I think there is definite triangle emerging in my mind when I try to notice differences in quality and time-to-market and cost for user-generated content and community-generated content.
To me, user-generated content is the type of content you find in forums and mailing lists. It is likely to show up on a search for information and troubleshooting. User-generated content varies widely in quality and may be outdated quickly. Usually readers of user-generated content understand “Caveat Lector” – Reader Beware.
Community-generated content has a different quality bar, in my mind. While a community may be defined with a mailing list as its only communication, more likely the community is not using the mailing list itself to offer how-tos or detailed troubleshooting. Instead, a community, since it is defined with a common goal, may have content creation as one of the means to achieving that goal.
So which is faster? User- or Community- content?
I believe that individual users are faster at posting informal, conversational responses to specific questions. But a community may have a more thought-out approach to the big picture of what needs to be created, content-wise. I am not just talking about written content, although of course FLOSS Manuals is one of the communities I’ve had direct experience with. I’m also thinking of WordPress.tv, where the site was “seeded” with twenty or so professionally-created video tutorials, but then the community members’ contributions were also accepted. While it may take a while to create that content, and it might not have a professional voice-over, it is good enough to help another community member learn a particular WordPress technique.
Good enough content
Both types of content often offer “good enough” answers to questions or advice about a best way to proceed with a particular solution. Good enough is judged by the reader. I don’t think that I’m calling one type of content more professional than another. Rather, the usefulness of the content vetted by a community is the criteria for judging its quality.
What do you think? Is there a distinction to be drawn between user-generated content and community-generated content?