A while back, in the New York Times “Bits” blog, Nick Bilton wrote an article titled ‘Controlled Serendipity’ Liberates the Web, about the phenomenon of combing internet news sources for information that was useful enough to pass on to others
We’ve reduced the fear of missing something important because we share “controlled serendipity” with others and they with us. And without this collective discovery online, I couldn’t imagine trying to cull the tens of thousands of new links and stories that appear in the looking glass on a daily basis.
“Controlled serendipity” apparently came from Looking Back, Looking Forth, Maria Popova’s article about building a holiday music playlist. Popova describes her experience as an unlikely intersection of crowdsourcing and content-curation. At first I didn’t see the connection, but the dictionary says “curating” means choosing items for others to view in a gallery or museum. Bloggers find items in a variety of places and assemble them in a central location. Visitors browse and find some items in the collection more interesting than others. I like the metaphor.
Not only have I have always loved to write, but I have always been a collector. I guess I was fated to be a blogger. Funny, when I first learned about blogging I didn’t see the attraction. I remember telling colleagues that I wasn’t very excited about the technology; I’m sure I mistakenly deflated some good ideas. Obviously, my opinion has changed.
Controlled serendipity is what this blog and thousands of others are all about. We’re all trying to create a niche where we can share news and ideas we have collected, and then hope our readers agree they were worthwhile. This blog may not have thousands of followers, but people appear to be enjoying it and using the information … success! We are curating three kinds of items:
- Practical strategies and tools that faculty can use NOW,
- Ideas and thorny issues with which faculty struggle, and
- Developments that will affect teaching and learning in the future.
Controlled serendipity applies to more pursuits than just blogging. It’s a key aspect of the personality of the Internet. It’s the good idea that gains a little traction, gets tweaked a bit, goes viral, and ends up changing lives. It’s the new service you quickly scan and say, “Why would I want to use this?” Then a friend tells you how they used it, so you take a second look and say “Oh – I never though of THAT!”
This information flow is also frustrating and fickle — a moving target. In the end, though, being in the middle of it all is a whole lot of fun.