Curation

Amidst the flurry of yesterday’s news, one could have easily missed the the launch of Need, and I’m certainly glad that I didn’t. Matt Alexander’s new service was created with the stated goal of becoming the one place you’ll go to for help in finding all the best products that a man could need- in his words, “to curate and sell only the very best products befitting the season, location, and age of our members.”

He identifies the core problem that Need aims to solve:

For most men, shopping is a troublesome, inconvenient, and time-consuming activity. Whether online or in brick and mortar shops, hunting for the very best products can be an elusive and frequently expensive endeavor.

While "most men" paints with a bit of a broad brush, it's difficult to deny that many of us could use some help with cutting through the noise that is the modern marketplace. But how is Need any different from other sites that collect and present clothing and other objects for men to consider?

In this space, the word "curation" is on the cusp of losing all meaning. Originally intended as a term to describe the act of highlighting a limited and high-quality selection of items — frequently in museums and galleries — the term has been misappropriated and now seems to suggest providing a near-endless river of trawled products and images.

Curation is supposed to be concerned with finding the signal in and amongst the noise — a means to be confident in restraint, rather than in excess. And yet, few — if any — abide by this definition.

This is where Alexander nails it. I agree that in many cases today, provision of sincere curation has been lost. Social curation tools such as Pinterest, Fancy, and SVPPLY place the onus on friends to curate items for you- and in most cases, the standard for most products in these contexts is a well-taken photograph. Beyond the people in your network, online curation sites don't do much better, as monetization necessitates the use of Amazon Affiliate links and invites the blurred lines of sponsored placement. Under pressure to drive traffic, sites such as Uncrate or Outblush are compelled to create a barrage of new content on a daily basis. The necessity of "new" betrays the true definition of "curation".

I hope that Need fulfills their commitment to redeem curation in the truest sense. I look forward to seeing them grow, and to seeing others to follow in their footsteps.