I’m glad to see that the anti-“UGC” (the term, not the concept) meme that started back in April is finally getting some mainstream (if you can consider Valleywag mainstream) airplay now that our very own Web 2.0 poster-boy Stewart Butterfield is speaking out.
Amen, brother! But, let’s give credit where it’s due. Derek Powazek originated this meme (as far as I know) back in April with his post “Death to User-Generated Content” (a title I just realized I unintentionally/subconsciously repurposed in a post last week). Here’s how Derek breaks it down:
Generated: Like a generator, engine. Like, you know, a robot.
Content: Something that fills a box. Like, you know, packing peanuts.
So what’s user-generated content? Junkies robotically filling boxes with packing peanuts. Lovely.
Calling the beautiful, amazing, brilliant things people create online “user-generated content” is like sliding up to your lady, putting your arm around her and whispering, “Hey baby, let’s have intercourse.”
I have subsequently posted twice on this topic, here and here. And I know from conversations with others who I respect that there is a broad consensus among the people who get “it” that the people who throw around the term “UGC” like so much “2.0” clearly don’t. I’m glad that this meme has now shown up on the only tech blog (or blog, period) that these “corp development morons” (Denton’s words, not mine) likely read. Maybe now they will be too ashamed to keep dropping it at every opportunity.
And I’m not at all upset that this is (probably only) being talked about in the context of people hating on Michael Arrington (in real-time, no less). I sat through the first 5 minutes of the panel in question, and that guy is a pompous prick. It probably didn’t help that the sycophantic b-school student introducing him called him the “King of Web 2.0” and he didn’t even consider blushing at such an absurd statement. The organizers of >play, who did an excellent job, had an innovative real-time feedback system powered by Mozes that enabled the audience to text their questions to the panel and have them show up on the big screen. In the true spirit of community participation emblematic of his reign over Web 2.0, Arrington’s first request was to turn the system off because it gave him less personal control over the conversation (a request the organizers, surprisingly and happily, refused). Then he proceeded to launch into a totally premeditated and exceedingly smug attack on Micki Krimmel and Revver, a person and a company for which I have a lot of respect.
Arrington’s relatively simplistic premise — of which he was oh-so-proud — was that the popularity of sites like YouTube was built on the back of illegal use of copyrighted content and that, as such, there was no legitimate business model to be had in this space — basically he was saying that no one wants to watch truly user-generated content. I wanted to remind him that Apple’s entire billion-dollar digital music business was built on illegal use of copyrighted content (iTunes and the iPod pre-date the iTunes Music Store by several years), and explain to him that this whole Web 2.0 thing that he apparently rules is all about the fact that you don’t need to aggregate large audiences to build a successful business. But, I left to go watch some football instead.
P.S. I managed to sneak Randy‘s term “Context is King” into Marco’s keynote this morning. It was far and away the best delivered and received speech I’ve heard from an executive at a conference in a while, way to go Marco! Maybe if Arrington had shown up for that as well, instead of just for his panel, he would have had a clue. I’ll link to the deck when it goes online.