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Why Wikipedia is bad example for Startups (for UGC)

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Image via Wikipedia

It won’t be wrong to say that Wikipedia is closest and literally defines the word – user generated content (UGC) as well as crowdsourcing.

While Wikipedia is a role model, I have serious concerns when startups start believing that if Wikipedia can do it, so can they.

To me, that’s a big mistake.

Here is why:

  • Leaving wikipedia, no other wiki based site has achieved the same growth.
  • UGC is no easy game – you can’t make it happen by opening up to people.
  • People don’t ‘self-moderate’
    • Somebody needs to hold a baton (remember the troll over wikipedia’s rel=”nofollow” decision)
    • Somebody needs to drive the discussion (be it slashdot/techmeme, you need moderators).
  • And most importantly, answer the ‘why’ part – i.e. why will people contribute?
    • People contribute to wikipedia because it appeals to ‘esteem/self-actualization’ needs.
    • Why will they contribute to your product? What’s the incentive?

Having said that, one of the important aspect of Wikipedia is the fact that it’s not-for-profit initiative – the moment they start showing ads, contributor’s perception might just change (give me a share? – and maybe that’s why Knol is clearly focused on rev sharing).

The not-for-profit face of wikipedia also positions the product as a way to help others (one of the major reason why people contribute to any social activity is because of philanthropic reasons – i.e. ‘they want to help others’) – that’s the most significant value that one derives by contributing to wikipedia.

How do you think can a startup build hooks in the product to get more content from users?
While there is no right answer (ranges from building enough value to providing incentives etc), the wrong answer is ofcourse, to follow wikipedia’s model and build the UGC strategy based on that.

What’s your opinion?

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