Trusted content in the web 2.0 world…

Content is king!Dear reader,

The more I think about the possibilities and current hype of the so-called “web 2.0” (or has the attention already turned to 3.0?), the more I fear for decrease in the amount of online quality content. Ask any SEO consultant, and they will still cite the old philosophy “content is king”. Yes, I’m fully aware there is the opposing opinion as well, but these more than often go into in this case useless semantics or other minor details. What is important is that whatever you do on the web, content is the backbone for your site.

With blogs, wikis and all the different communities popping out like mushrooms after rain, creating web content becomes really easy. Actually, “communities” such as Wikipedia are relying on the idea of easy content production – if it wasn’t easy, the user base would be a fraction of what it is today, which would mean less up-to-date and reliable content. However, I would still argue whether the content on Wikipedia is that reliable even today. As O’reilly media put it: “Wikipedia is a radical experiment in trust”.

Don’t get me wrong: I love the idea of a community in which information can cumulate. But if one needs to find information about a subject that is not of interest to the general public and goes for Wikipedia, the chances for quality content drop drastically as the user base interested in the subject (hence content producers for it) decreases. Also, what is really needed anyways is a group of actual specialists, professors and other learned people that actually know the subject well, not just a gray mass of “content producers”.

This has probably been the idea behind getting a large user base (attracting specialists as well) but I just think the means of doing it are not right on target because now it relies entirely on quantity, not quality. And like I said, with a subject that is not of general interest the quantity thinking becomes counter-productive as it is likely that the users creating content on the subject do not include a single specialist. The less content producers, the less people updating, error checking and iterating the content.

That is why I think it still needs at least some kind of a rating system that takes into account:

  • Community rated reference material (to sort out known bad references)
  • Rated entries that would add to a person’s / profile’s rating
  • Maybe some kind of algorithm, that would enable users to only give as high (or low) ratings as their own profile rating is. Whenever they would receive more positive ratings, their profile rating would increase and vice versa

Maybe this is a one man’s protest to the marketing buzzword that “Web 2.0” has become and as you can see, most of the critique from my end is targeted at the concern for quality content, in Wikipedia especially. There are lots of possibilities and good things in the openness and communal thinking that web 2.0 offers. I just want to emphasize never to lose the critical eye and to be alert when using online medias such as Wikipedia as a source of reference.

Google has been one of the pioneers in the meaning of what Web 2.0 came to stand for. One of the more interesting ongoing development at Google is the OpenSocial Common API that seeks to universalize most community services that are available. If all goes well, this might be utilized in taking the best features out of each different service and perhaps aid in making the good driving idea behind web 2.0 more effective.

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