Thursday, 19 February 2009

Don't Ask Me To Censor Myself - It Makes Me Grumpy

It's a couple of days now since I got a comment on my work blog asking if I could put "UK ONLY" in the title of all of my posts. My first reaction to this was bemusement but the more I thought about it the more angry it made me. In effect, the commenter was asking me to censor my own content. To restrict the group of people who are able to gain value from the content I post. I hope that I've thought about it enough now to put together a rational post rather than a rant but I apologise if I do end up venting spleen!

The Boring Bit

First, a bit of background. My work blog is very specific. It's a summary of every book and journal that I buy for the library. The entries are tagged with subject, format, and location tags as well as some unique tags that allow me to feed the entries back to the library web page. At first, I was dubious that the blog would get any hits but it did start to get readers. Soon, folks started to comment on the books and putting links to allow readers to request books and journal articles from the blog entries has led to a steady flow of requests - which at the end of the day is what it's all about.

The company that I work for is large. In excess of 300,000 people around the globe. My library serves the UK but, due to licensing for e-resources and practical considerations for hard copy, we can only supply info to the UK. In light of this, the request to restrict blog entries to the UK may seem reasonable. Or does it? Why did it irk me so? And why will I not be putting off people who can't borrow my resources from reading about them?

Let Consumers Decide What is Useful

Well, even if people aren't able to access my resources it can still be helpful for them to know about them. The blog has had many comments from people all over the world who have asked for more information about how to access the resources. In some cases I've been able to put them in touch with local libraries. In others cases they've bought copies from Amazon. Whilst the aim of the blog is to increase local use of resources putting it on a global forum allows others to reuse and benefit from the information.

Unfettered User-Generated Content Is What It's All About

In a broader sense I think it's important for Web 2.0 content producers not to second guess who might derive value from that content. User generated content, for me, is what Web 2.0 is all about. In a sense, there's no such thing as bad content because what Web 2.0 gives us as consumers of information is the ability to select the information that's relevant to us and ignore the rest. It's up to the content users rather than the content producers to censor the information. If content producers start to censor or restrict access to their information the amount of information in the system is restricted and Web 2.0 starts to fall over. By all means use tagging to target your user group and help users to filter out your info if they don't need it, but don't put people off of reading your content.

I can see that to anyone used to a traditional way of working asking someone to restrict their readership geographically may seem reasonable but it seems that Web 2.0 has changed the game - allowing content producers to benefit users that were previously out of reach and consumers fine control over the information that they are exposed to. I, for one, will not be censoring my own content.

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