For every argument that the Internet puts limitless knowledge and information at our fingertips, there’s an equally valid point that we are buried in an overwhelming sea of noise. So it’s no wonder that content curation is one of the hottest trends in startup innovation these days.
MentorMob is one company looking to turn content experts into teachers. The Web app created by college friends Kris Chinosorn and Vince Leung lets you curate collections of information within a playlist that conveys a lesson plan around a single topic.
“We want to get people to get addicted to learning again,” says Chinosorn. “We know there is great, free content out there that we could use to learn just about anything, but we also know that for every great article or video on the Internet there are 100,000 terrible ones to beat it to the top of the search engine results.”
MentorMob divides its playlists into 12 subject categories including technology, health, and art. They provide playlists for teachers, as well as standard school subjects such as math, science, and social studies. More specific topics, called “mobs,” covered within the subjects, range from learning Photoshop to home brewing beer, to entrepreneurship.
Content is contributed by volunteer editors, who tend to be hobbyists and enthusiasts. Fortunately for the rest of us, these contributors have done the leg work of digging through the endless content to find and arrange key points to create an effective learning playlist.
The company has content management teams that ensure quality, but much like Wikipedia, playlists are open to the public for editing. MentorMob is building a community where each user can take on a different role based on the subject matter. In some cases they’re a reader. In others, where they have more expertise or passion, they may be light or occasionally even heavy contributors.
The startup just rolled out an interface redesign that makes browsing playlists and consuming content easier and more intuitive. The main goals of the redesign, according to the founders, was to highlight the content even more by reducing clutter and simplifying navigation. In the new version, navigation within a playlist is reduced to a single “next” button that allows each ensuing piece of content to flow seamlessly without interrupting the lesson.
They’ve also added a progress bar that conveys the user’s current place within the learning playlist, much like the one offered in the Kindle. Finally, the new design adds more advanced editing features and as well as new sharing options.
The company has begun to focus more heavily on supporting actual teachers — as opposed to those of us hobbyists without a classroom of eager students counting on us for interesting and educational lessons. This new, free teaching platform manages online materials, replacing the traditional complex tools in the marketplace, and encourages share among educators. Mark Anderson’s playlist on Twitter for teachers is a great example.
The website launched in November 2011 and recently exited private beta. The company also joined the Catapult Chicago incubator in March of this year. Mentormob has been bootstrapped by its founders, with the exception of its limited incubator financing, but is said to be closing in on an initial round of seed funding.
Mentormob has won its fair share of awards and accolades in its early existence. The company won the 2011 CityLIGHTS New Concept Award from the Illinois Technology Association, earned a nomination for the 2011 Chicago Innovation Awards, and in March was the winner of the Mozilla/HASTAC DML Competition in San Francisco.
“It’s a fun, addictive way to learn,” Chinosorn says. “When you click on the next step you don’t know what part of the Internet you’re being sent to.”