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The New Wisdom of the Web 167

theodp writes "In a cover story, Newsweek takes a look at the new wave of start-ups cashing in on the next stage of the Internet by Putting The 'We' in Web. Sites built on user-generated content like YouTube, Flickr, MySpace, Digg and Facebook have all taken a page from Tom Sawyer's playbook, engaging the community to do their work, prompting Google CEO Eric Schmidt to suggest he finds MySpace more interesting than Microsoft."
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The New Wisdom of the Web

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  • by jmke ( 776334 ) on Sunday March 26, 2006 @11:52AM (#14998047) Homepage Journal
    Does user generated content like seen on the sites mentioned equal quality reading? is it worth hours of browsing other people's randomly submitted content to find a few diamonds? how often do you find yourself spending time on those sites?
    • It depends, quite often the peer-created content is peer-reviewed and subsequently the interesting stuff ends up on the top and the 10-second attempts are relegated to the 1-star category and tagged with "useless"
    • This is where "meme trackers" like TailRank [] come into play. Their goal is to use the "wisdom of the crowds" as a filter that lets only the good stuff bubble up, while the less interesting stuff stays below the threshold, much like the threshold here on Slashdot.
    • by LiquidCoooled ( 634315 ) on Sunday March 26, 2006 @12:04PM (#14998100) Homepage Journal
      Your sat on a site with user generated content and asking yourself if its worth it?

      Of course its worth it - Spending time in a community of like minded people is always worth it.

      You have made 38 comments here (relative newbie), theres people with thousands of postings and reading loads of stories (myself included) and spending time here because this feels better than sitting bored watching tv - its interactive.

      • That's value, not quality. Slashdot is not a URL that come to mind when I think about quality of content. It's actually the opposite... it's like the dirty gossip tabloid of the tech industry.
      • so somebody who visits any of those user content created websites daily, but doesn't post much content is considered a newbie? Quality over Quantity is the question here, and of the 38 comments I made, how many have been marked as Quality?

        It's quite "newbie"-like to measure somebodies experience on the amount of posts he/she has on a website. Slashdot is not so much a user generated content site, as most the articles linked to are NOT at the site here; are most of the time NOT created by the people visiti
    • If one throws a million darts at a dartboard, it's highly unlikely that none of them will hit the bullseye.
      • Someone just figured out a way to harness a million monkeys to randomly type the works of Shakespear given enough time and bandwidth.

        Are you one of the monkeys?
        • Are you saying that these new websites implement the Infinite Monkey Protocol Suite []?
          • Actually I think they have implemented an improved version. These sites don't have the infrastructure costs associated with maintaining the monkeys. The parents of the monkeys provide the support infrastructure. There is still the problem of how to detect when the million monkeys have produced something useful. Again, these sites have a solution, they let another million monkeys watch the results and comment on any results that show promise.
      • by legirons ( 809082 ) on Sunday March 26, 2006 @01:08PM (#14998327)
        "If one throws a million darts at a dartboard, it's highly unlikely that none of them will hit the bullseye."

        But can you tell where the bullseye is, by looking at the distribution of darts?
        • "If one throws a million darts at a dartboard, it's highly unlikely that none of them will hit the bullseye."

          But can you tell where the bullseye is, by looking at the distribution of darts?

          Actually, I think you probably can.

        • But can you tell where the bullseye is, by looking at the distribution of darts?

          That depends, can all the other darts point to the one in the bullseye and say: "Hey, look at the cool thing he did."?

        • But can you tell where the bullseye is, by looking at the distribution of darts?

          You can approximate it, when each dart is provided additional metadata like user rankings and tags.
      • If one throws a million darts at a dartboard, it's highly unlikely that none of them will hit the bullseye.

        Heh. I don't think that a dartboard can even hold a hundred darts. That means that 99.99% of the darts can't even *hit* the dartboard.

        It would be pretty funny to see though!
      • Did you even read the post you replied to?
      • You've obviously never seen me play darts.
    • Seems to me this would be exactly why Google finds it interesting - providing tools to find the "diamonds in the rough" is exactly what they do!
    • You're right, user-generated content is garbage, and anybody who would visit, much less post messages on such sites [] is an utter fool.
    • I don't think quality matters in this "new" Web. MySpace is a terrible site: the design is terrible, the interface is terrible, and the user-supplied content is horrible. Go to 20 random users' MySpace profiles and probably 15+ of them will burn your eyes. Despite these obvious shortcomings, my 14-year-old niece can't live without having 24/7 access to the site and the ability to see what drivel and stupid pics her friends have posted today. The point being that these sites are popular because of the co
    • Quite frequently. Well, not Facebook or MySpace obviously. But Flickr, Digg, and YouTube I end up on a lot. Why? Becuase you don't spend hours looking for gems on those sites. The community filters what the community submits. On Digg that's through digging articles. On YouTube that's through friends passing on links that they in turn got from their friends. On Flickr that's my contact's photos and photos tagged as interesting by their algorithms. It only takes a few people to sort the wheat from the chaff,
    • I'm sure everyone here often hears those comments about how information is more worthless on the Internet because it's so easy to create by each individual. Personally, I think information is nearly just as suspect in a library. As someone who formally spent a lot of time looking up information in the library instead of online, I can say you can find just as much opinionated pointless crap in books.
    • One of the main benefits of running a user content driven site is that you have to do minimal work. Basically, it's the ideal site for a developer. You keep the backend working and your users do all the work of creating the content and getting people to visit. You just sit there and let the ad revenue roll in.

      Google's AdSense has made this method of doing sites MUCH more lucrative for everyone in that you don't have generic, blanket advertising for every user's space, and if you want targeted ads, you don't
    • The foundation of the Internet is user-generated content. MySpace now is what Geocities was 10 years ago, only with aggregation.
    • It's easy to create a big repository of user-generated content. The key to success is to provide a service which makes it easy to sort the junk from the good stuff. This involves creating algorithms either for figuring out what's good or allowing users to rate things with minimal abuse possibilities. It's a hard thing to get right, and the most successful sites are the ones that do.

  • what's not to love? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by HunterAmor ( 903799 ) on Sunday March 26, 2006 @11:55AM (#14998060) Homepage
    so other people create your "content" for free, and you get advertising revenue for having those same people look at the "content" created by others. what's not to love in a business model like that?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Slashdot agrees with you.
    • by otisg ( 92803 ) on Sunday March 26, 2006 @12:08PM (#14998117) Homepage Journal
      It sounds rather simple, doesn't it? Unfortunately, it ain't that simple. The difficult part is scaling. With advertizing rates being as low as they are, you need a LOT of page views to make any decent money. In other to have a lot of page views, you need a lot of users, and a lot of regular/active users (Slashdot is a good example). Once you have a lot of users your expenses go up - more bandwidth, more CPUs, more app servers, more NAS, more clusters, more failover this and that, replication... and then you have to answer all those emails that start pouring in, you've got to have a blog to keep people updated, etc. And there are only 24 hours in a day. And you want to have a life, friends, and family. So you need to hire people. But you need money for that. So you go to VCs because your ads don't cover all these expenses. So, you see, it's not that simple. :) Moreover, some crazy people like me give away money [] from their advertizing.
    • Just the theft (Score:5, Informative)

      by CarpetShark ( 865376 ) on Sunday March 26, 2006 @12:16PM (#14998150)
      what's not to love in a business model like that?

      Just that it essentially boils down to theft. These sites are using copyright against the users, by having them submit content under the site owner's choice of license. Often, users are not aware of this. As a result, they see no difference between open sites and closed ones, and move between them based on nothing more than popularity.

      Of course, those of us who know better look for a GFDL license, and find it on sites like Wikipedia, or one of the more Free Creative Commons licenses. One day, there will probably be a law that the licensing must be very clear to anyone who submits content, and hopefully everyone will prefer the sites where the content belongs to THEM.
    • You make it sound like it's so easy. Designing a good system for people to be able to submit their content and view that content is harder than you think. And you have to make them want to submit their content in the first place! What's mor, the more successful you become, the harder it becomes to maintain such a system. As nice as this business model sounds, it's no free lunch.
  • by escay ( 923320 )
    Google has its own pet project - the social networking site orkut [], which has at least 14 million users which has been in beta for almost 3 years now...this appears to be in line with Eric's comments about the user-generated content web idea.
    • Speaking of orkut - I've been trying to become a member for over 2 years. All they tell me is "someone will contact you soon, as our site is invite-only"

      TWO YEARS i've waited... Is it worth it? How should I know? Nothing is public about it - at all!

      So, if you are a member of Orkut, and you read this message, hit me up! I'm very curious!
      • Re:orkut (Score:4, Informative)

        by Requiem ( 12551 ) on Sunday March 26, 2006 @12:34PM (#14998222) Journal
        There's nothing to be curious about.

        I've had an account there almost since the beginning, and it's horrific. The UI is ugly. The site is prone to crashes, to making duplicate posts, to telling you that your attempt at posting failed (it actually succeeded! surprise!). My gaming group originally had a community there for the homebrew system we played, but we all eventually stopped using the site, due to it being a gigantic suckhole of poor code and design.
        • Still, even if it were bad, knowing first-hand what it is all about and how bad it really is... Even if I used it only for 10 minutes, I would be satisfied knowing that I've given it a go lol.
      • Nothing to see there, move along. Just another site where you can create interest groups. And spam everybody else.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I find watching paint dry more interesting than microsoft... what's you're point?

    I agree though, user generated content means that users will be more likely to frequent the site.
  • by otisg ( 92803 ) on Sunday March 26, 2006 @11:57AM (#14998073) Homepage Journal
    Indeed, more heads are wiser than one. An old concept applied on a massive scale, and so far it works. The piece I personally like best in this article is from Craigslist's founder who points out that the reason his team is so scalable is because they provide self-service. Everything I ever built (including the latest Simpy []) was like this, and I've always been happy not to have to hire a team of people to manage something that users of the system could handle themselves, or amongst themselves.

    The other piece I like here is also from Craigslist guy, about not having to charge everybody. This reminds me of what I did with Simpy (see this Simpy + AdSense bit [], and pay attention to the Q&A towards the end of the entry). People have been very happy with the simplicity of this concept, and no user has complained about ads - they don't see them... but others do!
  • by __aaclcg7560 ( 824291 ) on Sunday March 26, 2006 @11:58AM (#14998078)
    Why is everyone so happy in Silicon Valley again? A new wave of start-ups are cashing in on the next stage of the Internet. And this time, it's all about ... you.

    Where's the "we" in "you"? If it's going to be about "you", that means all the "me" baby boomers are finally getting out of the picture. Does that mean there's no "I" in "we"? I'm confused.
    • The parent post is actually working exploit code for a newly discovered mental buffer overflow vulnerability, which when parsed, allows the attacker to execute arbitrary code!

      Whoever modded it up needs to be $rblfed or $rblmed or whatever it was called. Don't make me crack open the DMCA!

  • All MySpace is is a means of sharing personal information. Microsoft makes tools that can be used to drive the development of a variety of cool things, and enables MySpace indirectly with Internet Explorer. To a typical teenager, MySpace is more interesting because .NET is not interesting. To a person who wants to actually make something novel and interesting, Microsoft is a far cooler company than MySpace.
  • by Susceptor ( 559115 ) on Sunday March 26, 2006 @11:59AM (#14998081) Journal
    The internet was built by users, it only makers sense that as the tools to create content become easier to use more and more ordinary people are likely to create their own content. for all their creativity, large companies cannot create anything other than a standardized product, individuals on the other hand create content that companies would never even think of making.
  • by dominion ( 3153 ) on Sunday March 26, 2006 @12:06PM (#14998108) Homepage
    I've been working on a project called Appleseed [], which is sort of a distributed version of MySpace/Friendster, but is turning out to be an amalgamation of gmail/flickr/myspace/livejournal. It's been slow going, but it's starting to pick up the pace, it's just been hard having to work full time and do this in my offtime.

    That said, I'm disappointed that, with all of these social network oriented sites popping up, and all these new technologies being explored by commercial enterprises, that the open source community hasn't stepped up to the plate and offered free alternatives. Gmail? Flickr? Myspace?

    I know the open source community can build reusable software that's as good or better than any of this, so why haven't we? Why are we still using SquirrelMail?
  • Unlike all the other purely web offerings imeem [] is built around a client and a distributed data model - making it technologicly the most interesting of the sites in the article. It's not been too successful so far but a lot of the smartest people I've met are using imeem - mostly because they're developers. It's really a shame, but the best technology rarely leads the market in popularity.
    As a company imeem is doing good things for open source, I see that they're really pushing the development of mono, part
  • There are clearly some good ideas out there right now and some of them are making good money. Personally, I think MySpace is lame, but I'm not 15. There's another site I've seen called catch27, which allows people to create fake trading cards of themselves and try to collect a deck of the most popular people. It seems silly, but it turns a profit. I have to wonder though how long a site like that will remain popular? Will MySpace be making money 5 yrs. from now?
    • I suppose the fad aspect will be determined by how useful the content generated by the users is. With Myspace, the content is necessarily fad-based, because the site revolves around music: a pretty fad-oriented industry.
      Take another social networking site: Yelp [] and the content is somewhat different. It is focused on store and restaurant reviews. Still somewhat fad-based, but the information is perhaps a bit longer-lasting than that for a local band. And maybe more useful for travel.

      Basically, it depends
    • Well, personally, I think you're lame. :-P

      Honestly, MySpace is no worse than Friendster or the Facebook would be if those sites allowed you the range and freedom of expression MySpace does with HTML tags and embedded objects. Yes, you can take that freedom and use it to shoot yourself in the foot, but you can also build profiles of astonishing beauty and elegance. I think it's pretty cool--I just wish more sites let the user hack around with them like that.
  • by _eb0la_reston_ ( 930919 ) on Sunday March 26, 2006 @12:17PM (#14998154) Homepage
    I see no *revolution* on YouTube, Flickr, blogging, etc.. You could post, and share photos and/or videos on the Internet back in 1994.

    IMHO - The "difference" between now and 1994 are just Demographics and Usability:
    * Nowadays, we have much more people online than in 1994, 1998, or 2001.
    * Back in 1994 you had to be a computer whiz to post photos/videos, etc... most "business" built then assumed their users had some kind of "computer skills" normal people usually lack of.

    *IF* you lower your product entry barrier (making it easy to use), WHILE there's more and more audience available, you're business will likely succeed ;-)
    • by same_old_story ( 833424 ) on Sunday March 26, 2006 @01:20PM (#14998378)
      Yes. And I see no revolution on this *web* thing you people've been doing.

      You could communicate with people far away instantly (hello telephone).
      You could write or receive written content from fiends / work for a long time (letters are pretty old stuff).

      The only "difference" between those and 1930 is just Usability / Demographics / Price.

      Demographics and Usability are EVERYTHING (specially since they are key factor to price )
  • Wonder if my site counts, since I'm giving free access to those willing to sort and categorize pictures... the metadata is more important than the pictures themselves.
  • by O'Laochdha ( 962474 ) on Sunday March 26, 2006 @12:26PM (#14998189) Journal
    Tom Sawyer, according the the external narration of the novel, inadvertently found that on some level, the children liked painting the fence, so long as it was not obligatory. (I don't remember the exact wording, but Twain compared it to driving a buggy.) People like to show off what they know, hence Wikipedia. People like to go on about every thought that pops into their heads, hence blogs, including LJ and mySpace. People like to throw in their two cents about everything, hence ours truly, as well as Fark, America's Debate, 2, etc. If someone's under obligation to do these things, you get scholars, columnists, politicos, etc. complaining about their jobs.
  • how do youtube, flickr and digg expect to make money? i don't see ads on any of those sites and i can't imagine that many people are paying for flickr's premium service.
  • Incredible. A 5-page article dealing with user-created content on the Web, and not a single word about deviantART [] the #1 art community (Flickr is not an art community).

    Nor about SourceForge, which is also a great user-created content website, although it's left to the geeky "elite"

  • by jaafonso ( 886987 ) on Sunday March 26, 2006 @12:43PM (#14998253)
    There's no need to put the 'We' in Web. It already has.
  • The poster mentioned youTube. I frequently visit youTube when I get bored but I have never seen a single ad there? Where are the revenues coming from?
    • The poster mentioned youTube. I frequently visit youTube when I get bored but I have never seen a single ad there? Where are the revenues coming from?

      1. Setup Community oriented website
      2. Get tons of users
      3. ???
      4. PROFIT!!

      My guess is 3 is sell your e-mail address or other information. I didn't start getting spam on one of my e-mail addresses until I signed up for myspace *looks around accusingly*. Never used youTube though, so what is #3?
      • hmm.. cause I haven't signed up for youTube. I can do searches for videos, as well as view them, and I don't even need to login.
  • by zappepcs ( 820751 ) on Sunday March 26, 2006 @12:51PM (#14998280) Journal
    This was bound to happen. As soon as a new generation grows up knowing the Internet the same way that they do their television, it couldn't be stopped. There have also been reports of teens that think voicemail is 'so last week' and for 'old people' because texting is all they do, it is a part of their life, part of how they interact with their friends, and things that happen on the net spread faster among social groups than anything else, well at least as fast as anything the olsen twins are doing.

    Once it becomes a part of the social life of humans, it will necessarily need to become socially oriented, or it will be relegated to the same place that books explaining air bags go. If you have been keeping up with wireless news around the world, with news of the Internet around the world, you will not be surprised by this. The one really good thing that social networking sites have going for them.... they really didn't have to hype it much... no FUD, no 'smoke n mirrors', no 30 second commercials, no billboards. The sites just work, and news spread by word of mouth... I understand that in some circles, if you don't have a myspace address, some teens just don't know how to relate to you... in other words, it was adapted so quickly, and so readily, that not being part of it is a sort of self imposed ostrisization.

    Anyway, to me, its not a surprise at all, and if the reality lives up to the hype, the semantic web, and some of the web 2.0 stuff will make the world a very different place. I can see a future where a teen, in her friends car gets a text message on her phone, and pleads over the phone to get her friends mom to spend $80 on shoes that just went on sale at xyz-store, and her mom to pay her back later. Yes, I foresee changes in social interaction on many levels if we get the next generation of the Internet correct.

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Sunday March 26, 2006 @01:57PM (#14998515) Homepage
    Remember when Internet dating was cool? Now it's a bottom-feeder thing. That may well happen to blithering your life story out on Myspace. Craiglist is already collapsing under the weight of spam.

    The "hey, if we give it away, we'll get eyeballs and mind share" concept is very 1999. There's only so much advertising revenue possible, since sellers have finite advertising budgets which are some fraction of their sales. An increase in one area means a decrease somewhere else. Or, more likely, lower advertising prices. Look what happened to banner ad pricing. And now Microsoft wants in. The only thing that makes this work is if the users are doing all the work and the infrastructure is cheap to run.

    The eBay model and the Yahoo Store model work, because they're involved in the transaction and do some of the work of making it happen, in exchange for a cut. They have a real revenue model.

    • Remember when Internet dating was cool? Now it's a bottom-feeder thing.

      You might have that mixed up. 5 + years ago, internet dating was totally uncool, now it's a fast growing multi-billion dollar industry and a logical avenue for meeting people (because lo and behold, it works) , and thusly socially acceptable.

      Internet dating has never and will never be cool however, just like find a job or doing your income taxes has and will never be "cool". It's a facet of mortal existance, just done in a different way.
  • myspace ?? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ravee ( 201020 )
    I wonder why they didn't find any other blog to give as an example. the blogs on myspace are the most cluttered and ugly ones I have ever seen. I can think of a lot of other more interesting ones like and just to name a few.

    Flickr and digg are good examples. What about ? This is also driven entirely by the readers albeit with some strict moderation in accepting stories.
    • Slashdot? NO! Don't look behind that curtain!

      Slashdot ruins the illusion that is Web 2.0 by predating the term, possessing most of the characteristics and lacking all the superfluous technology.

  • Just Friday, I started putting up a copy of LiveJournal on our webserver for internal company use (the boss says we can't trust Other People with our internal corporate communications, kind of like, um, email).

    LiveJournal is an extremely NON-trivial bit of software. It's easier to build Apache with OpenSSL and Frontpage extensions. And the dependencies! Oh the dependencies!

    So while the nice people at LiveJournal headquarters are getting all this "free" content, they're spending copious amounts of time makin
  • by CGP314 ( 672613 ) <CGP AT ColinGregoryPalmer DOT net> on Sunday March 26, 2006 @02:22PM (#14998608) Homepage
    While I do love sites like flickr, I had a bit of a change of heart when they made it possible for others to buy prints of my photos []. While I always knew that flickr made money off of my work through their advertising, selling physical copies of my photos made it a bit too real and a bit too obvious. I think that in the future of Web 2.0 the companies should recognize that their users generate their profits and share some of the wealth.

    -CGP []
    • does this, but they have a standard agreement to split 50% of revenue. In any event I think it is highly unlikely that any worthwhile money will be made off any user's photos, even in the aggregate, due to the lack of quality and content of user photography. Even if a photo was interesting enough to order, they will not sell prints unless they disable right click and rely on the stupid money.
  • by edremy ( 36408 ) on Sunday March 26, 2006 @08:40PM (#14999942) Journal
    MySpace has thousands of pictures of scantily-clad 16-year old girls., not so much.
  • User-generated content has existed for years on EBay, Amazon, and even Slashdot. All of these sites understood that they could simply aggregate data and then distribute it. Ok, it's actually not that simple, especially for the larger sites, given the amount of logistics involved to coordinate it all. But it's been around far longer than MySpace or YouTube.

    One of the dangers with this model, as others have pointed out, is the fallacy of collective intelligence, that we can some how vote on facts. Had Wikip

If a camel is a horse designed by a committee, then a consensus forecast is a camel's behind. -- Edgar R. Fiedler