Sunday, March 12, 2006

Rewarding Our Users

I wanted to comment on something I read recently in Red Herring magazine ... "Sites Reward Good Users" talked about companies that encourage “web users to contribute content in exchange for a stake in its success.” Basically, it works this way ... a site asks users to contribute content (photos, stories, music, video, ... you name it!), and then the users receive some percentage of revenue taken in for the sale or use of the content. To some extent, the site becomes the middleman or agent for the citizen content provider ... the sites (or service providers mentioned were:

Gather.com (blogs)
Newsvine.com (newsite)
Wurldmedia.com (peerimpact.com – music/video)
Revver.com (video)
Scoopt.com (photos)

Mentioned in the article is the fact that some of this is not new ... it was there before the so-called bubble burst at the turn of the century ... but according to Anil Dash (of Dashes.com), back in those days “there weren’t enough people online.” With the ubiquity of digital cameras, podcasting tools, and the willingness of people to share content, it seems to me this approach might find some legs this time around ... and of course, we’ve seen something like this before ... it’s called eBay ... it’s just that this time what’s for sale is digital content.

I guess there are two things that I see as relevant to libraries ... the first is that we should be out there encouraging our patrons to contribute content to library-run sites so that we can serve it up back to them as part of the collective local experience. We can use the model talked about above by managing the digital rights for our patrons and paying them back for use based on certain types of usage.

My second thought on this is that – whether our patrons choose to share their home-made content through our systems or through commercial providers – we need to figure out how to zero in on all those really cool local content chunks held disparately across the face of the earth and make them available to our users. That may seem pretty obvious, but we haven’t really done too much of it ... When was the last (or the first!) time you saw a library catalog or collect a list of locally created blogs? Now with the proliferation of locally relevant web pages, images, videos, audios, blogs, etc., we have more information about our patrons and their environs than ever before.

The concept of citizen journalism is being extended to all aspects of life, and we can and should be the connection that brings the authors closer to their readers. Our role will be more than that of indexers and archivists ... we will be publishers ... promoters ... and connectors of people and their stories to others whose lives will be changed by our work.

Because remember ... it’s all about ...

... Answering the questions ...
... Inspiring the next questions ...
... Interacting to create understanding, and ...
... Engaging to change lives and build communities.

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