Mar 042019
 

Wakelet – what is it, and why should academics care to “curate” tweets about events? Bear with me for a second.

The sad state of curating and social story telling

Until about about a year ago, there was a storify.com. Their business idea was that people would “curate” tweets, facebook posts and other stuff found on social media to narrate stories on the interwebs.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the idea of “curating” stuff as a mass phenomenon is industrial-grade bullshit. No one wants hordes of people linking half-read stuff together in a bid to be completely ignored by even more people. And so storify was acquired by Livefyre, which was in turn purchased by Adobe, and the whole “curating” business moved away from the masses into the realm of enterprise customers.

Why would a researcher ever think about social story telling?

My scepticism aside, there was at least one use case for storify in academia. When Prof Jane Ordinary is organising any sort of event these days, it is in her and other people’s interest to create a bit of a social media buzz. It is not just outreach and stuff: Jane wants to project at least a vague sense of awareness of her project into the wider world, and journalists and other researchers who would never read a four-pages press release may well want to follow parts of the debate in an informal setting.

The problem here: by its nature, social media is ephemeral. After the event, any buzz will be buried under billions and billions of newer posts. And even during the event, the silo-like structure of the current social mediascape as well as the frequent failure to agree on a single hashtag for smaller events makes it very difficult to get an overview of what people are saying online. Here, storify was useful, because one could link every (presentable) post into a story. Then, one (or one’s capable RA) could share the whole shebang or embedded into a more durable web page, either after or during the event.

Clearly a wake, not a wakelet

Photo by MadeByMark

From storify to wakelet

Looking for a replacement for storify to archive (curate??? seriously???) the online/offline story of the policy dialogue that we organised last week, I came across wakelet (apparently, giving your product a dorky name is still a thing in Silicon Valley). Wakelet does everything that storify did, and then a bit more. Basically, everything that has an URL can be linked into a “collection” (also called a wakelet). Tweets and videos get a special treatment: they appear in a “native” format, i.e. as a tweetbox or within a video player, respectively. It is possible to add images and texts, too.

While wakelet is sometimes a bit rough around the edges. I had to press reload a couple of times after re-ordering elements for everything to reappear. Also, wakelets could load a bit quicker. But nonetheless, wakelet very elegantly plugs this particular gap.

What I don’t see, however, is a sustainable mass-market business model. Currently, the service is free for anyone who wants to showcase something. Interleaving collections with adverts would defy the showcasing aspect. But I don’t see that casual users would be willing to pay for a subscription. And so, in the medium term, it’s turning into another enterprise service or going bust, I presume. But for the time being, wakelet is a useful, if highly specialised addition to the academic toolbox.

Policy Dialogue: immigration, local decline, the Radical Right & wakelet

Within our ORA project SCoRE, we look into the relationships between local decline, local levels of immigration, immigrant sentiment, and (radical right) voting. Obviously, our findings have (or should have) implications for public policy. And so we organised an event at the European Policy Centre in Brussels. We had a great panel, a sizable crowd of interested folks, and distributed about 100 copies of our policy brief. And then it was over.

But if you are interested in what the speakers said, how people reacted, and what it was like,  simply browse the wakelet that I embed below this post. At least until  some other, more profitable company buys them.

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