November 12, 2007
Looking back at FoE: User-Generated Content

The second panel on the first day of Futures of Entertainment last year was focused particularly on user-generated content. The panel provides a good precursor to a lot of the issues to be discussed this year in the "fan labor" panel.

For those who have not seen it, the description of our "Fan Labor" panel this year reads, "There is growing anxiety about the way labor is compensated in Web 2.0. The accepted model -- trading content in exchange for connectivity or experience -- is starting to strain, particularly as the commodity culture of user-generated content confronts the gift economy which has long characterized the participatory fan cultures of the web." The full description is available on the program, here.

Last year's "User-Generated Content" panel was live blogged here on the C3 site, available here. The conversation included Rob Tercek, who is president and co-founder of MultiMedia Networks; Caterina Fake, Tech Development at Yahoo!/Flickr; Bubble Project founder Ji Lee; and BioWare Director of Design Kevin Barrett.

Audio is available here, and video is available here.

The discussion focused on the ways in which audiences were finding new ways to have a voice to talk back to companies and returning to an artisan culture where everyone produces and consumes, as Caterina Fake discussed on the panel.

At the time, we wrote about discussions of the dangers of dialogues for companies, the importance of honesty in communication with users/fans/audiences, the rate and quality of user participation, and, perhaps most germane to the discussion scheduled here for Friday evening, rewarding users for content.

We wrote:

Caterina points out that Revver said it would pay users for content, while YouTube didn't. But it is the "quirky and human and not very polished and real" parts of YouTube that attracted users, rather than the more professional environment of Revver. However, she points out that people make money all the time with user-generated content, such as pointing to the example where someone received a whole series of Land Rover ads based on his Flickr photos. Ji Lee rejects the need for commercialism of user-generated content, pointing out that, "when content has a commercial purpose, it often loses interest for the users." He pointed to some of his experiences with the Bubble Project and said he got corporate interest in using it. "The idea kicked in that people were interested in the Bubble Project because there were no banner ads attached to it," he said.

Caterina points out that people have a certain amount of time to invest in participatory media sites and must make decisions about what site to dedicate time and energy into. She also points out that, after a period of time with people connecting, we're now in a period of constraint. "There are billions of people out there who we could contact and be friends with on Friendster, and now we're trying to constrict our social network to the 12 people who are in our family unit, our Dunbar number, the 150-200 people that maxes out the number of people you can know, which was the size of an ancient tribe."