Participation Inequality: All users are equal, but some users are more equal than others

9 Jan

If you are scanning Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox for highlights on the 10 Best Intranets of 2010, you’ll come across a reference to Social Features on Intranets and Participation Inequality.


Nielsen points out that in most online communities, 90 percent of users are lurkers who never contribute, 9 percent of users contribute a little, and 1 percent of users account for almost all the action.

Consider this when trying to assess the tone of your community based on representation of subgroups. Such inequities can produce a “biased understanding.”

Other eye-catching inequalities from the Oct. 2006 article:

1.1 billion – 55 million – 1.6 million

According to Technorati there are 1.1 billion internet users, but only 55 million (5 percent) have blogs and those blogs generate only 1.6 million posting per day.

32 million – 68,000

99 percent of Wikipedia users are lurkers. Wikipedia has only active contributors – 0.2 percent of the 32 million unique U.S. visitors.

25 million – 185,000

The “Causes” application on Facebook had 25 million users in April 2009, but only 185,000 had given a donation.

Can you improve Participation Inequality and get something better than 90-9-1? Not really.

But you can make it easier to contribute on your web site or social media platform, and you can nurture the 9 percent. Nielsen, a usability expert, contends that web site design influences participation inequality. Also, a combination of rewarding and promoting contributors is a strategy that focuses on what you can see and control.


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