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I Hate the Term “User Generated Content”. How About “Community-Curated Works” Instead?

Something about the term “user generated content” has bugged me ever since I first heard it. I’m enthusiastically behind *what it actually means*. But the term itself just sticks in my craw. It makes me think of a galley full of slaves users, chained down, “generating” “content”.

I just came across this post about the term from Ted Ernst at AboutUs (a Portland-based wiki company where Ward Cunningham, the guy who invented the wiki concept, works):

The individual contribution is not what’s important, it’s not what makes everything work — it’s the fact that we have a community of contributors who implicitly agree to work together, to collaborate, to try and constantly improve the content.

It’s a short post, and worth a read. It references (and quotes) a great post by Brianna, a Wikimedia admin, where the idea originated. Read that one, too:

Actually, there’s only one problem at root: the attitude which leads one to choose these words. That attitude is one from the corporate world. That the best term they could come up with was “user-generated content” shows what a limited understanding the business world has of what it is we’re doing. And why should we settle for the best term THEY can come up with?

I’m a big believer that names are important. They have power and significance beyond what you think.

Food for thought.

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6 thoughts on “I Hate the Term “User Generated Content”. How About “Community-Curated Works” Instead?

  1. Pingback: All The Modern Things

  2. I like the community part, but not the curated part — it seems to minimize the work the community is doing. How about community donated content or community invested content?

  3. I completely agree with you, but the term “content” is what has bothered me since the beginning of the development of the web management hierarchy.

    Content. As if “content” just existed and someone needed to hand it over so it could be placed on a web page. “Content” is the hard part. Any fool can code a page, at least at the lowest quality level (I’ve got examples of my own mistakes at bad coding), and almost any fool can have an interesting idea and figure a way to make it at least somewhat appealing to an eager audience.

    Few people can actually create compelling and interesting “content”, the actual words and sentences that draw us in, cause us to think, compell us to respond and act. For those of us with lesser skills than a Shakespeare or a Thomas Paine, participating in a community of people creating content can give us practice and help fill our gaps in ability or creativity.

    But, along with Brent, I do have a problem with “curated” as well, it means more “overseen”, “assisted” or “managed” instead of created. Brent suggested “donated” or “invested”, both good suggestions. I’d like to add for consideration: “written”, “created”, “developed”, “produced”, “prepared”. I think your complaint is well-founded and your suggestion good, but the words need better precision–maybe this could be a community developed and approved term?

  4. Brent and Mike, I agree. Community Curated Works isn’t perfect. I feel like we haven’t quite found that perfect term yet, if it even exists. “Content” is another one of those words I hate. But I’m heartened that more and more people are beginning to take up the discussion on this – that means it has a chance of getting somewhere! :-)

  5. Hi Mike,

    I thought of “created” instead of “curated”, but IMO the importance of using a wiki is in the ongoing maintenance and continual gradual improvement, rather than the initial hit of creation. Also, projects such as Wikisource don’t even allow real brand new works, yet they certainly use the wiki methods effectively.

    “Developed” or “maintained” are also OK by me.

  6. Brianna – that’s a good point. When talking about wikis in particular, I think “curated” makes sense. What I was referring to (and of course, I didn’t clarify any of this) was a broader range of “user generated content”. Wikis, forums, blogs, comments, etc. In my line of work (building communities), I think we need to find some new nomenclature, too, to help say what we really mean, rather than just keep using the buzzwords that are entrenched. Thanks for stopping by to comment! :-)

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