the 1% rule; creators vs consumers July 21, 2006 6:21 AM   Subscribe

Interesting article on the 1% rule from yesterday's Guardian [+]
posted by blag to MetaFilter-Related at 6:21 AM (23 comments total)

posted by brownpau at 6:22 AM on July 21, 2006

It's an emerging rule of thumb that suggests that if you get a group of 100 people online then one will create content, 10 will "interact" with it (commenting or offering improvements) and the other 89 will just view it.
I'd be interested to know if this fits with the MeFi audience profile. For each active member, are there 9 lurkers, Matt?
posted by blag at 6:22 AM on July 21, 2006

posted by blag at 6:22 AM on July 21, 2006


I'm curious too, actually.
posted by cortex at 6:31 AM on July 21, 2006

Don't mind me; just browsing.
posted by NinjaTadpole at 6:32 AM on July 21, 2006

I hate articles like this where the author tries to draw a conclusion unsupported by the facts presented (or any intelligence, either, apparently).

"So what's the conclusion? Only that you shouldn't expect too much online. Certainly, to echo Field of Dreams, if you build it, they will come. The trouble, as in real life, is finding the builders."

After talking about YouTube, Wikipedia and Yahoo Groups that's the conclusion of this genius. All are huge and hugely successful projects brimming with content, far more content than you or I could digest in the next few years. The conclusion seems to be precisely the opposite: the numbers are issue are so large that 1% is more than enough of a creative user base to please everyone (and if more than that created it would probably be even more overwhelming).
posted by OmieWise at 7:13 AM on July 21, 2006

No kidding OmieWise. Wikipedia alone is a fire hose of information, a person could read 24X7X365 and still be loosing ground on the new content. I can't keep up with even the 20 high traffic Yahoo Groups I'm subscribed to.
posted by Mitheral at 7:22 AM on July 21, 2006

They seem to miss several important points:

1) Popular sites actively limit content creation. Where limit = Filter. By discouraging crappy posts, you increase the quality, but also bork the natural post-to-comment ratio, if such a thing actually exists. It's much easier to comment than to post, and community standards for the quality of comments are also much lower (except in AskMe).

2) Interaction with posts pretty much has to be higher than content creation because you can only create the post once. Thus even a minor post generates much more activity once it's released into the wild than the creation of it did. Blogs with a one-to-one post to comment ratio are called "diaries."

3) I have to refill my coffee.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 7:35 AM on July 21, 2006

blag consider yourself a one percenter
posted by caddis at 8:26 AM on July 21, 2006

I remember an analysis of usenet in 1992 or so that found there were about 20 lurkers for every participant. That's not too far away from the 10:1 ratio they suggest, and I wouldn't be surprised if 1% started almost all the threads back then.
posted by sfenders at 8:58 AM on July 21, 2006

I'd also add two things:

1) In my experience its much less than 1% but inevitably that wouldnt sound as good (the .28% rule!)

2) Actually, its not even linear. I've seen forums/websites double in the number of traffic/membership and although the number of posts and comments go up, they do not fully double. (again, logarithmic rules are incomprehensible to a general audience)
posted by vacapinta at 9:02 AM on July 21, 2006

On a messageboard I admin'd on with several thousand registered users and god knows how many lurkers, I'd say about 50 posters accounted for half the posts on the board.
posted by empath at 9:17 AM on July 21, 2006

But the one percent is not static. It's like a ball game, where people take turns providing content, interaction, etc. And people don't read simply for content. They also read for diversion, entertainment, lateral or associated ideas, sharing, and so on. You can't spend anywhere near the same time on Wikipedia as on MetaFilter.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:35 AM on July 21, 2006

I am among the 10%, hear me! Actually I have nothing valuable to say, and wish I hadn't made this comment, and thereby remained part of the 89%. Curses. Foiled Again!
posted by blue_beetle at 9:45 AM on July 21, 2006

Compare that 1% [10% if you're just talking about "interaction" which is a lot of what MeFi participation falls under] to some other forms of created cultural content like movies, books, theater or sports. Or something we're mostly all familiar with -- television. I'd bet that 1% is a staggeringly high rate of creation and participation compared to the amount of people who actively create content in those venues. Number of people who make TV vs. the number of people who watch TV? Please!

I guess the MeFi breakdown would be

1% - FPPers, MeFiMusic, MefiProjects contributors (AskMe? MeTa?), so that's 400 people, seems lowish
10% - commenters, so that's 4000 people which has been about what mathowie has said all along
89% - lurkers

In fact I'd assume that the last category is really two categories: lurkers, or "readers" as this silly article puts it and "abandoners" or people who signed up and never came back. One of the reasons Wikipedia has so many users is that the cost of membership is zero so people sign up and never come back, or sign up again and again. The conclusions of the people in the article linked from the Guardian article are more sane
It would appear that small groups of people often turn out to be the principal value creators of a democratized community. Over time, their work fuels widespread interaction that engages the non-participating community and attracts new ones. If continually nurtured, the community can become a self-sustaining generator of content and value.
See how much nicer that is?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:15 AM on July 21, 2006

jessamyn writes "so that's 400 people, seems lowish"

Indeed, just on the front page there are 50 posts from 48 unique users. That's for less than 3 days.

Included in lurkers are also those who don't register at all, but read nonetheless.
posted by OmieWise at 10:38 AM on July 21, 2006

Included in lurkers are also those who don't register at all, but read nonetheless.

Indeed. I read the article as suggesting that your 89% weren't necessarily dormant registered users; they were just content consumers in either case. And I'd presume that the number of unregistered lurkers would be a great deal higher than the number of registered lurkers for almost any site.
posted by cortex at 10:59 AM on July 21, 2006

A week ago, I did a post on kiteboarding which included some links to YouTube videos.

The post had twenty-seven comments, with roughly c. 15-20 people participating in the discussion.

One of the videos had had about 2,400 views in the two previous months of its presence on the web. Within a week, that number had shot up to more than 3,500.

Now, I can't track the exact number of people responsible for that amount of page views. It's entirely possible that there may have been 89 people watching that video a dozen times or more. But I doubt it.

I think this ratio is bogus.
posted by jason's_planet at 11:31 AM on July 21, 2006

"the number of unregistered lurkers"
I think that's the tip of an enormous iceberg.
I hate the term lurker because it often encompasses those that are unabe to contributes (readers).
posted by tellurian at 11:48 AM on July 21, 2006

The conclusion seems to be precisely the opposite: the numbers are issue are so large that 1% is more than enough of a creative user base to please everyone (and if more than that created it would probably be even more overwhelming).

That's a bit off. The article's more pessimistic framing is more informative. The onclusion is that the Web is a winner-take-all business where, because of network effects, the biggest just keeps on getting bigger. The article is right: if you want to be big on the web you have to count on getting a lot of users.

Lurkers always sounded so sexy and dangerous to me. Who doesn't like the image of a man who lurks?
posted by nixerman at 12:22 PM on July 21, 2006

I don't lurk so much as loom.
posted by fleacircus at 3:20 PM on July 21, 2006

Given the 1 / 10 / 89 split, this is probably better explained by Sturgeon's Law.
posted by whir at 9:00 PM on July 21, 2006

Ninety percent of everybody is crappy?
posted by cortex at 8:47 AM on July 22, 2006

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