Addicted to novelty since 2001

The Problem with Unmoderated User-Generated Content

The problem with unmoderated user-generated content is that it’s mostly crap. Anybody trying to make quick money on the Web sees user-generated content as a quick and easy way to create content, which can then be monetized. Many of the really popular content sites on the Web–Slashdot, BoingBoing, Fark, to name a few–run on stuff submitted by their visitors. That’s the approach the guys running UrbanVancouver are taking. The theory is, build the framework, and people will submit the content. Assuming, of course, that the topic is compelling to them.

The most important aspect of user-generated content, however, is moderation. You need editors, or else the signal-to-noise factor gets lousy. This theory is borne out by a site like SongMeanings. I chanced on this site today while searching for some lyrics, and thought it was a natural. People are always interested in the anecdotes, meanings and references behind songs, so why not create a site that aggregates that content.

However, check out the average song. Let’s take, for example, 38 Years Old by the Tragically Hip. There are 16 submissions associated with this song, but only 3 of them actually speak to the song’s meaning. The rest of them consist of cunning observations like “THIS BAND SUXXXXXXX” and “they are the Canadian gods of music”. Not very helpful if you want to figure out what the hell Gordon Downie was referring to with the line “been one seat empty, eighteen years in all”.

If this site had active an editor, they’d excise the 13 entries (or ‘moderate them down’, as the terminology goes) and we’d be left with a useful site. For now, though, I can’t be arsed to wade through an ocean of milk for a few honey-nut cheerios.

3 Responses to “The Problem with Unmoderated User-Generated Content”

  1. Rog

    Once upon a time I might have said that anarchistic information systems could work. The early years of Usenet and projects like the pre-web version of the IMDB seemed to be ready evidence that large groups of people could provide good info with only minimal supervision.

    Somewhere along the way however, things seem to have gotten screwed up. I think we (as in netizens as a whole) underestimated the amount of sheer crap that people will post, like 4-year-olds striving for attention.

    Now the trick seems to be, what form of moderation works best? I’d love to know the answer. Near as I can tell, it really depends on the type of content. What works at Slashdot wouldn’t work say for the Wikipedia.

    I’m starting to wish that Google had some better form of moderation, because sadly their ranking system is being more and more abused. =(

  2. Andrea

    I don’t know if you were serious about looking for the meaning behind “been one seat empty, eighteen years in all”, or if you were just using it as an example. However, the song is about a convict who comes home for dinner — after breaking out, I think. He is 38 and hasn’t been home in 18 years, because he killed the guy who raped his sister. So there’s “been one seat empty” at the dinner table for “eighteen years in all”.

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