Saturday, July 27, 2013

Curation tools - Flipboard custom magazines

Being a librarian, I often find myself obliged to try my hand using curation tools.

I was looking for a tool, that

  • displayed curated content in a "visual" magazine like format
  • only displayed what I explicitly selected and not everything I shared on my networks
  • was designed to be easily viewed by not just myself but others
  • seamlessly worked with my regular content consumption workflow.
Essentially, I wanted a quick efficient way to put what I judged to be the most interesting and novel content I found each day regarding LIS and related fields into a visually attractive package that anyone could view, but did not require much additional effort from me to create.

The first requirement of a attractive visual format meant ruling out old school tools like delicious and diigo etc. displayed everything you shared on Twitter without allowing you to filter, so it was out.

Rebelmouse  automatically displayed everything you shared via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+ etc but gave you the chance to remove and/or reorder entries. 

This was really interesting (below shows an example I played with using our library Facbook, Twitter, Pinterest accounts) but I wanted to do it right the first time, not see everything I posted or shared via Twitter, Facebook, then removing the shares I didn't want later.

Storify, I covered before in a post Storify for libraries but wasn't what I was looking for because I had to separately search using Storify to populate it with content and hence didn't work with my normal workflow. , probably was the closest to what I wanted, since you could use it to "Scoop" selected content only wrapped up in a pretty pretty visual format and I made a few half-hearted attempted but I never liked it, while it is true I didn't like the UI when I tried to access entries that were tweeted but when it came down to it, it was too troublesome to use with my normal workflow when consuming content.

So what is my workflow for finding interesting content to like? My information consumption habits generally hasn't changed since getting a tablet in 2011 and pretty much involves using Flipboard to read on an iPad everything from Tweets to RSS feeds (including journal articles from LIS Journals TOC). I do this at least twice a day for a total of at least 2 hours.

So when Flipboard introduced personalised/custom magazines, it was a no brainer to try curating using Flipboard. 

Adding content to my personalised magazine is as easy as it gets. 

As I read content in Flipboard on my iPad (content that includes not just Twitter but also RSS feeds of my favourite journals), all it takes is one tap on the + button and a second tap on the personalised magazine you want to flip the content in.
Of course, I do come across lots of interesting material via other sources in particular
Such content is posted to my personalised magazine using a bookmarklet

Though I don't have to, I can edit the content in such magazines

Above shows how you can delete existing content that was "flipped into" the magazine before , you can delete content or reorder by drag and drop and the setting of a cover page.

I started off ambitious and created 6 custom magazines but over months, I found myself regularly updating 2 major ones

Currently the most successful custom magazine is Long interesting reads

Initially I flipped in content that were only long essays or journal articles, long blogposts or reports (e.g  Ithaka S+R Survey, Horizon reports, Project Information Literacy etc) that I intended to read later. But as time went by, I started to include contents that I found novel into this magazine even if strictly speaking they weren't long.

You can of course follow my twitter stream, and while I obviously try to tweet only high quality content, but I made sure that the ones I flipped into this personalised magazine are the best of the best, content that I felt weren't banal or obvious. 

With absolutely no marketing so far, I was surprised to see 20 readers and 299 page flips, not bad at all, which inspired me to continue to keep it updated.

The main issue with this is that while you could share this magazine to be read on another person's flipboard app, it still left people who did not have tablets in the cold (short of using a android emulator like bluestacks) or who did not want to use flipboard.

Above shows how you can search for my personalised magazine "long interesting library reads" to subscribe, but what if you don't use Flipboard or don't have a tablet?

Don't worry, Flipboard recently allowed users to read these magazines on the open web on any browser. For example this is one of them when viewed on desktop.

Try it on any browser including desktop browser at

You choose the keyboard or mouse to "flip" through pages for desktop browsers

Give a try at

The other one that I am currently curating is one on discovery

Try it on any browser including desktop browser at


I am told that in the past Librarians used to provide current awareness services, but as our users reading habits move towards tablets, could services like flipboard personalized or custom magazines hold the key to getting their attention?
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