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January 17, 2008 / Amy Bradney-George

The Flaws in UGC

It’s supposed to stand for User-Generated Content, but I’m beginning to wonder if that’s the correct term for the websites making use of it.

UGC has long been used by companies involved in the production of new software to iron out any problems. The theory is that consumers will voluteer to be part of a beta test and identify problems before the final product is released. It sounds good, the producers have a cost effect way of figuring out problems, and consumers get to “test” out the product before buying it. In that sense it can create a symbiotic relationship which often works quite well.

I have no problem with that type of UGC. I do have a problem with sites that are now taking advantage of the concept.

There are websites which are finally making full use of the internet’s capabilities. They can incorporate written text with picture, sound and video and allow users to comment on the information presented. Some may only work with one or two features, like written text and pictures, but generally these sites all allow user comments. It’s smart because the sites can figure out what users are interested in and generate more content from that. And users feel like they are being heard.

My issue with these sites is that they can choose which comments to publish. Of course, you need to have that option as a site facillitator so that you are not exposed to defamation, contempt or a negative reputation. It’s when this role is abused that things can get unfair.

Several sites I frequent have UGC features available, and I enjoy being able to use them. On some occasions I have noticed spelling mistakes in the written text and submitted a comment relating to the text and noting the mistakes. At first the entire comments were published and the mistakes changed. Once there was even a follow up comment thanking me for pointing out the mistake. But it has gradually changed. Sometimes the mistakes are left, sometimes the comments are not posted but the mistakes are changed, and most recently part of the comment was published, but the sentence noting the mistakes was not.

My qualm is that I am not being acknowledged for the help I am giving the site. This is not UGC. UGC is supposed to allow people to have a voice, not censoring that voice because it might make the site look like it’s run by people (we all make mistakes, remember?). A thank you would be nice, but I know I won’t get that because the only way I know my comments are being acknowledged is if the mistakes are changed.


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