NFAIS – Current Status of User-Generated Content

Yesterday I attended and presented at a meeting for NFAIS members. The first presentation was done by Michael Mahoney of Nerac. Michael talked about the current status of blogs, wikis and podcasts at his organization. While most of what he went over was nothing new to me, I did get some good snippets that I’d like to share with you all.

A friend of mine recently started blogging. She is still learning the ropes and really wants to give it her all. This means that she’s spending a lot of free time blogging and reading blogs. Sometimes this bugs her spouse.

What does this have to do with NFAIS? Apparently Michael went through the same thing. He talked about how before he brought blogs into his organization he spent his nights and weekends driving his spouse crazy by using his free time to play with blogs. He encouraged attendees to really take the time to experiment and learn about the technology – even if it means driving your spouse crazy. I guess I’m lucky that I have a geek for a husband – he wanted to learn about blogs right along with me!

At Nerac, a few of their blog experiments failed and a few worked. One of the ones that failed was a company blog where each expert wrote on the topic he or she knew best. The problem with this model was that there were too many topics being discussed and no reason for fans of one topic to come back on a daily basis. I don’t know what went on behind the scenes, but a possible solution in a case like this is to provide topic specific RSS feeds – that way people who care about one topic can just receive updates when a new post is made on that topic.

When it came to the experiments the company was doing with podcasts they learned some interesting things. First, podcasts are less stressful for employees to create than whitepapers. When people read text they analyze it and criticize it. When people listen to podcasts, they just listen – alleviating some of the worries of the podcaster. That said, people still prefer to download the PDFs to the podcasts – 5 times more likely! Michael suggested two possibilities for this. First, podcasts require more of an investment on the part of the user, you can’t just skim a podcast like you can a document. You also can’t flip the page of the podcast when you want to refer to it later. The other possible reason for this is that people may not have the luxury to listen to podcasts at work.

I’m not sure how they can address this problem – but maybe a good solution would be to provide written transcripts for podcasts – but then you have a bit of a catch 22. If people criticize written content then they’ll start to criticize the podcasts since they can read the transcript.

Overall, it was a very insightful talk. The one bit I hope most people took away from it was the part about playing and experimenting!

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