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Published June 21, 2020
"Aristotle" by Billy Collins
"What's that poem? About the beginning middle and end?" one of my daughters texted me one day in 2018. It took a few minutes, but we finally figured out she was referring to "Aristotle," a poem by Billy Collins I'd read to her years ago. Collins begins:
This is the beginning.
Almost anything can happen.
This is where you find
the creation of light, a fish wriggling onto land,
the first word of Paradise Lost on an empty page.
It's one of my favorite poems because of the way it perfectly capture's life's winding journey. When I first discovered it, I remember sharing it with a few people I thought might love it, too, including my kids. (Quick disclaimer: I'm not sure my kids LOVE poetry, but they've been tortured with poetry-reading parents since before they could walk, so at least they're used to it by now.)
Little did I know my daughter would text me about it years later. Happily, she remembered enough to jog my memory, and we were able to quickly find it online. But what if we hadn't? Or what if I hadn't been around just then? She would have missed out on an amazing moment revisiting a poem that, as it turns out, she'd loved as much as I had. (Just so you don't get the wrong impression, we also share things far more mundane, like a recent video of a raccoon eating cherries.)
At its best, technology makes it easier for us to do things we already love doing, and sharing is one of those things. After all, who hasn't shared a book, movie, podcast, recipe, or meme with someone else? Who hasn't said "Have you seen / heard / read [fill in the blank]?" Sharing things we love (and, sometimes, things we hate) with people we love is something we all naturally do. It's one of the most meaningful ways we connect with others. And when we're passionate about something, we don't just stop at sharing. We link together ideas and resources. We build on them over time as our passions grow and evolve. We become curators.
It just so happened that when my daughter texted me, a group of friends and I were working on a project for cross-platform content curation. We'd just left another technology company, and wanted to find simpler ways to curate and share and discover great content from any app or website. A platform purpose-built for curation, without the need to scroll through endless feeds or old text messages to find something we'd seen before. A technology solution that would have allowed my daughter to find not just "Artistotle," but all the poems I've loved over the years (and books, and recipes, and songs, and long-form articles, and . . . well, you get the idea).
Eventually, our project turned into Trove, a platform for curating the things we love and sharing them with others.
Curate what you love from anywhere
With Trove, which is an iOS app, you can curate content from almost any app or website and add it to collections you create and share with others. Collections can be about anything - your favorite books, daily news on a particular topic, top 5 highlights from the 2019 NBA playoffs, essential plants for hobby herbalists. Trove makes it simple to curate and share your lasting interests, and discover similar content from others.
Share your passions . . . nicely
The best recommendations almost always come from people we know and trust, regardless of whether it's a restaurant, book, movie, or podcast. And our level of trust in a recommendation is usually based on who's making it. If a friend is passionate about gardening, for example, we're more likely to turn to them when we have a gardening question. We may not, however, care much for their political commentary. That's why in Trove you can choose to follow a person you know (which means you'll see everything they curate) OR you can choose to just follow one of their collections (so you can see their gardening collection, for example, without also seeing a deluge of political memes).
Discover content by other curators
From a data management perspective, computers are great at processing enormous amounts of data, finding object-based connections, and surfacing those connections in understandable ways. They're less great, however, at finding and surfacing things that SEEM unrelated at first glance but are, in fact, deeply connected. That's why human curation is still so key to discovering meaningful content. (If you're not yet a fan of Brain Pickings by Maria Popova, I recommend it wholeheartedly. The literary connections Popova makes outstrip anything the best Google search could deliver. She's astonishing.)
Trove's discovery engine is built around this same idea. When you add an item to Trove, the platform searches to see if that same item has been added by anyone else. If so, it connects your collection to every other collection with the same item. The end result is that when you tap into an item, you can see every collection that has that item in it, allowing you to discover across collections. So, for example, if I save "Aristotle" in a collection called "Poems I Read to My Children," I might discover others had saved it to collections called "Poems to Read Out Loud," or "Poet Laureates of the United States," or "Gracefully Coping with Change," opening up a trove (yes, intentional, sorry) of interesting discovery possibilities.
Beyond endless feeds
Trove isn't designed to be a place where people spend hours and hours scrolling through endless feeds of content. Our intent was to create a better way for people to preserve what they loved most so that others could see who they really are. Admittedly, our first version of Trove is just a beginning, but if we've gotten it even partly right, we'll no longer have to rely on luck and memory to remember a poem we read to our kids long ago. Instead, it'll be there, waiting for us - and others - to rediscover.
We've love to hear your feedback on Trove, our approach to content curation, or, if you're already using Trove, collections you've created that others might love.