Crowd wisdom, some assembly required

Scott Karp points out the difficulty in waiting for the monkeys to write Shakespeare and Ian King reminds us all that free content requires filtering that costs time and money.

Both are talking about the NYT bit on Heinz’s ketchup-stained UGC ad ploy.

Which brings me to the point: User-generated advertising content should be amateurish. That’s the whole idea. You’re trying to appeal to an audience that prefers YouTube to slick production values. They’re looking for people who look and act (and are lit) like themselves. That’s pretty basic stuff, I thought.

Now let me put on my news hat: User-generated news content must be edited. (Damn, I just felt my workload increase.)

Seriously, it’s all well and good to aggregate the YourTownNameHere Flickr tag on a community site, but you’re going to need to keep an eye on it, depending on your audience and how much they like your publication.

If we’re talking about crowdsourcing the news, then, yes, the wisdom of the crowd is fully in play.

But if you put out a call for comment and get 100 replies and 4 of them lead to sources, congratulations, you’ve done well, because it’s not the 96 people with an opinion that are going to make your story, it’s the 4 with a personal experience to share. Find them. Give them places to talk to you and give them places to talk with each other.

The Ian King post closes with this:

“Don’t tap the wisdom of the crowd; it doesn’t exist per se. Find the wise people in the crowd, and tap into them.”

I’d expand that: Tap into the crowd of 100 to find the 4 wise people and then do it again and again with every story. Pretty soon you’ll find yourself with a field of community leaders to do some of that UGC filtering for you. (Ah, now I feel my workload going back down a notch.)

Newspaper sites criticized for publishing inappropriate comments – CyberJournalist.net – Online News Association – Citizen Media Monitor

Notes on comment and forum moderation, through the lens of issues at the Sun-Sentinel as tweaked on by the New Times.

Newspaper sites criticized for publishing inappropriate comments – CyberJournalist.net – Online News Association – Citizen Media Monitor

Don’t fear the user-created content?

Do online news sites need to reinvent uploading and editing tools to gather user-created content?

Steve Outing says no, making the case that YouTube, Google Video, and myriad third place finishers do the heavy lifting, hosting the video and spitting out the little block of code that a user can paste into a post in your community site’s forums.

That’s fine for a community page, and inappropriate posts can always be deleted as necessary, but would you open up a news site to this sort of unfiltered visual participation?

Chi-Town Daily News, which calls itself “an online newspaper written by and for Chicago residents,” is posting photos pulled from a Flickr tag.

We considered that idea at the Spartan Daily last semester, but opted to ask readers to just send us their photos by e-mail instead. Why? Mostly to prevent anything obscene from making it to the online pages of the Daily, but also because it seemed easier for non-Web2.0-savvy readers to figure out.

Citizen Journalism sites are a great place to try this out, although the number of digital vandals in a narrow audience will probably always be smaller than those reading a major metropolitan newspaper’s site. The readers at a hyperlocal or topical site are there on purpose. The few rotten strawberries at a gazillion page view online news site might make work for moderators faster than you can say wikitorial.

What do you think? Would you let readers post video and photos, depending on moderators to weed out obscenity and libel?

How to moderate online newspaper comments and forums while staying sane and not getting sued

Like Slashdot.

Okay, so maybe I don’t read it anymore, and maybe I never read it much to begin with, but when I just logged in to see what the comments look like these days, I was offered a chance to fulfill my duty to “meta-moderate.”

Nose around Slashdot a little bit, and you’ll find that every comment comes with a rating between 1 and 5, 5 being the highest. If you don’t want to read irrelevant, unfunny, redundant, style-free, or obvious commentary on the stories, just crank up the minimum rating level you’ll tolerate and scroll away.

I appear to have set my rating at 4 back when I briefly lurked around Slashdot to write this story about a year ago.

So why doesn’t everyone do it like this? Well for one thing, I’m not sure they know how, but hey, neither do I. It’s far more complicated for me to explain than it is for you to read about it, of course.

What’s the point of all this?

Well, as online newspaper folks, we need to come up with systems that allow readers to actively participate in the conversation through something a little more immediate than a letter to the editor, but we don’t want bulletin boards and article comments degenerating into a flamewar.

Are we really going to hire interns to watch over public forums to ensure that no one is offended, defamed, or libeled? Is that even our responsibility? Okay, let’s assume it is, just for fun. Letting the users moderate themselves via a Slashdot-esque system frees our interns up to do something useful with their time (insert getting-us-coffee joke here if you like). More importantly, it gives the user commentary a degree of edited-ness it wouldn’t otherwise have. It’s not quite what Hemingway was talking about when he called it a “crap filter,” but you get the idea.

When Slashdot gave me the chance to “meta-moderate,” I was asked to read 5 or 6 comments and asked whether a rating of “funny” or “off-topic” or “insightful” was a fair classification.

Even the crap filter has a filter — again, the users take care of all this ugly business, and every single post is available to be read, if you just turn your crap filter down…but who would?

[tags]newspapers, slashdot, comment moderation, bulletin boards, flamewars[/tags]