If you can dedicate the time, I highly recommend participating in a Startup Weekend. The concept is simple… people gather from all disciplines of business to create a company and product within 56 hours. No one knows at 0 hour Friday what the idea is, yet everyone that participates gets equal ownership in the result. There is a palpable energy in the room when deadlines are tight and there is no room for posturing or lobbying, and the social aspect of the event can't be beat. I expect Andrew and team to kick lots of butt – there are tons of people that have the startup bug and this is a great way to play in the space. Sixty-eight people generating a company over the course of a weekend.
So why should “user generated” be limited to content? What else are users willing to generate? Prosper.com allows people to generate loans (or buy debt) for people that think they need more debt to clear up other debt (yes, this is a crappy concept in my eyes, but that isn't the subject of this post). Users generate answers for people with burning questions at Amazon's Mechanical Turk. Comments on blogs across the globe contribute to the quality of the original blog entry. There is a great company helping to aggregate that process too, have a look at Intense Debate
Imagine a blog post where the author seeks opinions on ideas for photos in a brochure. Users might generate some very useful ideas for the author to use, as well as post links directly to photos at iStockPhoto. I'm sure this happens all of the time… the readers help define the product.
Companies could use this system to solicit input from users of their products to perfect advertising materials. Users could be intimately involved in creating the feature set for the next version of that product. But companies still rely on R&D teams and hired guns rather than soliciting such input.
Imagine what would happen if Real hosted a weekend event where any user could come by and offer their opinion on what the next version of the platform should provide? Or maybe if Gap, Inc. took clothing designs from the public and allowed visitors to vote on which designs should be made. They could offer the designer a cash reward (I.E, purchase the design outright).
The possibilities are endless. If you have examples of user generated anything, let me know. I'd love to have a look.