Can I make a suggestion? Let's all stop using the phrase "user-generated content." I'm serious. It's a despicable, terrible term. Let's deconstruct it.
User: One who uses. Like, you know, a junkie.
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."
Another one of my favorite sessions at SXSW Interactive 2006 was Zero-Advertising Brands, where we got to watch Maggie Mason talk to the guys from skinnyCorp, the makers of Threadless among other creative commerce/community hybrids.
One of my favorite things about talking to folks that really get the user-generated web, is that when they tell you their secret recipies, it all sounds so easy. Here's George from Flickr in the Designing the Next Generation of Web Apps talk: "We listen to what our users say, and then iterate the design." See? Easy.
So when the guys from skinnyCorp opened their komono in the Zero Advertising panel to share their four steps to success, I took notes and made my own translations. Here goes.
I try to be an intellectual. I try to an artist. But it turns out people just come around for the little dog photos.
This is a mosaic of the top 20 photos from my Flickr photostream, as picked by my fellow Flickrinos hitting that "favorite" button. Important stats:
10 little dogs
2 of my beautiful wife
1 famous bicyclist
1 unknown accordionist
1 favorite moment from our wedding (taken by the marvelous Katy Raddatz)
0 big dogs
The audience has spoken. More little dogs in 2006!
Today I received two very special surprises in the mail. Inside was the first glimpse of the dream of every Flickr user with more than a few photos online: If only I could order prints. Well, it looks like, very soon now, you'll be able to.
(Full disclosure: My wife, the lovely and talented Heather Powazek Champ is Flickr's community manager. And Flickr was started by Caterina Fake and Stewart Butterfield, who are dear friends of ours. I'm told that none of those things are why I received these surprises. They are, however, several of the reasons I consider myself a lucky, lucky man.)
The first surprise was a huge envelope with a 13x19 print inside. The print is a large grid of thumbnails from a seemingly random assortment of my Flickr photos. It reminded me a lot of the grid of photos I made of the first year of Ephemera, except with more whitespace.
The print quality is good - not as good as the prints I make at home on the Epson 1280, but nearly so. The paper is high quality and it looks great hanging on the wall.
This section is called Just a Thought. It's a blog where I post little pieces of what I'm thinking about at the moment. This page shows thoughts about Flickr, including:
Death to User-Generated Content
4 April 2006
Four Themes from skinnyCorp
15 March 2006
My Flickr Top 20
5 January 2006
I suspect that I am part of a teaser campaign
10 August 2005
7 July 2004
Join the POWlist
Enter your email address here so I can send an occasional note to your inbox. Only good things, I promise. More info »
Working the web since 1995, Derek Powazek is the creator of many award-winning websites, a couple of which still exist. Derek is the cofounder of JPG Magazine and the CCO of 8020 Publishing. Derek lives in San Francisco with his wife, two nutty Chihuahuas, a grumpy cat, and a house full of plants named Fred. More »
Join the POWlist to receive the occasional note.
Death to User-Generated Content 4 April 2006
Four Themes from skinnyCorp 15 March 2006
My Flickr Top 20 5 January 2006
I suspect that I am part of a teaser campaign 10 August 2005
Flickring 7 July 2004