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March 14, 2006

Digg, Google News...User-contributed "news"

I'm developing an interest in the phenomenon of user-contributed content, and the two fundmental incentives problems that it faces: pollution (keeping the bad stuff out) and the private provision of public goods (inducing contributions of the good stuff). User-contributed "news" is one example to explore.

Digg.com is one currently hot user-contributed news site:

Digg is a technology news website that combines social bookmarking, blogging, RSS, and non-hierarchical editorial control. With digg, users submit stories for review, but rather than allow an editor to decide which stories go on the homepage, the users do.

Slashdot of course is the grande dame. Digg and Slashdot both rely on multiple techniques of community moderation to try to maintain the quality of content (keep out the pollution). For example, proposed stories for Digg are not promoted to the homepage until they have sufficient support from multiple users; and users can report bad entries (apparently to a team of human editors).

How effective (and socially costly) are these community moderation techniques? By now we've all heard about Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales manipulating his own Wikipedia entry, which led to publicity about multiple members of Congress, etc., who have been doing the same thing.

And even if a site has an efficient moderation system to filter out pollution, there is still the problem of inducing people to volunteer time and effort to contribute to the public good by creating valuable content. Obviously, this can happen (see Slashdot, Wikipedia). But suppose you are designing a new user-contributed content service: how are you going to create a community of users, and how are you going to induce them to donate (high quality) content?

Apparently we can now start to count Google News as a site for user-contributed news.

Posted by jmm at March 14, 2006 08:18 AM

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