iFixit myself: User-generated content strategy in “the free repair guide for everything.

Guiseppe Getto & Labriola, J. (2016). iFixit myself: User-generated content strategy in “the free repair guide for everything.” IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 59(1), 37-55.


Abstract: Research problem: This study investigates the phenomenon of user-generated content strategy in an open-source, wiki-based content-management system (CMS) for the repair of technological devices (http://ifixit.com). By “user-generated content strategy,” we mean processes for developing systems for producing, moderating, and encouraging user-generated content. Research questions: (1) What strategies, or holistic means of organizing content, are used to manage repair manual content via an open-source, wiki-based content-management system that relies on content generated by a wide variety of users? (2) What content rules, or logical premises for how and where content is developed, emerge from a qualitative case study of such a CMS? Literature review: Though a wealth of empirical research has been conducted into user-generated content, few studies have focused on the explicit strategies employed by organizations to develop and encourage such content. At the same time, several recent calls by researchers in both academia and industry have indicated a need for such content models. Some of the challenges these thinkers have noted with creating user-generated content strategies include the difficulty of maintaining a consistent strategy across content generated by users who don’t necessarily understand what strategies are in place, as well as maintaining a modicum of quality assurance without squelching user participation. Methodology: We conducted a content audit of iFixit’s main educational initiative, the Technical Writing Project (http://edu.ifixit.com) to identify strategies iFixit uses to organize content in this initiative. iFixit is an open-source wiki to help users repair their own devices. We supplemented the audit with interviews with student participants in the project and iFixit technical writing staff to find out what technologies and other affordances affected users of the iFixit Technical Writing Project. Results and conclusions: The main user-generated content strategies used by iFixit include allowing users a wide range of means to participate (such as posting comments or developing their own repair guides), using a content moderation queue (or simple interface for seeing all updates to the wiki), ensuring quality assurance of all repair guide content through redundancy (such as making sure experienced users vetted every published guide), and staging (or arranging information in a linear sequence) information in a multimodal fashion (using multiple modes of communication to reinforce the same information). Such strategies represent a commitment by iFixit to opening up practices that are central to creating content, such as repair documentation, to any interested internet user. Lessons for organizations who wish to encourage user-generated content include developing strategies that protect users from the worst consequences of their actions, that encourage participation, and that allow for experienced users to vet new content.

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