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User Generated Content: Let Chaos Reign?


User generated content on a site starts with one simple decision. It is whether to moderate the content or let every single posting go live.

Moderation is necessary for most sites. UGC requires moderation for sites that want to maintain a degree of credibility with their visitors.

Moderation typically is a process whereby a site editor reviews a posting before it goes live. The goal is making sure it stays within site ethical, legal and quality standards.

If it passes muster, it goes live on the site; if it has objectionable content, it is deleted.

Another form of moderation requires the site publisher to review posts after they go live. In this situation, users have notified the publisher that the post does not meet standards. The publisher has to decide whether to delete the post or let it stay live.

Moderation Has Benefits

What is User-Generated Content?

User-generated content is provided by site visitors. Visitors usually register to post in order to protect against spam.

The content they contribute can be a comment, article, photo, video or forum posting.

Moderation has several major benefits and a few big detriments. The benefits include:

  • Maintaining the quality of postings;
  • Avoiding any legal disputs from libel charges;
  • Preventing the appearance of spam, which usually is a significant problem on unmoderated sites.

The two big detriments are the time involved in reviewing each posting and a sharp reduction in the number of postings.

In other words, moderation is about quality over quantity.

Quality matters to sites that want to maintain a good public reputation. It’s especially true for sites that are the online presence for an offline business.

Customers who know the business and go to the website expect a good experience.

Unmoderated Content – High Quantity, Low Quality

Unmoderated user generated content emphasizes quantity over quality. It generates numerous postings that are not reviewed before going live.

They go live immediately and they go live as they were written.

Site managers with experience in unmoderated content have run into postings that are libelous, profane, racist, homophobic and even threatening.

A wise approach to an unmoderated UGC site is to post a policy saying that all content must fit certain standards for accuracy, civility, etc. Anything that violates standards will be removed only if brought to the attention of the site staff.

This approach usually avoids any legal responsibility for the site in case of libelous postings, foul language, racist comments and other controversial material.

But it doesn’t help the reputation of the site or necessarily provide a pleasant experience for a visitor who is subject to such attacks.

Users who consistently abuse the guidelines end up getting banned. But they can come back with another user profile and email address to resume their previous behavior.

Examples of UGC Sites

User registration and subscriptionOne of the largest UGC sites on the planet is Facebook — along with Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media sites.

Facebook is its own business and people expect the freedom to post almost anything. So it doesn’t suffer from the same potential for damage to its reputation such as IBM, American Express, Wal-mart and other major brands.

But Craig’s List suffered through repeated damage to its reputation as a result of postings by prostitutes and other undesirable behavior.

These setbacks created the need for a combination of automated and manual monitering of posts.

A more challenging example is the behavior on photo sites such as Flickr, Pinterest and Instagram. Identifying objectionable photos with automation is much more difficult than identifying text. Sites that plan to allow UGC photos should proceed cautiously.

Major Content Sites Use Moderation

Because of the risks of unmoderated content, many major content sites now use moderation.

Some sites that allowed UGC don’t allow it anymore because of the risks with unmoderated and the time requirements for moderating posts.

Any publisher considering UGC might try launching it in a limited moderated form. It will offer insights about the proccesses and challenges that go with it before considering an unmoderated approach.

A ranking process — often with votes by other users — may push the better posts to the top of the page and the weaker posts to the bottom.

A useful, keyword-rich post may result in higher search engine rankings for that page.

Visitors are not likely to worry about SEO when crafting a post. But the site can make an SEO-friendly post more prominent by using their own ranking system.

Either way, user-generated content has the benefit of adding to a site’s total size. But it also can impact the site’s credibility if that content is damaging in some way.

2 Responses to “User Generated Content: Let Chaos Reign?”

  1. Chan Says:

    Any content on internet should be moderated because there are lot many people who would talk BS to offend people. Some people get high using abusive language and overall make the conversation go down the drain..

  2. Scott S. Bateman Says:

    Thanks, Chan. I completely agree with you.

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