SXSW 2011 Q&A: Jim England

Rachel Lovinger   March 8, 2011

The Breakdown: SXSW is just a few days away. As we pull into the final stretch, we spoke with Jim England (@JimEngland), co-founder of Keepstream about his panel “Humans Versus Robots: Who Curates the Real-Time Web?”

S/G: What inspired the creation of Keepstream?

Jim: Keepstream evolved from the development of another web app (CorkShare) we built while in college at Case Western Reserve University. Starting with no professional contacts outside of our university, we used Twitter to connect with developers, marketers, and other startup founders and built a group of important advisers and mentors. On Twitter, we saw meaningful conversations and important resources being shared, but did not find an easy and effective way to save or archive these interactions.

The turning point for the ideation of Keepstream was at last year’s SXSW. While we did not attend in person, we were able to follow a number of panels simply by reading the official hashtag of the event. These hashtags were great live, but it was difficult to find these relevant tweets in the future and there was no place to store or archive a curated list of these tweets.

We felt that there needed to be a website which would help in the saving of social media, so we built Keepstream to preserve and share these collective experiences within our social media streams.

S/G: What interesting uses of Keepstream have you seen so far?

Jim: We have purposely built Keepstream to be a flexible, open-ended platform and have been excited by the collections our users have built so far. Some of my personal favorites include a Twitter Q&A with Entourage actor Adrian Grenier, highlights from the Austin City Limits Music Festival, and a recap of articles on a new product launch.

S/G: Your panel is described as “an old fashioned smackdown between human and semantic-powered curation.” Can you tell us about the panelists, and what each of them brings to the debate?

Jim: I believe that curation applications should provide powerful tools for manual curation, keeping the content personal and relevant to the curator and to their audience.

Xavier Damman is a web entrepreneur from Belgium and co-founder of Storify. Xavier previously founded Publitweet, a platform to publish tweets on news sites such as European news outlets and EuropeanVoice. He believes that social media turns everyone into a reporter with curation as a manual process to turn bits of data in the cloud into meaningful information (stories) that can be used to inform the world in a better way.

Hank Nothhaft is the co-founder of Trapit, a virtual personal assistant for web content incubated out of SRI and in the same AI project (CALO) as Siri (acquired by APPL in May after their SXSW Accelerator win). Hank’s company comes at the problem from the “robot” side of the equation, creating a “Pandora for web content” based on advanced machine-based curation.

After spending five years as Chief Marketing Officer for Bazaarvoice, Sam Decker is now focused on aggregating, curating and displaying social content as CEO of Mass Relevance.  Sam believes that automation has to be a part of the curation process in order for the appeal to scale beyond the most hardcore digital enthusiasts.

Our moderator for the panel is Megan McCarthy, founding editor of Mediagazer and the first human editor at Techmeme. Megan has been described as the “Borg Queen of the Blogosphere” in an interview with American Journalism Review, so she has experience with both “robotic” and “human” forms of curation.

S/G: Do you think humans and robots can ever learn to get along? What do you think it would take to make that happen?

Jim: Each of the four startups on our panel are a blend of both manual and automatic processes, with variations on the percentages in the mix.  Robots and humans will learn to get along if we use algorithmically curated content as a starting point for human curation. In addition to a robotically curated base of content, it is necessary for humans to provide the finishing touches by removing some content and adding beneficial pieces that algorithms may have missed.

S/G: What are you looking forward to seeing at SXSW?

Jim: As a co-founder of a curation startup, I can’t wait to hear from an expert in the field: Steve Rosenbaum in “Curation Nation: A Model for Makers and Gatherers”.

I am also looking forward to supporting local Austin panels including Jason Cohen’s “A Bootstrapped Geek Sifts Through the Bullshit” and Josh William’s “Beyond the Check-In: Location and the Social Web

As for keynotes, Christopher Poole (canvas) and Seth Priebatsch (SCVNGR) are going to absolutely crush it!

Explore the rest of the SXSW 2011 Q&A Series.

Image credits, from left to right:
Austin – by tantek
Badge – by adactio
Microphone – by hiddedevries
iPad – by smemon87


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