I enjoyed reading the blog this morning by Jürgen L (wow, that was hard to make happen, you have to type @ jrgen.lins!) entitled A moderator explains: the plagiarism rule and what is still allowed.
Unfortunately, it is likely that Jürgen’s blog will be read by a lot of like-minded people: moderators, SAP Employees and long-term SCNers and not by anyone that could learn from it. It won’t reduce the amount of plagiarism, though public discussion is no bad thing.
When SAP created the new SCN, they decided to have content democratization, like Google and YouTube allow. That is to say, anyone can create content, and the top “liked” content should float to the top and become visible. What’s very clear to me from Jürgen’s blog is that this doesn’t work. I thought I’d lay out my thoughts on why this is.
Volume of content and likes
In Google and YouTube, there is a huge volume of content, most of which doesn’t get read or seen much. This works great if you have enough people “liking” or paying for promoted content that you can surface the good stuff. It also relies on there being a sufficient quantity of good content.
This doesn’t work on SCN, because the relatively small amount of plagiarism and bad content rises to the top, because those people can create ghost accounts easily, and a few likes is enough to rise content to the top. Take Jürgen’s blog for example – this is the “top” liked blog on SCN today. Above all the other content that’s on the site? Not that the blog is bad… but…
Acceptability and semantics of bad content
With Google and YouTube, we accept a very large quantity of bad, inappropriate and boring content. More interestingly, I might love “Will It Blend“, and you might think that it is a mindless waste of time and natural resources. There is no common semantic of good or bad content and Google and YouTube rely on complex algorithms to bring me the content that I want to see.
In SCN, there is a common meaning of good and bad content. We might have different areas of interest, but we know what’s a good blog or document or an appropriate question. Worse, SCN has no complex algorithm to vet content and surface good content – just a simple “like” button, and a set of moderators behind the scenes.
Moderators vs employees
Here is the next problem: Google and YouTube employ a large volume of moderators and have a set of complex algorithms that make it easier to moderate.
In SCN, there are a very small number of employees dedicated to this despite a large amount of content, and much of the moderation is done by a small number of dedicated people who do it for free. Most of them work for customers or partners. They are the gold of the community.
Does the democratization of content work on SCN?
In my opinion, the answer is: no. The solution to the plagiarism problem is not to allow everyone to post. Someone pointed out the other day – I think it was Laure Cetin – that almost all plagiarism comes from people who have not got the Rules of Engagement badge on SCN. So simple first step: only allow people with this badge to post. SCN could introduce a small number of barriers to posting documents and blogs. Or indeed just go back to the old system where new bloggers had to have their content moderated until they had proven themselves. This is the system that saphana.com uses today.
But SAP should be careful about demotivating moderators and influencers: they create the vast majority of good content – and content is king. If the good writers go and the moderators go, then all that will be left is rubbish. Better, I’d say, to have less, good quality content.