Curation vs. Personalization: The secret to dominating marketplaces.

Fred Wilson has (yet another) thought provocative post up today in which he talks about marketplaces and more specifically the potential between a curated marketplace and completely open marketplace. It’s not entirely clear which side of the fence he comes down on (I interpret his official stance as “it depends”).

Personally, I think of curation as a bit of a buzz word for personalization.

The only real difference in my mind is with ‘curation’ there is a third party (usually an employee) doing the the work for you while with 'personalization’ it’s either the software or you yourself doing the work.

With this angle, I almost always default to 'personalization’ and think it’s the bigger/better approach overall.

That’s not to say that I don’t respect and appreciate experts, it’s just that I would much rather be able to pick and choose between those experts and mold their selections to my specific tastes.

Back in my Draftwizard days, I made sure to call all of our player ranking lists 'starter sets’. I wanted people to think of them as 'expert curated’ suggestions, but I also wanted people to use the tools to personalize and tweak them as much as they wanted.

In fact I’m taking the same approach with the Coach Wizard system (all the drills and practice plans are 'customizable’ to fit your personal wants and needs)…and it’s a major design choice that I made in the GameTimePlay app as well (games are the atomic unit but how you save, use, compete with them is customizable and personalized – and even the games themselves can be tweaked via user submissions and suggestions).

So anyway, to me, the real key to curation isn’t in limiting what gets into the system (I think it’s almost always better to get more into the system)…the key is to attach the proper meta-data to a given thing that gets into your system, and then provide a high-quality, 'beautifully designed’ UI that makes it easy for users to take advantage of that meta-data.

BTW - this core belief and thinking around meta data and the power of 'personalization’ is exactly why 'search’ sits at the core of the backend of almost all my systems.

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This is the personal blog of Kevin Marshall (a.k.a Falicon) where he often digs into side projects he's working on for and other random thoughts he's got on his mind.

Kevin has a day job as CTO of Veritonic and is spending nights & weekends hacking on Share Game Tape. You can also check out some of his open source code on GitHub or connect with him on Twitter @falicon or via email at kevin at

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