There are a lot of reasons to curate content. You might want to create a resource for other people. You might be gathering information for a presentation or project. You might just have an interest in a topic and enjoy pulling together the most interesting stuff you can find.
So what exactly does it mean to curate? You can go by the Dictionary (dot-com) definition, of course:
to pull together, sift through, and select for presentation, as music or website content
That second part--"select for presentation"--is what makes it curation rather than aggregation. There are a lot of tools that aggregate information, but with any automated system, there's going to be a lot of noise in there and a lot of items that don't really fit the category.
Some of the tools I mention below will automate that part for you. But in the end, the important part is the human touch.
These are the platforms that do the best job in helping you curate content on any subject.
Flipboard's interface is beautiful, making the most of high-resolution images and articles with an attractive design. Users (and publishers) curate magazines on newsworthy events, on passion projects, on just about any topic you might imagine.
An unofficial user community created by Flipboard Club (disclosure: I am a member of the community and have occasionally been an admin of its Facebook group) shares advice and tips with newcomers. The recent introduction of Flipboard's web platform means it's easy to create and curate magazines anywhere. The platform also allows for group curation and private magazines. Also new: You can embed magazines on your site.
Best for: Visual content, articles with high-resolution imagery.
Two things won me over to Trove quickly: First, not every article I collect has a wonderful image to go with it, and don't look as great on Flipboard. While Trove itself is attractively designed, the look of the curated content doesn't affect it much.
Second, you can set up a search for a keyword or phrase and Trove will automatically gather content for you--adding it to your trove takes just a click or two, and you can quickly review the content it's gathered. (Disclosure: After I became a hardcore user, the company asked me to be a member of its "advisory board," which means I have a T-shirt, occasionally answer surveys, and get to see new features before the general user base.)
Best for: News articles and keyword-friendly content.
People can submit items to add to your lists, and you can allow people to vote on entries on your lists. This enables you to crowdsource information without having to worry that you'll end up with a bunch of worthless spam under your name.
A Twitter integration allows you to curate Twitter lists through the platform as well. This is highly useful if you're looking to find people to add to a list. Ordinarily, you'd have to click through to every profile and take two or three actions to add each appropriate person to the list. The List.ly integration allows you to view a bio on the platform and add it with one click. Then the list syncs with Twitter.
Best for: Custom, crowdsourced lists, including those synced to Twitter.
If you want to pull together content from a variety of platforms and annotate it in one nice package, this is the platform you're looking for. It's almost de rigueur for Twitter chat hosts to use it to summarize their chats. The stories are embeddable and use drag-and-drop editing so you can quickly change the order of posts inside it.
It's not the best-looking option, but it's quick and simple. I've often used Storify to recap conferences or other live events I've participated in, having a finished product within 15-20 minutes of the event's end.
Best for: Recapping events with a lot of social media interaction.
There are many other excellent curation platforms, of course. What are your favorites?