Great humor is grounded in profound truth. That's why Chris Rock's solution to gun control ("make each bullet cost $5,000 because if a bullet cost $5,000 there would be no innocent bystanders") is so funny. This same concept should be applied to online content. Too often people go spraying "content bullets" here and there. To use Mr. Rock's logic, the key to upgrading content in Enterprise online communities and within their real-time communication is to make the content environment more deliberate.

 

It's how you frame it

Paradigms make a big difference. Blogs, wikis and mass emails are analagous to broadcasting or publishing. People take extra thought and effort to craft that sort of content. Chat and Forums are typically more casual (1:1 or 1:few) gathering places. The first step in up-leveling community and EIM content starts with acknowledging that people expect them to be more relaxed. But that doesn't mean that content quality has to suffer.

 

1. Make Content Expensive

The more deliberate the "shot" the better the content. IM conversations would be pretty different if you knew your content was either monitored by your company (as EIM should be and emails already are) or that your real-time conversations would become part of a public-facing record. And if forums felt a bit more like publishing environments, members would put more emphasis on their effort. One dating site I know of has no fee until you want to contact someone, that way both the parties put value on the effort. There is literally currency to the content and you can bet it's deliberate.

 

<span style="font-weight: bold">2. Ask Simon Cowell</span>

You may have seen Dave's blog on predictive markets. Think American Idol. Those music producers have it easy. They know who is going to sell records way ahead of their investment because "America has voted." Well, if peer-to-peer content generation was made available to be voted on, to be valued, then contributors would spend a little more effort on their contribution and the best content would get the most exposure. We see this now in our customer's communities when they move discussions into published documents and then the community votes on the value of that content.

 

3. Brighten up the place

People create weak, negative content when they're grumpy. And they can get grumpy when it's hard to find content, hard to partipate, when the the UI takes weeks to decypher and the look and feel is painful. A best practice of call centers is to to smile before answering the phone, that way they have more pleasant experiences. So, make people feel good and they'll create good content.