There's an interesting discussion going on over at CenterNetworks, with Allen calling out Mike Arrington and co. for giving Digg the award for "best user-generated content". Allen says that Digg doesn't belong in that category (which he includes Wikipedia, your blog, and Flickr), but rather as a "UGC aggregator".
Obviously, this is all semantics, but I think saying that there's no "content" being generated on Digg, del.icio.us and similar sites misses the point a little. Digg does more than aggregate content - it also filters and ranks the content. As Steve Gillmor would say, there's a lot of attention metadata generated by the users of the site. It is this "content" which separates Digg from being indistinguishable from a set of links, and I would argue that there's a lot of value in that information.
Some of the discussion there also focused around the amount of effort put into the generation of content. For example, one commenter said (and yes I'm taking this out of context)
You're saying that digg users do just as much work as people on flickr? Isn't that just a little bit absurd? I can find a story to post on digg, and then post it, within a few minutes and without leaving my seat. Finding a good subject, making sure the light is correct, and getting the right angle, shutter speed, and f-stop all take a hell of a lot longer.
Some content is undoubtedly harder or requires more effort or knowledge or skill or whatever to generate than others. "Digging" or bookmarking something on Delicious doesn't require a lot of effort other than some attention. Does that mean that it's not content? And, it's not the individual link that is important on Digg, but the collective opinion that emerges as a result of all of these users making small gestures.
I'd also argue that blogs are not "user generated content" in the context of how this is usually used. Let's look at some definitions of the phrase, my favorite being "content that is produced by the user as opposed to content produced by the publisher". In other words, I build the site and my users generate the content. If blogs are tools for self-publishing, isn't this by definition blogs are less likely to be considered "user generated" since the blog authors are not third parties?
What do you think of when you talk about "user generated content"? Does "filtering" and attention metadata qualify? Is there a minimum bar based on how much effort is required? (Or, put another way, if a company makes it that much easier to express your opinion that it's not "hard", does that diminish the value of the content created?)
But, really, it's all semantics. The only thing that really matters are real, measurable things like page views, active users, and how much money is generated and so on (which is perhaps why I scoffed at the idea of an "awards show" for startups in the first place and at questiong whether a company qualified in a particular category).