Archive for the ‘doc searls’ Category

Tuesday, March 27th, 2007

No more User Generated Content on LibraryThing

Did that get your attention? I mean no more using the term “User Generated Content.”

I hated “users” already, and have largely dropped it in favor of “members,” “people” or “you.” “Users” is too impersonal, and as some anonymous genius* said, the only other industry that calls its customers “users” is not one we want to emulate.

Anyway, there’s an excellent IT Conversations podcast with Doc Searls (Cluetrain Manifesto co-author), run by Phil Windley, where Doc expands on his hated of the term “User Generated Content.”

Doc Searls: One reason is I’m not just a user. I’ve never like the term “user” either. I realize there’s no better term. It’s like “content.” You need an encompassing word that stands for everybody who’s sitting at a computer or using a telephone or whatever the “usage” happens to be.

But on top of that, I don’t like the term “generated.” I don’t generate what I create–I write it. “Generating” is something that an inanimate device does. It’s not something that a person does.

And I don’t produce “content.” I never sit down at the keyboard or pick up a camera or draw something thinking “I’m going to generate some content here.” Nobody is motivated to generate content. Content is a measure of volume. It’s packing material. It’s container cargo. It’s not creative work.

And “user generated content” is the kind of thing only an exclusive, controlling producer can say. And to hear people in the Web 2.0 world or the online world saying “Oh, we need more user-generated content here!” It’s that you’re adopting the langauge of the old world when you do that. …

It’s not just about packing stuff into a vehicle that’s a medium. I don’t even like the term “medium” very much any more.

Phil Windley: Or “delivering information”—that’s another one.

Doc Searls: Yeah again, it’s the container cargo shipping version of the world–that assumes a distance. It assumes that you’re way over there and I’m way over here, and I need to “scale” a whole pile of you and I got to scale it up in way that I can package it up and I’m going to pack a lot of advertising around it because I can sell that shit. Oh, come on.

I mean, there’s nothing wrong with doing a business with that. But at least know what you’re doing. What you’re doing is to some degree diminishing the profoundly individual and deeply personal and socially transforming nature of the best of what that stuff is. …

When you say “user generated content” you are now subtracting out all the value of everything everybody’s doing.

The relevance to LibraryThing is obvious. We should never adopt the “containing shipping” model of what our members are doing, even in how we talk about it.

But I think there’s some special relevance to libraries too. Uncertainty about “user generated content” among librarians centers around issues of authority, certainly. But I suspect the mixture of impersonal technology and impersonal personality is also toxic. After all, most librarians have jobs that put them in frequent, meaningful contact with their patrons**. Librarians value the patron’s role in the library, and I suspect that, like teachers and students, many librarians learn from their patrons every day. I suspect there would be less resistance to “user generated content” in the library if it sounded less like communal sausage production.

We in the “Lib 2.0” world gain nothing by using the language of language of container ships to describe the writing, knowledge and opinions of patrons.

*Help? Paul Graham?
**A good term.

Labels: cluetrain, doc searls, lib2.0, ugc, user generated content