Shahar Solomianik

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Posts Tagged ‘User Generated Content

What is Quality Content?

with 27 comments

I recently pitched Triond to a founder of another web company. As usual, I started by explaining the problem that Triond solves. When I got to the part where I’m stressing that out of 133 million tracked blogs, only about 7 millions are really active, my listener replied with – “and that’s 7 million too many… I bet you too get a lot of rubbish submissions…”

Apparently, He didn’t highly appreciate the quality of user generated content. This made me think (again) about the question of what quality content is, especially in regards to user generated content.

User generated content is very disruptive to the standard perception of content quality. Just up until a few years ago, most of us were used to consume only content that was produced by professional editorial systems. Whether on TV, newspapers, books or even the internet in its infant years, the content that end users consumed was filtered out and edited by professionals that were implementing a somewhat narrow range of methodologies to their work. The limits were very clear and very accurately defined, and the result was a very unified style and spirit of content across all platforms.

The question of whether a content you were exposed to was a quality one never rose in those times. It was clear that if the content is out there, then it is of at least a minimal quality, otherwise – it wouldn’t have been there. The only thing that was left for the consumers to do in regards to evaluating content quality was to fine tune their consumption standards within a very narrow spectrum. The brand under which the content was published became the content’s seal of quality, and acting as the gate keepers of our content world, professional producers and editors made our content consuming experience safe and secure.

They did, however, narrowed our choice tremendously.

What user generated content did, was allowing anyone with content creation aspirations to walk pass the gate keepers and have their content out there, proposed to end users for consumption. Without the gate keepers, everything suddenly became legitimate, and the filtering mission was handed over to the consumers themselves. Having no training at all at content quality evaluation, confused consumers needed to either avoid user generated content at all, develop a sharp quality sense of their own, or – start relying on the innovative tools that started to appear in order to help measure content quality.

Those came in many forms, starting with the very basic Google’s PageRank algorithm that measured quality by numbers of incoming links, continuing with social bookmarking sites like del.icio.us that measured quality as number of people’s bookmarks and later on with social voting sites like digg, reddit and stumbleupon that simply let the crowd push what they consider as quality content to the top.

Engagement volume, expressed by the number of comments or ratings for a unit of content became another measurement for quality, and the latest trend is that people are becoming a content seal of quality themselves, simply by recommending content to their friends and followers using Facebook and Twitter.

If you stick to the traditional methods of content quality measurement, you would probably miss all of these posts. Are these content items of low quality? I’m not sure how a traditional editor would answer that. I’m sure though, that if you ask the hundreds of thousands of viewers of these articles or the thousands of the engaged people who took the time to comment or click ‘I Like It’, they would say “no.”

The traditional method of evaluating content quality is not dead. It is still in use by the professional publications and it does a great work of quality assurance. It still acts as a seal of quality for a major portion of content consumption. It did, however, became just a single method, one out of many others used to measure content quality and it is becoming less relevant as more people are getting used to – and are more willing to – consume content whose quality is measured differently.

So what is quality content? I don’t think I can answer this question. Once there were editors whom you could ask and they would determine the content’s quality. Today, I don’t think any single person can actually provide an answer. You have to take the content out there and let the web decide for itself.

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Written by Isaac Trond

June 18, 2009 at 5:02 am

The Problem That Triond Solves

with 49 comments

Many times, the first question I am asked about Triond is “What does Triond do?”  Sometimes, I’d rather the first question be, “What problem does Triond solve?” After all, problem solving is how it all began for Triond.

To understand the problem that Triond solves, let’s begin with the birth of user generated content.

Web1.0

Introducing a near zero-cost distribution model, the web completely revolutionized the traditional publishing industry. Servers delivering webpages on demand to browsers around the world turned out to be much cheaper than the old method of printing- shipping- delivery-selling. The web enabled a much cheaper and more effective publishing process.

Now that publishing costs were down, a lot of web publishers arose. The demand for writers increased, and more writers than ever before were given the chance to have their writing published. In the meantime, users found themselves generating online content through their participation in communication applications, such as public email lists, forums and message boards. The concept of user generated content became more viable.

Yet, there wasn’t any online application that allowed you to express your creativity, knowledge and expertise for the initial intent of consumption by end users. Publishers were still in control of this type of content generation. However, even with the boom of online publishers, there were many more people wishing to be published than there were publishers willing to publish them.

This growing demand encouraged the second revolution: Web 2.0.

Web2.0

No other activity marked the beginning of the web2.0 era more than blogging. While web1.0 eliminated the distribution costs, web2.0 eliminated the technology costs. The content management systems and web publishing tools that enabled online publishing were mostly proprietary and expensive during the first web era.

Web2.0 introduced the free or nearly-free blogging platforms. All of a sudden, anyone with the slightest understanding of operating a computer and a web browser could operate their own publishing service. If you couldn”t find a web publisher willing to publish your work, just publish on your own. Better yet, now that you have the chance to publish on your own, why even bother looking for a publisher?

And so blogging began.

Has Blogging Proven to be Successful?

The blogging revolution has been tracked and analyzed by Technorati almost since it began. Every year, Technorati publishes the “State of the Blogosphere” report that analyzes blogging from many different aspects.

Take a look at this innocent visualization of the size of the blogosphere, taken from the latest 2008 report:

State of the Blogosphere 2008

At first, you may be astounded to know that Technorati has tracked 133 million blogs since 2002. That’s a very impressive number. But watch as the numbers shrink significantly when describing the actual activity. In the 120 days before the report was published, as few as 7.4 million bloggers had posted new posts. That’s only 5.5% of the tracked blogosphere. Narrow the count to seven days, and the figure shrinks to only 1.5 millions – a mere 1.1% of the blogosphere.

Those figures reveal two significant facts:

  1. Blogging is something that millions of people were willing to try.
  2. Most of them – however – churned.

125 million churns translates to 125 million disappointed individuals. That makes blogging one of the most disappointing activities on earth.

Generally, blogging is perceived to be rooted solidly in web culture. Well, apparently it is not. It did leave its mark on a huge number of people, and there are many successful blogs that have a very significant impact in their niche.  However, a 95% fallout rate is not something that represents a phenomena with a lot of traction. If email and instant messaging, for example, had the same churn rate, they wouldn’t be where they are today. It seems that even social networking – the younger web2.0 brother of blogging – has experienced more traction.

What Makes Blogging So Disappointing?

People don’t get disappointed unless they have preliminary expectations that aren’t met. Understanding what were bloggers expectations from blogging may shed some light about the reasons for their general disappointment.

Technorati asked bloggers for the reasons they blog. Reasons and expectations are quite parallel in this instance:

Why People Blog?

Considering more than 95% of bloggers were disappointed and as a result churned, we can assume that in 95% of the cases certain expectations weren’t met. So we can go on and generalize that bloggers are disappointed because:

  • They don’t feel that they are being read enough
  • Their expertise and experiences are not being shared with as many people as they hoped
  • They aren’t meeting and connecting with like-minded people
  • They aren’t being published or featured in traditional media
  • Their resumes are not being enhanced to the extent they desired
  • They don’t make as much money as they were hoping to make

This is not so surprising. It is very pretentious to expect all those things to happen simply because you write something and publish it on your blog. Writing alone is not enough.

Bloggers are not Publishers. They are Writers.

Herein lies the failure of blogging as a method. It extracted the technology from traditional publishing and provided a platform that anyone could use, but that’s the only thing it extracted. It did not provide all other components that are vital for effective publishing, just the naked technology. Blogging provided the platform and expected bloggers to come up with additional services themselves.

In other words, blogging forced writers to become publishers. Effective publishing incorporates a lot of elements: writing, editorial, marketing, distribution, sales, monetization, optimization, communication and much more. However, bloggers are not publishers. They are simply aspiring writers. Bloggers who weren’t willing to take on tasks other than writing, and furthermore, to become good at those tasks, didn’t stand a chance.

Triond: A New Approach for User Generated Content

With these millions of disappointed people in mind, my partners and I looked for a solution. We decided to implement a new approach for user generated content, something completely different from blogging. Something that will enable writers to be published effectively without forcing them to become full scale publishers.

And so we created Triond, our approach to solving the problems associated with blogging.

Did we suceed? You tell me.

Written by Isaac Trond

March 26, 2009 at 9:20 am

Posted in Triond

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