User Generated Content – The Hidden Power of Online Memes.

A meme as most people understand is a funny picture with a caption that someone created online that many people understand easily and spread rapidly as a result. It is typically a short message or opinion that someone has which is shared by a majority of people; again, one of the reasons it spreads so quickly through the internet. The true definition of a meme is that of a cultural aspect which is passed from one individual to another by imitating the other. It is a form of behaviour or understanding that is not passed on through genetics. But that’s enough science for now.

chemistry cat

Memes have become an extremely popular form of user generated content on the internet. Some of the reasons for this are because they are entertaining, are quick to create, easily shared, free to make and they convey meaningful messages to thousands of people. Anyone in the world with an internet connection and computer can download a picture, slap on a witty caption and upload it to the internet for thousands of others to see. Usually they are used for entertainment and are created in a humorous fashion. Memes are so popular that there are many websites that provide a constant stream of new user created memes. There are meme websites dedicated to a person’s language preferences as well – 9GAG is popular among English speakers whereas is more popular among speakers of Vietnamese.

9gag haivl

Now since memes can be created in a timely manner and reach a mass audience extremely quickly they have also been useful in reporting news events. One of the greatest things about this is that news is suddenly getting to people that would not ordinarily be reading the news – young people who just want to see funny pictures on the internet. This can cause young people to have more of an interest in what is going on in the world or even in their own country – good or bad. In China people began buying salt after hearing of the Fukushima incident in Japan as they were told salt could fight the effects of radiation. People were getting curious why there were so many memes (pictures) of empty salt shelves, and started looking up what caused it which brought them to the news of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.



Memes have also been used not just to tell the news, but to make political statements. In China for example one of the most popular memes circulated throughout the internet was that of a collection of photos of a high-ranking Chinese official wearing extremely expensive watches and these watches were completely outside of the pay scale for such a public official. Internet users thought it was funny someone went to the trouble to find the photos and create the meme – and it was. What’s also funny is that the official wearing the expensive watches was later fired for “disciplinary violations” – a creator of a meme influenced the sacking of a high ranking Government official…WOW!
your fired GIF TEST


Memes can also be used to get around censorship blocks. Internet users in China created memes that depicted the Tiananmen square massacre on its anniversary (on this day the Government blocks many key words to do with the massacre). Users got around the censorship block by using pictures – memes – to convey their thoughts and remembrances of the day without being silenced. One way they did this was by replacing tanks from the original massacre with giant rubber ducks.
AP tank man Tiananmen Square tinanamen rubber ducks


Memes are funny pictures, but they are more than just that. They can also spread the news, influence the sacking of Government officials and give users an opportunity to escape censorship – pretty powerful stuff.





Abad-Santos, A. (2013). How Memes Became the Best Weapon Against Chinese Internet Censorship. [online] The Wire. Available at: [Accessed 19 Jul. 2014].

IGN, (2012). Why are memes so popular? A look into the social significance of darn tasty bacon – Blog by yoursuchanoob – IGN. [online] Available at: [Accessed 19 Jul. 2014].

Kupfer, M. (2012). What Can An Internet Meme Tell Us About Kyrgyzstan? — [online] Available at: [Accessed 19 Jul. 2014].

May, K. (2012). 8 extremely popular Chinese internet memes. [online] TED Blog. Available at: [Accessed 19 Jul. 2014].

WSJ, (2012). The Top 10 Chinese Internet Memes of 2012 – China Real Time Report – WSJ. [online] Available at: [Accessed 19 Jul. 2014].


User Generated Content – Information, Knowledge and Answers provided by others. The credibility battle.

The internet is full of information and answers generated by other users. Some of it is provided by official Government agencies, academics and reputable businesses. But some of it (actually a large proportion) is provided by everyday people like you and me. User generated content on the internet is constantly growing and developing and influences our travel destinations, purchasing decisions, gives us advice on medical concerns, tells us what movie to watch and even how to bake a cake or ride a bicycle. The trouble is we don’t know if the information we are receiving online is accurate or not. Is it an expert who has written an answer to a question on a forum or is it some random posting their opinion on the matter?
toilet store information



Trip advisor is a website where users leave reviews and information on travel destinations all over the world. They can say that a particular tourist attraction is great and worthwhile or on the contrary they can also write about how it may be a waste of time, overpriced and overall a terrible place to visit. These people leave reviews anonymously a lot of the time or with untraceable accounts and so if someone just has a bad day and leaves a terrible review, potentially thousands of tourists will avoid a certain area from one person’s – seemingly factual – opinion. This could make or break businesses in the tourism industry as a result. Check out the review for Neilson Hayes Library, Bangkok……OUCH!
Trip advisor personification of dullnessnothing to do here


Wikihow allows people to create step-by-step guides for free on anything they want and a lot of the entries actually seem quite well rationalised and created with real insight into the matter. The trouble is a step-by-step guide that may be available on how to get over the loss and grief of a loved one, or a guide on how to manage certain medical conditions could potentially be written by a good-intentioned, yet misinformed 13 year old. The mental health of vulnerable people in the real world could be at stake here.
baby on computer



Yahoo answers is one of the most visited sites on the internet for sources of information. People ask questions, other people answer their questions – it’s as simple as that. Yet the problem is that this website can reward and promote people who give inappropriate or false answers to user’s questions. Of educational websites, it is the 2nd most visited and it has even been described as a “teacher’s worst nightmare” because of the misinformation it can sometimes produce. Yahoo answers can also rank above academic sources and government websites in a Google search. Usually once user’s find what they THINK is what they are looking for, they stop searching and use that piece of information – which could be written someone completely clueless on the matter. Here’s an example:


Yahoo answers nose flaps


Of course the big player on the matter is Wikipedia. Wikipedia is a large database of informative articles on nearly anything you can think of. And it is all written and created by people on the internet, and these people don’t have their credentials checked. Businesses can have a page created about them without them knowing. And as for accuracy, it was found that 60% of informative pages on businesses had multiple inaccuracies. This was the same for medical entries as well but a whopping 90% of these entries were inaccurate. Factual errors were found even for common medical conditions. Someone was so annoyed by Wikipedia’s credibility they bothered to set up a protest website:
wikipedia screen grab



It’s great to have access to such vast arrays of answers and information provided by others – if it is true and accurate. Keep in mind that anyone can provide answers and information on the internet; so your product review may be done by amateurs and the advice you took on how to skateboard may have been written by a 60 year old.

60 year old skateboarder




Freeman, S. (2014). 90% of its Wikipedia’s medical entries are inaccurate, say experts. [online] Mail Online. Available at: [Accessed 20 Jul. 2014].

Leibenluft, J. (2014). Why Yahoo! Answers is a librarian’s worst nightmare.. [online] Slate Magazine. Available at: [Accessed 20 Jul. 2014].

Long, R. (2012). Google Needs To Reevaluate Yahoo Answers. [online] Web Design Blog. Available at: [Accessed 20 Jul. 2014].

Oliver, A. (2012). Iffy-pedia: Up to six in ten articles on Wikipedia contain factual errors. [online] Mail Online. Available at: [Accessed 20 Jul. 2014]., (n.d.). Wikipedia is Wrong. [online] Available at: [Accessed 20 Jul. 2014].


User Generated Content – Are virtual items more valuable than real ones?

Steam is a gaming platform owned by Valve Incorporated. It is a program that allows users to purchase digital download rights to games. Some of the most popular games are Team Fortress 2 and Dota 2. Team Fortress 2 was so popular that developers in Korea and China made what some would call “shameless downright copies”.

Team Fortress 2 Final compat ripoff Final compat seems legit ripoff



What’s interesting about these games is that they both are heavily influenced by user generated content (UGC). Valve allows contributors to create in-game items for these games, and if the creators items are accepted and used in the game; they receive royalties from each purchase of the item…FOREVER!

Aw yeh baby meme


As a result some people have quit their jobs and made creating virtual items their full time job. Valve has confirmed it has made payouts of more than 10 million dollars so far to creators of digital content. Allowing players to create items, maps or even different endings for their games, has made it more of a democratic and transparent process in game development and modification. Valve as a game developer has to be more open with its game’s code and this openness also allows new ideas, rules or even different endings of the game to be created by gamers/users online. Here’s an excerpt form their workshop:


UGC is so successful and widely accepted by the community it now makes up 10 times that of the content created by Valve itself. The owners of valve have taken the attitude that the biggest problem they face in game development is removing the barriers between the people who create new content for their games and those who want to download it.

UGC is also so important to valve that it has created a game hub for every game available on Steam. This ‘game hub’ is an area just for discussion of the game, reviews and any user generated content. Here’s a preview:

game hub good



This prosumer action of UGC has given players and users the ability to express themselves through the art of games in a way that movies and books will never be able to do. Thousands of items have been created. Check out the list here:


One of the main reasons Dota 2 and Team Fortress 2 are so successful on steam is that they are played all through South East Asia. So much so that one of the biggest gaming competitions is being held in Malaysia. Tickets for the one of the biggest gaming tournaments featuring gamers from Korea and China are being sold through Steam. Here’s the portal if you have a spare 140 Euros!!

Valve is targeting the international market with Dota 2 because it is played so heavily through South-East Asia and incorporates a lot of UGC. Even in Vietnam it’s very popular. I do recall seeing it being played in my university’s computer labs.

yeh i see you meme


It’s so popular in Asia that users actually defend the company; Valve, because of the quality games they make and how they incorporate UGC to make the game free. Some people still complain though. Read the comment of “Someone Someonemrore” coming to the rescue on Yahoo answers:


Asia is such a big consumer of UGC such as virtual items that valve has even updated its system to accept the currencies of Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand and Japan. The input of these currencies obviously makes a big difference to Steam’s in-game economy and finances.

give me all your money meme


Micro-transactions from UGC have actually created in-game economies. A new element Valve is trying to tap into and exploit. Check out the explanation in the video:


So if UGC such as virtual items can create miniature in-game economies, give people full time work, make games free, update games for free and allow users to improve the game experience for thousands of other users… is it better to create a real product or a virtual one?

not sure meme better







References, 2012. Is Steam/Valve slowly turning into one of those obscure Asian game companies that makes games like…? – Yahoo Answers. [online] Available at: <; [Accessed 15 Jul. 2014].

Davis, K., 2014. In-Game Economies in Team Fortress 2 and Dota 2. [online] YouTube. Available at: <; [Accessed 15 Jul. 2014]., 2014. Valve’s Asia push takes Dota 2 to top of Steam. [online] Available at: <; [Accessed 15 Jul. 2014].

GamesIndustry International, 2012. Valve highlights user-generated content on Steam Community. [online] Available at: <; [Accessed 15 Jul. 2014].

GamesIndustry International, 2014. Valve adding 12 new currencies to Steam this year. [online] Available at: <; [Accessed 15 Jul. 2014].

PC Gamer, 2014. Valve loves content creators, paid out $400K in the first week of 2014. [online] Available at: <; [Accessed 15 Jul. 2014]., 2014. The PA Report – Gabe Newell claims users have “defeated” Valve-created content, and that’s a good thing. [online] Available at: <; [Accessed 15 Jul. 2014]., 2014. Steam Community Market :: Listings for Corsair Asia Cup. [online] Available at: <; [Accessed 15 Jul. 2014].

YouTube, 2014. Embracing User Generated Content. [online] Available at: <; [Accessed 15 Jul. 2014].