01 February 2010

UGC All Good or Not?

I have always felt that the hoopla on User Generated Content was way over played. In recent weeks a few things have come home to reinforce my view.

First I do want to say that User Generated Content is valuable. However it should not be considered a panacea for failing to do your own job. Further how you use the content so generated is as critical as the content itself. Data can be garbage or valuable information depending on how its managed.

Substituting UGC for well written content is a fatally flawed strategy. Assuming reliable UGC therefore falls into the same category.

Recently I have been working on a group vacation and have had the pleasure of using some of the accommodation/rental home sites. As an aside here - I really think after working with the different sites in US and Europe that there is a rather overblown expectation and decided over valuation applied to these businesses. But no matter. I digress. The UGC I see there is pretty useless. Often there is scarcely enough of it. So one or two reviews is pretty useless. For these long tailed businesses - I think that you are somewhat between a rock and a hard place. The over-enthusiastic supplier generated prose fails while the UGC is suspect and thin.

On a less prosaic point - I have written before about Seat Guru part of the Expedia Empire. After my last post - one of their nice people immediately sent me an email about complaining I was being a bit harsh on them. However - I duly followed up and every time I would find a mistake or a missing airline - I would send it in. However the amount of errors and the scale of the missing content is rather large. For example there are no Airbus aircraft on the DL fleet side. Given that Delta is the largest carrier in the world this would seem to be a rather important omission. My point on SeatGuru is that they have come to rely on the users to provide the information. FATAL MISTAKE. Sadly it means that my trust in SeatGuru has fallen to an all time low. I keep finding mistakes and missing content. (Note to Expedia - have someone take a long hard look at the entire site content and then do it on a regular basis!)

The mushroom defense doesn't work here. If you are providing a website service then you really need to be the one pushing for the correct content. Users can be used (if you will pardon the expression) for fact checking and corrections.

So I remain the UGC skeptic. Just because there are lots of them doesn't make them right!


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