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Have you heard of the 90-9-1 Principle? It’s a social web principle that boils down to this:

  • 90% of users are the ‘browsers’ or ‘lurkers’ who read or watch but do not actively contribute.
  • 9% of users are ‘editors’ who modify content or add to an existing page but rarely create new content.
  • 1% of users are ‘creators’ who add new content.

Wow! 1% of people create content, 9% edit or modify that content, and 90% view the content without contributing.

This is not to place a value on the subsets. Focus on building relationships, nudging but not expecting the passive 90% to become the ‘engaged’ 10% overnight. This is slow work.

If you have a forum that attracts a lot of attention, but you find yourself asking ‘Why are you not posting?‘ … this theory helps explain what’s happening … and you can make the necessary adjustments to bolster more engaged participation.

The Value of Readers and Fans in the Stands
Is there a way to overcome the participation inequality? Perhaps … by creating events in which the internet savvy meet face to face with those less savvy and incorporate suggestions.

To increase the size of the tip of the pyramid, you have to make the base of the pyramid broader.

Our first recommendation for those developing online collaborative projects is to talk it over with colleagues and determine in advance what success looks like. Far too many people think that communication is easier than it is. Our second recommendation is to schedule short training sessions in tandem with other events. For example, if there’s a major conference, ask the organizers if you can schedule time for short workshops for practical hands-on training. Print screenshots, create manuals and how-to-guides. Answer questions in person and afterward document the discussion and lessons learned so that participants have something for reference.

Creators are not more important than an audience. A creator without an audience is like an author without a reader. Creators need editors and an audience is looking for knowledge and experiences. ‘Lurking’ is perhaps too strong a word as these fans or followers are not altogether passive, particularly if they pay a return visit. Readers and viewers play a critical role just by browsing and paying attention. There’s a job for everyone (sort of like there’s a position for everyone in rugby including the fans in the stands!)

Elsewhere on the Web
Commenting threads: good, bad, or not at all
Participation Inequality: Encouraging More Users to Contributeexternal image linkext7.gif
90-9-1 Theory – Wiki Patterns
Why are you not posting?
Broadening the Base of the Startup Pyramid
Is the 90-9-1 Rule for Online Community Engagement Dead?

Virtual Volunteer

1% Rule


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