Here are two things most people demonstrably don’t get about user-generated content in Web 2.0:
- It doesn’t work if it feels like work.
- For the general population to embrace it needs to skew toward drive-by data.
Too many of the current Web 2.0 applications are walled gardens expecting me to bookmark there, tag things there, and generally convince other people in my circle to go there so that we can all benefit from … something or another to do with sharing. While I’m far from a sharing cynic, and believe very strong in the notion of intelligence at the edge pushing increasingly into the core, this stuff just doesn’t work.
What was different about Flickr, Amazon’s book reviews, and so on, is that the community benefit came as a consequence of the site being useful for other reasons. If Amazon had simply been a place where you could put book reviews it wouldn’t have worked; if Flickr had simply been a place where you could tag photos it wouldn’t work. Most people wouldn’t have found it worth the effort.
Sure, there are some keeners out there who will go nuts and load up their Yahoo Myweb page with lots of data, or put their whole family tree in Linkedin, or write scripts to port their stored booksmarks to del.icio.us — but those people are not like us. They are a corner of a corner of a corner.
For most people their contributions will come because they are in the middle of living their life, in media res, as it were — and living throws off information. Call it drive-by data. Some of that data thrown off is useful, and if people choose to share it then you have an opportunity extract good stuff from the edge. But relying on the edge to consciously and conscientously play contributor is naive.