Nagoonberry

This world. This place. This life.


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How I curate UU content

Sometimes we develop our most useful skills without conscious intention.

I’ve always been a reader, and I’ve always been that friend who says, “Hey, I found this thing you should read.”

I never thought that would turn into something I felt called to do—much less that it has a name.

Almost three years ago, UU World magazine invited me to edit The Interdependent Web. My editor gave me freedom, support, and the opportunity to practice curation, week after week.

Here’s a window into my process.

  • Curation begins with love. This is demanding work, and passion sustains it. I care deeply about helping Unitarian Universalist voices find larger audiences. If you’re thinking about becoming a curator, choose something you love, because you’ll spend more hours doing it than you can hope to be paid for—if you’re lucky enough to find a curating gig that pays money; many people are giving away this kind of work.
  • Immersion is essential. A curator cannot expect to occasionally dip her toe into the waters of her subject. I spend hours, not just reading UU blogs, but also participating in UU forums on Facebook. As Unitarian Universalist content becomes more diverse, my daunting task is to follow it wherever it goes. Blogging is the area of UU content where I’m most comfortable; I’m hoping that some of you may begin curating other types of content—video, design, music, etc.
  • Gathering sources never ends. When I began reading UU blogs, Philocrites’ Guide to Unitarian Universalist Blogs was a great resource. Soon I learned about UUpdates, and taught myself how to use Google Reader. Once I began editing The Interdependent Web, my Reader was no longer just a few favorite UU blogs; instead I collected an exhaustive list of every single UU blogger I found. When Google retired Reader, I switched over to Feedly, where my “All UU Bloggers” folder has 391 blogs at last count. And I’m always looking for more. Are you a UU blogger? Do you suspect I don’t know about you? Introduce yourself . . .
  • Scanning and saving are the first steps each week. At this moment, there are seventeen new posts in my “All UU Bloggers” folder. I won’t read all of them. I’m looking for headlines that grab my attention. What grabs my attention? Specificity. Responses to other bloggers’ posts. Humor (including snark). Something that grabs my heart. A clear connection to Unitarian Universalism. Good writing (yes, that matters, even in your post titles). A great track record as a blogger. Anything that catches my attention earns a little green Feedly bookmark, which puts posts into a “Saved for Later” folder.
  • Reading and reducing is where the work gets hard. Eventually, I have to read all those “Saved for Later” posts. Beginning each Wednesday, I review what I’ve saved, and compile the best posts. My goal is around fifteen pieces of content, sometimes more, sometimes less. That means a lot of culling. Some weeks I wish I could send out apology notes to some of the bloggers whose excellent posts just don’t make the cut.
  • Arranging and distilling are the last steps. I could just list the best fifteen posts, images, videos, etc. But good curation is more than that. I look for intentional and coincidental conversations between posts, images and videos. I look for natural categories. Sometimes things get shoehorned together, and other times there are beautiful juxtapositions.  The format of The Interdependent Web—at least for blog posts—is “introduction, pull quote.” I usually arrange, then find the quotes, then write the intros, but not always in that order. It’s a great format, but it’s very blog-centric, as is most of my process. That’s the growing edge for me—tweaking this process so I remember to look for and include images, videos, tweets, Facebook conversations, Pinterest posts, etc.

Since August of last year, when I returned to The Interdependent Web from maternity leave, I have done this work while also adjusting to life as a new parent. Liesl comes home early on Thursday night to watch Willa while I put the finishing touches on the column, but for the most part, curating fits well into the daily schedule of a stay-at-home mom.

Did I answer your questions—or create more?

I’d love to hear from you about how you’re coping with the deluge of content that social media generates. Do you opt out? Are you grateful for your friends who help you choose what to read? Or are you, like me, the friend who says, “Hey, I found this article you should read”?


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A stile in the Facebook garden wall

I like using HootSuite to post simultaneously to Facebook and Twitter, and today I figured out why.

Thanks to Chris Walton, I’ve been thinking since December about Facebook as a walled garden.

Chris said—and I’m paraphrasing here—that much of the public conversation of UU blogging had moved into the walled garden of Facebook. Particularly into the walled gardens of Facebook groups.

Now, don’t get me wrong here. I love the energy of UU Facebook groups. They are an amazing place to meet people, have great conversations, spark new ideas.

But there is a downside, particularly for a religion where newcomers often say, after years of wandering in the wilderness, “I was a UU, and I didn’t know it!”

The downside is that we’re spending a lot of time and energy enclosed in private spaces, talking only to each other.

We’re having tea parties in our walled gardens—and tea parties have their place.

But we also need to host concerts in public parks.

We need to find ways to bridge private and public.

Which brings me back to HootSuite.

I think HootSuite is a stile in the Facebook garden wall.

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What do you think? Are there times when you want to say something to your friends on Facebook—and also to the public at large? What are you using to bridge public and private?

Photo by Tim Green, used under a Creative Commons attribution license.


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There is no such thing as Facebook

Really. There is no such thing as Facebook.

Facebooks, yes. But no Facebook.

I was reading a particularly charming status update posted by one of my friends, and suddenly it hit me: no two people have the same experience of Facebook. (In our house, we call this a U-Haul moment—when you suddenly see something obvious, like “you haul.”)

Each of us has a unique combination of friends, groups we’ve joined, and pages we’ve liked. And Facebook does god knows what with its algorithms to vary the content in our newsfeeds, based on what we’ve “liked” or commented on that day.

So if I have witty friends who tell charming stories, and you have annoying friends who badger you about playing games with them, how can we debate the value of Facebook?

If the pages I’ve liked constantly try to sell me something, while the pages you’ve liked offer helpful information, how can we discuss a common experience that doesn’t exist?

And if the groups I’ve joined have given me a new outlet for creativity and connection, while the groups you’ve joined are conflict zones—or dead space—how can we decide if Facebook is a waste of time, or a productive tool?


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Please don’t like me

I’ve been trying to figure out if I can change my Facebook settings so I no longer get notifications when someone “likes” a photo or link or status update I’ve posted.

So far, no luck.

Last week, Liesl and I watched the Frontline documentary, “Generation Like,” and it made me want to disconnect from “like” notifications even more.

Here’s the deal. When I see the little white number in the red circle on my phone, I want real interaction with you. When the Facebook tab on my laptop toolbar shows a number in parentheses, I’m hoping you’ve got something to say.

“Liking” has come to mean so many things on Facebook. It’s a nod. It’s a smile. It’s a gentle hand on my shoulder. It’s an acknowledgment that you’ve noticed.

But it’s silent. It’s quick and easy. And it makes me feel like an approval junkie when I get excited by a “like” count.

So please don’t like me. Not unless you really, really like my photo, my link, my status update. And even then, would it be so much harder to type a few words?

Because I’m tired of the drive-by nod, the distracted smile, the easy comfort, the split-second attention.

Let’s be real friends to each other, instead of being stretched thin, “like butter scraped over too much bread.”

The “like”habit is hard to break, but I want to work on it. How about you?


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Omnipresence and social media

connectionsEmerging from my reading this week is this: in a social media world, power depends on being everywhere, and being in each place well.

That’s a daunting thought.

What it means for individuals is that if we have a message to share, we have to learn multiple platforms, never resting, never believing that we’ve mastered enough social media tools. It means developing insatiable curiosity and deep humility. A new-to-me blogger wrote this:

I suspect the unnerving truth is that the trade-off for the benefits of an unfathomably complex technological society is the disquieting reality that understanding is now beyond the reach of any intellectual, public or otherwise. (The Frailest Thing, February 16)

The picture is less grim on an organizational level. If we join together with others who share our values, and each of us learns continuously, our skills form a massive Venn diagram, overlapping here, stretching into new territory there.

But only if we work together.

I pour most of my thinking energy into Unitarian Universalism, which has a streak of individualism a mile wide and centuries deep. We have a newer commitment, to “the interdependent web of which we are a part.”

We want to share our message—our saving message. Much will depend on our learning to work together.

Photo by fla m, used under a Creative Commons Attribution license.


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A cloud of climate witnesses

2013-10-29 10.55.38It’s almost November here in south central Alaska, and this morning at 9:30 when I took the dog out, there was no ice on the puddles in the alley.

A light swirl of frost was already melting on the cars’ windows.

I had rolled out of bed, thrown on a pair of Crocs, grabbed Brady and his leash, and headed outside. I wore a quilted jean shirt, capri-length yoga pants, and no socks.

I wasn’t cold.

It’s almost November here in south central Alaska.

The deciduous trees are bare, but the grass is still green.

I’m not complaining.

I like that the roads and sidewalks are still clear.

I like that every day without snow feels like a one-day-shorter winter.

But it’s different. Really different.

Last week I wrote about Facebook status updates, which for me are a beautiful way of experiencing the interdependent web of life.

When my friends write about snowstorms in Cincinnati and heat waves in Boston, I can feel the undulating texture of their daily lives.

But their weather reports are more than just interesting information, more than a picture-window view of a prairie thunderstorm.

Their status updates are a great cloud of witnesses, testifying that the weather is weird, and getting weirder.

I know that weather and climate are two different things. Climate is, essentially, cumulative weather.

Social media measures the intuitive sense of large numbers of people in diverse geographic settings, all sharing their belief that something is different.

Something is changing.

A great cloud of witnesses is testifying.

Are we listening?


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Standing in the web

More often than I’d like, I hear complaints about Facebook status updates.

“I don’t want to know what you ate for dinner.”

“Stop telling me about your annoying boss.”

“I don’t need to know that you’ve got the flu.”

I don’t feel that way. Quite the opposite.

There’s something about the sharing that happens on Facebook, of our daily lives, in photos, in words, that’s beautiful to me, like a symphony or tapestry.

I can almost hear the music, see the interwoven threads.

Facebook is like an enormous choir, with each of us standing in our spot, singing.

From where I stand, I can hear your voice, and your voice, and your voice, setting the strands of the web vibrating with news from your corner of the world.

Keep telling me about the strange weather you’re experiencing.

Keep showing me pictures of your grandchild.

When you visit a new place, tell me what you see.

Tell me about your dreams, and your nightmares.

And yes, I’d love to know what you had for dinner.

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Photo by Martin K, used under a Creative Commons attribution license.