Depending on how much time you spend online, you probably know that one of the hottest buzzwords is "user-generated content."
Essentially: stuff that people make for free, whether it's videos on YouTube or refrigerator reviews on a consumer site. It can be silly—take a few minutes to peruse some of the more absurd offerings on YouTube one day—but a lot of it is valuable. We know, because we've been publishing user-generated content for many years. We call it "letters to the editor," and we've long valued the intelligent, civilized discussion they offer. This may shock the cutting-edge Web pioneers, but U.S. News has always encouraged a two-way conversation with our readers. Every week, I'm amazed at the informed response we get to our journalism, from ordinary folks sharing their perspective—and sometimes upbraiding us—to experts adding important facts to a story. The Internet is just letting us extend that concept in breadth and timeliness. For the past few months, we've been publishing many letters online. This week, we put a comments feature on our stories, columns, and blogs, allowing readers to give our writers real-time feedback or spark discussions among one another. The early response is overwhelming, with stories generating hundreds of reactions and some lively debate. So far, we've had only one death threat. Let's keep that to a minimum. In the months ahead, we'll be adding more features to the magazine and usnews.com to promote more conversation with the community of U.S. News readers. Please take a look, and, as always, let us know what you think. - Brian Kelly