewel of journalism. Otherwise everyone would just sit at home on their computers and offer analysis all day long. What a sad world that would be.

  9. Thinking about the way I ‘consume’ media these days:
    I snack off the real-time stuff that comes in over Twitter, etc. I’d follow a video feed, or maybe Engadget’s transcriptions of the event, probably, but there will be plenty of this sort of thing going on. I can see the benefit of getting in first, but, particularly as I’m in the UK, a few minutes here or there won’t make a difference.
    I do go off and read stuff in detail, later on – whether traditional paper media, longer blog posts, analyst opinions. This is the content I really value – opinions, insights, ‘futurology’ – much more detailed. I’d value this ‘curation’ from you much more than I would another real-time stream.

  10. What if Steve Jobs announces the islate as a 3D device, how would you be able to judge that from photos ;-) ? You should definitely go there BECAUSE YOU CAN and we can't. You are our trusted source not only for factual info but also for the geek vibe.

  11. Glad that you have a choice – between going to San Fo to attend the event and sitting comfortably at home and curating the news. :) Wish I had that choice. However, I am more than satisfied – sitting at home, in front of my Macbook Pro, and reading your curated coverage of the event. The back-channel is important — where else can you get opinions whilst the event is being held? Gives you an informed decision of whether to hit that Order button or not, a few seconds AFTER the store goes live. Thanks, Scoble for doing this to mere mortals like us.

    And oh, maybe you can send that Kindle over – will definitely make a good home for it. The 5 kids would surely love it as their home-school tool. :P

  12. love to win… need to promote grand children to doing more reading. they are starting to develop my love for science, sifi, and tech tings in general, but this would help. you, Leo, cranky geek, and even Arrington, are great to watch. thanks to all!!!

  13. You know I just had a thought, although I disagree with your second part (I do think he should stay home) your first part reminded me that a curator is rather like the Producer of an Album, he takes all this mish mash of takes and recordings, which at its best is from the “lyrical” heart of the artist, and edits away, packages into something comprehensible for the audience to digest. At his best the producer is an artist of sorts to, knowing how to get the best performance out of the creator, and also which distinctive traits of the artist he should highlight and accent to best represent the story the creator is trying to tell.

  14. I think you have to curate.

    I've watched your tweets for a short time.

    You are an Information Addict.

    A maven.

    Someone who filters the noise for the rest of us.

    It seems like a “dog and pony” show does not impress you.

    You are the Captain Kirk of this event.

    “One of the advantages of being a Captain is being able to ask for advice without necessarily having to take it.”– Kirk in 'Dagger of the Mind'

    Stay at the helm, enjoy the additional sleep and ride the Tsunami of responses that come after the announcement.

    We appreciate you and your filtering. Keep up the good work!

  15. dig deep here Robert. Like any good journalist you”ll find the angle. the story here is the story behind the story. the most memorable picture of Princess Di taking her son to school for the first day was the sole photographer who took the one picture of all the other hundred photographers snapping away at Di and son. Everyone has been speculating for weeks and the story is really already over. stay home, day trade the stock, see how Amazon, Google, IBM, plastic logic, and Hollywood react then tell us where the tablet fits in the food chain. much more interesting than the hyped press releases we're about to receive

  16. In this context, curation is creation and the two processes are not completely distinct. However, the home environment certainly affords you a novel set of advantages in this situation I think.

    In the tech arena, information is a valuable thing and has profoundly shorter half life than in many others. If you were interested in the cult of Jobs or the atmosphere, the event might hold some more grand interest for you, but in terms of value – all but a very priviliged few at that event will leave having gained nothing different to anyone else there.

    And in this respect, I think choosing to curate allows you the possibility of relatively immediate, but significantly more considered and higher quality content. Content that's got value longer than the few seconds before everyone stops reading their random friends tweets and goes to engadget or techcrunch to check out someone more authoritative.

    Skip the trivial oohs and ahhs everyone will invariably indulge in, maybe that stuff is fun but it's of very short term worth and you put yourself in a far better position by collecting together the best from a variety of sources and showcasing this to people.

    Also, I typed this in my pyjamas.

  17. Great post. Agree with you, if you have the set-up, connections and ability; watch from afar and combine all the information coming out. Since I have never been to an event I would go, but only because I have never been. For those that have gone before, they should read this article and think twice…

  18. If you could have all your screens floating around you without any weight or matter, and a high-speed connection, you could do both.

    You used to work at Microsoft, can't you make it happen?

  19. You are surrendering? You are not the best? :P

    I do, however, see your point. Remember the Segway announcement? It was going to “change the world” blah blah.

    The thing is if you create you were there. And then you get to curate afterward too. And eval the coverage (and hype level factor) because you were there first hand.

    In general I am for create instead of curate because if we lose the creators of quality digital information then we have garbage to curate. Again part of the create in this particular case is the coverage of the hype first hand. Who wants to miss the next Segway episode lol?

    Another factor is the reality of the economy. I damn sure won't ever buy into a PDA type thing again after all the Palm hype. I'm waiting for wearable computers and flexible panel digital paper computers. When I can have augmented reality displayed out in front of me (HUD) without a physical display (this is not new) and an IR sensor tracks the blind spot in my eye for the “mouse” then we will be talking about serious changes. Till then? Gadgets. Expensive gadgets in a depression when money is tight and priorities are on food. Nothing any tech company can announce in the next year is going to change a thing. Not till the money is back flowing. IMHO anyway.

  20. This has nothing to do with Apple, this is about reporting. You said clearly you're curating – which is a good thing.

    I remember seeing movies, ages ago, where investigative reporters with their press cards in their fedoras phoned in bullet points on stories they were reporting, the editors would clean it up and get it to press before deadline. The reporters weren't really creating, they were reporting. The editors were creating – AND curating. An important distinction.

    Any time we aggregate – you do it, I do it – we may not be creating content, but we are creating context. You're not a reporter, Robert, even if you go to the events. Your style is that of an editor, and it's a vital role.

    We can't all get there, but that's ok. Part of the process is certainly getting the primary information – if no one does, we won't have anything to curate. But while doing the reporting has gotten easier, and it's possible to liveblog an event, that stepped-out perspective is also key to ensuring that one point of view doesn't outweigh all the others, either by virtue of writing quality or by exposure.

    To an extent, curation is participation – not from the side of those producing, but from the side of the users. It's meta-participation, because obviously those in place to do this super-scaled curation are set up with the tools, resources and connections to make it a worthwhile contribution, rather than just participating in the hype.

    In the end, content creation, aggregation and curation, are all parts of the same process; the new roadmap for reporting. I'm aware that sounds hokey, but there it is. You can't have content without an avenue for it to get to people; and the avenue is useless without the content to move along it.

  21. Well, @comcastcares did upgrade my line to 25 megabits down. Unfortunately in Half Moon Bay can't get faster than that, but that's fast enough to handle Twitter. :-)

  22. Conversely, you can stay up all night and hack together a Kindle text processing app. Then you can go to the Apple event and create with your Kindle.

    That might just be dumb though…

  23. i have a vision of a T3 terminating in HMB, more specifically in your house, with a 802.11-N (or something else more secret that I can't even imagine — akin an I2 setup of sorts) that screams faster than your 27″ iMac can handle…

    am I way off? and, if I am right, how did your kindle not burn out yet when downloading — well anything?

    :)

  24. Yes, and when all these can be done with wonderful social media out here, why being at Steve Jobs feet. Do one thing give the VIP pass to me. Shall fly all over from India to SF for that :D

  25. I was going to say that curating is a form of creation but I Don Dodge beat me to the punch.

    Also, with an event like this, for a product launch, there isn't much that 'creating' will differ amongst journalists. The bare-necessities is going to be the spec-sheet and an image of it. You'll have that about just as fast as all of us (who won't be onsite).

    The real type of creation will be in the form of reactions and punditry. That'll be much easier, for the many reasons you already made, from the comfort of your home.

    So, stay home and create and curate. You'll be creating a type of content that is hard to produce: meta-content.

  26. I was going to say that curating is a form of creation but I Don Dodge beat me to the punch.

    Also, with an event like this, for a product launch, there isn't much that 'creating' will differ amongst journalists. The bare-necessities is going to be the spec-sheet and an image of it. You'll have that about just as fast as all of us (who won't be onsite).

    The real type of creation will be in the form of reactions and punditry. That'll be much easier, for the many reasons you already made, from the comfort of your home.

    So, stay home and create and curate. You'll be creating a type of content that is hard to produce: meta-content.

  27. I was going to say that curating is a form of creation but I Don Dodge beat me to the punch.

    Also, with an event like this, for a product launch, there isn't much that 'creating' will differ amongst journalists. The bare-necessities is going to be the spec-sheet and an image of it. You'll have that about just as fast as all of us (who won't be onsite).

    The real type of creation will be in the form of reactions and punditry. That'll be much easier, for the many reasons you already made, from the comfort of your home.

    So, stay home and create and curate. You'll be creating a type of content that is hard to produce: meta-content.

  28. Speaking for myself though..I live in Phoenix, so kind of Techwastland. Would love to go to an event like what is coming up. Foursquare is not a happening here so far…hope that can be changed. Have the datadoctors though which is kind of refreshing.

  29. Speaking for myself though..I live in Phoenix, so kind of Techwastland. Would love to go to an event like what is coming up. Foursquare is not a happening here so far…hope that can be changed. Have the datadoctors though which is kind of refreshing.

  30. Cathleen, if I had never met Steve Jobs and had never been in one of his keynotes, or I didn't have hundreds of other stories to tell my grandchildren about the tech industry (remember, I studied every morning with Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak at West Valley Community College and I worked with Dan'l Lewin who started NeXT with Jobs) then I might be swayed by this argument. But now I'm looking at the world not so much from my own self-centered wants and more from “where can I make the best contribution.” Looks like I'll have a Google exec at my house on Wednesday, so already that's getting more and more interesting.

  31. Yup, that's why there's tradeoffs no matter what I decide. If I go, I won't be able to curate (or curate as well). If I stay home I won't be able to create (or create as well).

  32. Going with my original thought..stay at home in pj's..watch Cranky Geeks while Leo is reporting, play around with your webcam and skype to see which camera shot is best for the next time you are on TWiT and avoid the hype. Watching Dvorak all day will get you into the cranky mood :)

  33. Though its likely to be Steve Jobs last event ( god knows) and you being bored of all these tech events, i second your choice of sitting at home in Pajamas . Might miss out some minute details, but does that really matter? The fun of working in a relaxed environment is something which we wont get when at conferences. As an added advantage you have all these techie friends and local store guys which will bring in more news than from the event itself.I suggest you follow the below mentioned setup and em damn sure you will end up with a really cool post. Good luck.

    SCREEN 1 – Twitter
    SCREEN 2 – Facebook
    SCREEN 3 – Friendfeed
    SCREEN 4- Text Editor

  34. Create. But don't fight the crowds to create from the Apple event – go to Redmond and create from one of the Microsoft cafeterias so you can capture the despair rippling across campus as dreams of Courier are smashed into oblivion.

    Microsoft tried their best to pull the old “preempt your competition's message” trick from the Word playbook but Apple is not easy to displace. Their announcement has failed to create the buzz HP/Microsoft had wanted and capturing candid reactions on campus would be priceless because you know there will be a few viewing parties in cafeterias on Wednesday.

    Katie just might send you a device for creations like that!

  35. No worries…although tournament is actually a week from now. Just having fun, and enjoying the topic. If you were giving out a Nexus..might be begging, (tied up with Tmobile and g1), but hand out the Kindle to someone who really wants it. I am fine with what I have.

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