Teaching Examples

One in 100 is a content creator
July 20, 2006, 4:44 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

At The Guardian, Charles Arthur considers “the 1 percent rule”:

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.

Intriguing, but I can’t think about an “emerging rule of thumb” until I’ve done a little Google search, and here’s what I found:

— 50% of all Wikipedia edits are done by 0.7% of users
— 1.8% of users have written more than 72% of all articles

That’s from a May 3, 2006, post at the Church of the Consumer, a blog about “customer evangelism.”

They copy a chart (with attribution) from a new book, The Wealth of Networks, which I recently bought and will make my grad students read in the fall. It’s a heck of a fat book, but every time I dip inside for a random preview, I find myself getting sucked in and reading a couple of pages.

I’m intrigued by a whole set of ideas related to who speaks, whose voices are heard, who gains power, and how can the citizens be(come) the government. I know this “1 percent rule” is connected to that, as is Metcalfe’s Law:

The more people who use your software, your network, your standard, your game, or your book, the more valuable it becomes, and the more new users it will attract, increasing both its utility and the speed of its adoption by still more users.

If you think about this, you can understand why many people say there should be no registration at a news Web site, and archives should always be free, etc. The more people who can come in, the greater the value of your site. The more people link to you, the more prominent you become. Openness raises your site’s profile and your credibility — and hence your site’s value to the people.

Craigslist recently came to my town. I was happy because I find the newspaper classified ads cumbersome and frustrating, and so I have never been a fan of them. Tuesday a friend told me she wants to have a garage sale, so she phoned the local newspaper to place a classified ad. Turns out they have a rule: You must run that ad for three days. You cannot have a one-day ad. For the smallest number of words, that ad would cost her $27. To her, that seemed a bit much to advertise a garage sale. So she said no, thanks. No ad from her. She was willing to pay the newspaper to run her ad, even though we now have Craigslist, but the price point was wrong for her. Boom!

What does that have to do with Metcalfe’s Law and the wealth of networks and the 1 percent rule? Everyone in the journalism business should know the answer to that question.

How will you attract that 1 percent (1% rule) — the best 1 percent for building your reputation?

Update (July 21): Howard Owens extends the 1% rule to lurkers on e-mail lists.

The big challenge for any would-be social network, or virtual community, or participation-based initiative (you pick), is how you entice the 1 percent to get the ball rolling, because without the 1 percent, you don’t get the 10 percent, and hence there is nothing there for the 89 percent.

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