Why We Need Better Metrics For Measuring User-Generated Content

from the no-more-storytime dept

Much has been made about the iPad as a consumptive, rather than creative, device. Some, including law professor Tim Wu at a recent New America event, have voiced concern that it heralds the end of a golden era of user-generated content. But to truly understand the importance and impact of user-generated content – including on the traditional media that Clay Shirky has recently argued are fatally too complex to survive – we must have better measurement of the phenomenon. Without reliable data and sensible comparative metrics, it is impossible to say if we have even experienced a golden age of open creative possibility.

For example, nearly two years ago in response to Shirky, Nick Carr bristled at the idea that the Web was the necessary component for creative production, participation and sharing. According to Carr, the people he knew back before the Web were also creating – writing, photographing, drawing, constructing and volunteering. This is undoubtedly true, but because technology did not enable the inexpensive recording, archiving, sharing and finding of this creativity, it went largely unnoticed. Of course, cheaper technology almost certainly does enable more creative production, but how much is hard to say.

When Shirky notes that an amateur video of two children has garnered more views than American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, and the Superbowl combined, it is comparing apples and oranges. A minute video hardly competes with the Superbowl for eyeballs; certainly the Internet has opened opportunities to competitors to the Superbowl, but let’s compare those. The problem is, we don’t currently have the categories and metrics necessary to make sense of the rise (and potential fall) of creation. Some people are trying to create quantify the impact of blogs on the news cycle, but in regards to other media types, we seem to be ignoring the problem and living off anecdotes. So, how can we move ahead with better metrics for user-generated content and what should those metrics be?

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Comments on “Why We Need Better Metrics For Measuring User-Generated Content”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Perhaps we shouldn’t distinguish between user and corporate-generated content.

It is often said that user-generated content is mostly crap, but consider sites like Wired and Ars Technica. They publish huge, glaring typographical errors every day. These are the kinds of errors that someone with a 3rd grade level of literacy could look over once and detect. Yet despite that, they consider themselves professionals.

In terms of video content, think of all the shows today that have a laugh track. If the content were actually funny, would they have to overlay the audio with laughter to try to queue it from you?

Having lots of content can be good, but we should focus on quality content, regardless of who created it. It shouldn’t matter if it is a guild writer or good ol’ AC; good content is good and bad content is bad.

Anonymous Coward says:

To further expand upon that point, from a content consumer’s point of view, things like the creator’s motivation and budget are irrelevant. People don’t care about how much money it took to make a 2 hour movie of CG Escher paintings humping. They just want to be wowed by Transformers 3.

People don’t care whether the witers for Big Bang Theory are really into it or are “just doing their job”. They just want to hear Sheldon say something snarky.

The common things we use to distinguish professional and ameture content creators don’t factor in to the content consumer’s experience.

Killer_Tofu (profile) says:

A truly creative age

This may be just my opinion but I don’t think we can have a truly creative age until copyright is drastically reduced or weakened from its current state. There are tons of good mash up ideas and collages and things of the sort that can be awesome, but right now are hindered because of copyright.
If we truly want to unleash creativity, I think copyright needs to go or be brought back down to a minimum.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: A truly creative age

Copyright is indeed out of control, but I find that some of its unintended consequences are actually beneficial. One of those (quite) unintended consequences is that the people are forced to retake their own culture by creating it themselves. This leads to even more creativity, although not in the way copyright intended.

However, this benefit would be a complete non-issue if copyright were reigned in (or abolished). The people creating and enjoying their own culture would be the norm, not the fringe.

MichaelG says:

bad example

While the “Charlie bit my finger” video is number one on YouTube with 175 million views, the SECOND most viewed is Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance, with 171 million views.

I don’t think his example really says much about the popularity of user-generated content.

I also think arguing against a consumer device like the iPad is like saying TV should never have been invented, because back in the days of theater, people were free to reuse/modify performances on their own.

The hacker/maker culture will do fine, it just won’t be the standard. It never has been.

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