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Did You Miss This: Bloggers as Curators

The web often feels like an all-you-can-eat buffet; how high should you pile your virtual plate? For the curators and collectors out there, here are some ideas on how to enhance your blog with content you find elsewhere.

Image by Robert Couse Baker (CC BY 2.0)

Whether it’s great artwork, a punchy quote, or even a funny gif, many bloggers enjoy showcasing others’ work from around the web. In this piece from Hot Off the Press, we give you both food for thought and hands-on advice on how to use curated content on your personal blog.

Your blog is the space where you show the world the things that make you tick. You put together stories and images that entertain and enlighten, and invite your visitors in. It’s your own carefully designed museum-living room-coffeeshop packed into a screen.

Some rooms feel a bit cozier, though, with a choice item from the flea market or the antique store. Likewise, your blog can come to life with some well-chosen materials you’ve collected on WordPress.com (and the web in general). Many bloggers are already curating thoughtful content on topics as diverse as design and science — here are some ideas on how best to find and present others’ materials on your blog.

Digging for content

The WordPress.com community creates, collectively, over a million posts every single day, generating an endless wealth of information and opinion. This shouldn’t deter you from looking for content to enhance your blog. On the contrary, you can discover great material by employing some of the following tactics (we use these, too, to find our Freshly Pressed picks!).

  • Rely on the Reader. If you’ve already found — and decided to follow — blogs that fit into your web of interests, your Reader is likely brimming with posts that merit a greater audience. Stumbled upon a great read? Sharing another blogger’s post is extremely easy — in fact, you can do it directly from the Reader. Just click Reblog at the bottom of the post (or excerpt), and, while you’re at it, add your own commentary to start a conversation.
    reblog screen shot
  • Use topic search. If you’re new to blogging or looking to branch out from your regular reads, searching for specific topics can lead to some exciting finds. Whenever you use the topic search box, you automatically add the topic you were looking for to a list on the Reader sidebar. You can then easily review the same topics on future visits.
  • Follow, follow, follow. While topic-searching, you’re sure to stumble upon many bloggers who share your interests, and whose posts you can directly reblog from the results list. Don’t forget to follow the blogs you liked (just click Follow, right next to Reblog): this way, new posts from these sites will show up automatically whenever you visit the Reader.
  • Build your network. Just as you would collect book tips from people who have similar tastes to yours, tapping into the shared wisdom of like-minded bloggers can lead you to discover great content. Did you find a post particularly engaging? Check out the writer’s Blogroll and hunt for new blogs to visit; it’s also a good way to build a Blogroll of your own. Left a comment on a post? Read the rest of the comment section to look for people whose writing resonates with yours.

Showcasing your finds

Even a great art collection will look faded in a dark corridor. Now that you’ve amassed great findings for your blog, present them in a way that honors them. For inspiration, you can look at some blogs that already do a fine job showcasing curated materials, like Submitted for Your Perusal and hovercraft doggy. Here are some of the tricks that make these, and other curation-heavy blogs, successful.

  • Choose the right theme. The first major step is to choose a theme that plays into your content’s strengths. While virtually all themes will allow you to incorporate text and images into your posts, some are particularly tailored to the work of a blogger-curator. Have you cultivated an interest in finding great images to feature next to your own? Pick one of the beautiful gallery-style themes available, like Visual or Hatch. Screen shot 2013-06-27 at 5.48.46 PMAre you more into finding and presenting great writing from across WordPress.com? Several magazine-style themes, like Esquire or Sight, allow you to present text (as well as other media) with a sleek look.
  • Quoting is a welcome form of praise. Occasionally, instead of reblogging an entire post, you might prefer sharing just a nugget of particular interest. Some themes offer a Quote Post Format, designed specifically to highlight the chosen text (to see if your theme supports this format, from your Dashboard click Posts → Add New. A sidebar box will show all available formats for your theme).

Screen shot 2013-06-27 at 6.07.45 PM

  • Blockquote is always an option. Even in themes that do not offer this post format, you can use the Blockquote tag in the visual editor to foreground the quoted text and separate it from the rest of your writing.
  • Give credit where credit is due. No one likes to see their hard work used by someone else without attribution. When you reblog an entire post, the original blog will automatically be mentioned in your own post, and you can add more information in the text box that opens when you click Reblog. Citing your source is just as easy when you quote, or use someone’s else’s image. Simply add the source in the caption (for an image) or following the borrowed text (for a quote), and link to the source.

Getting inspiration from others’ work and paying others tribute will make your own content stronger — soon enough, you might find your own posts quoted by your own favorite bloggers.

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  1. Reblogging would be better if when it gets reblogged, the tags transfer with the text. Otherwise, all reblogs end up without tags. I always tag them immediately, sometimes copying and pasting the originals. Categories, unfortunately, do not necessary match mine, so I have to improvise. Still, the author’s original tags would make the transfer process better for everyone. I believe in reblogging. If someone else has written something I think is wonderful and/or important, I don’t see any reason to re-invent it in my own words. Why not let the original author have his/her say?

    1. That’s a fair point.

      The way I see it — which is by no means the only, or the most valid way of seeing it — is that by reblogging a post, you take someone else’s context and put it in a different context. Having to add new tags and categories can help you establish that new context, and to make the reblogged post fit more smoothly in your blog from a content organization standpoint.

      Ideally, of course, the original content will shape the way you present it to your readers — including the tags you use to describe it.

      1. But I can’t help feeling that taking someone else’s context may always show some lack of originality if not of creative imagination

  2. Great ideas/tips – but I do have a concern I should like to flag up. I have come across a couple of blogs which seem to consist of nothing but endless rebloggings of other writers’ posts. I know that a reblog can be helpful and supportive, and of mutual benefit – but, I do think there is a very fine line between reblogging because of genuine admiration and theft of other posts simply to get a huge number of hits each day.
    I appreciate that, with the VAST number of posts flooding in each day, this kind of borderline abuse can be very hard to police – but, to me, it goes against the whole notion of ethical behaviour amongst writers. How, I ask (and this is knowingly rhetorical!), can a person who just copies the work of others possibly call him/herself a writer?!

    1. I doubt that owners of blogs that consist entirely of reblogs actually call themselves writers — they are spammers, and are often flagged as such. That said, I agree there are borderline cases in both directions, and that learning to reblog ethically — as discussed in the linked post above — is key to using this feature.

    2. I have someone who has started re-blogging everyone of my posts and that is fine with me. Puts my name in front of people who probably would not see it, I assume somehow helps my stats etc. If he took my name off that would be different but I am fully credited so its all good -in my opinion

      1. Oh, don’t get me wrong here, Robert: it is lovely to be reblogged (and I agree with your comments on putting one’s name out to a wider audience). My concern lies in the sphere of blogs which are 99% reblog – because, I suppose, when I go onto another person’s blog, I like to get to know that person by his/her unique writing voice. If I never get to ‘meet’ the actual person that, for me, devalues the whole thing and makes me wonder what makes that blogger a writer.

  3. Thanks for sharing. It always works. Like the post, comment on the post and follow the author. That’s not only gaining a follower or a visitor but also exchange of ideas.

  4. I would appreciate if the READER was condensed – smaller – grid like ( optional – user choice ), to allow an easier – quicker way to view all the blogs we follow or will do. I hate scrolling down, considering sometimes, we are limited with time and feel inconsiderate not having the ability to view – appreciate ( like ) a blog we follow. Thanks a bunch.

  5. This is exactly what I hope to achieve in my blog; “The Body….Eclectic.” Thank you, so much, for this informative, helpful post.

  6. Samar’s point on the reader looking like the format used for freshly pressed- grid, sounds very good… And I would like to stress the point about CREDIT… It amazes me to still find blogs that don’t link or give the original author’s name to the images or words they have borrowed… Maybe a tutorial on credit/citing sources would be nice :) will check out Submitted for your Perusal, thanks for the info & links…great post, Alexandra

  7. very helpful and interesting material – and I like your analogies – like this one “Some rooms feel a bit cozier, though, with a choice item from the flea market or the antique store. Likewise, your blog can come to life with….”

  8. I love the reader! I enjoy to follow blogs and find new posts. I just started blogging and felt honored to see one of my postings being “rebloged”. To me it means my posts was “good enough” to be allowed to be on somebody’d blog, never thought about it any other way! Same goes the other way around, if I reblog a post, then it impressed me and I would like to give others, who might follow my blog, the chance to read it as well!

  9. Great advice. I tend to prefer block quoting rather than reblogging. While I reblog all the time on tumblr, I’m not entirely comfortable using the function on WordPress. I suppose it’s because my wordpress blog represents a different function for me.

  10. So coincidently I saw this post after I finally decided on my blog direction – to comb and handpick beautiful photographs, graphics, crafts, products based on weekly theme. I love the joy of sharing and hope to bring inspiration to my readers.

  11. A few weeks ago I had a revelation, I wanted to share the great content in my Reader! I began sharing great post in twitter and then I developed that into a reblogging series; every Monday I reblog a post from a blog in my blogroll.
    Which is in the end a way to thank the blogs who follow me too since I follow my followers back. So yes, that reblog button has come quite handy :)