Is user-generated content all that it is cracked up to be?
Sure, some organizations have been very quick to exploit
its appeal in an effort to adapt to the newest and hippest Web technology trends. While others (newspapers
, for instance) linger, hesitant and skeptical of the benefit and subsequent outcome that adding wikis, blogs and other Web 2.0 prospects, will bring.
For some time now, the jury has been vague is determining the impact -- good or bad -- that user-generated content
(UGC) has had on social media
and even more importantly, if it's lived up to the hype of being the great equalizer, democracy-laden technology of the Web. A few recent studies have called attention to the obstacles in establishing venues online that encourage readers to share their opinions, etc, as well as a shift in the types of users that regularly contribute user-generated content and how it has affected the perception of UGC in online social media. Research
has shown that though UGC is sometimes "driven as much by local organizational and technical conditions as it is by any attachment to traditional editorial practices," its progress is continuously stalled because of reservations about spelling, grammar, decency and legal apprehension over biased or unsupported opinions.
Furthermore, with less than 1% of site users actively contributing in some instances, some question its value altogether.
Yet, if we look at the content generated by users, research shows
that it's far more accurate than we would be lead to believe. With wikis and blogs becoming increasingly more acceptable among mainstream users, the focus seems to be shifting
from content generation to content moderation
– as in how much content are users adding or taking away compared to the amount of content being edited and spell-checked by users.
As it turns out, Wikipedia users, for instance, who have "made more than 10,000 edits add nearly twice as many words" as they delete. In comparison, those who have made "fewer than 100 edits are the only group that deletes more words than it adds". Statistically, this seems to suggest that there are more people editing than actually writing.
Adding it all up, user-generated content isn't the menacing monster that legal feared it to be, after all. In fact, with more people moderating than generating, it seems that user-generated content is apt to be more self-censoring than most editorials.
While neither a radical democracy nor a wild dictatorship, users' actions of Web technologies demonstrate a conservative but ambitious approach.