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Ben McConnell

May 03, 2006

The 1% Rule: Charting citizen participation

What categories are the most popular among citizen content creators on a product-driven wiki, such as ProductWiki?

1. Electronics. Considering a gadget-driven web audience, not a big surprise.
2. Fashion. Yup, fashion! Even more popular than entries about computers or cars.
3. Media. High number of content creations, low number of page views.
4. Computers. Same as above.
5. Sports and outdoor. More page views than content creations.

Erik Kalviainen, one of the ProductWiki founders, shares this interesting data and other behind-the-scenes numbers on his blog.

The big kahuna of wikis, Wikipedia, shows a disparity between number of contributors vs. total site visitors. For instance, Comscore/Media Metrix says that Wikipedia was the 18th most popular destination website on the web in March 2006, with some 25 million visitors that month alone. But the number of people who actually contribute content to Wikipedia is about 1-2 percent of total site visitors.

Wikipedianumbers

For instance, in June 2005 Wikipedia had a total of 68,682 total contributors. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales is reported to have told a library group that month:

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

If we also add evidence from Bradley Horowitz that roughly 1% of Yahoo's user population starts a Yahoo Group, we seem to have The 1% Rule: Roughly 1% of your site visitors will create content within a democratized community. (Horowitz also says that some 10% of the total audience "synthesizes" the content, or interacts with it.)

In an email, Erik from ProductWiki says the 1% Rule applies to ProductWiki as well; he has about 350 total contributors, more than Wikipedia had in its first year of operation.

To some marketers, the polar opposite of the 1% Rule -- the Law of Big Numbers-- might doom any decision to  dedicate resources toward a democratized community. Should it? Not necessarily, although any community organizer should be prepared to accept the reality of slow, incremental growth, not a big, Hollywood-style opening.

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.

Erik and his ProductWiki co-founders are off to a great start but probably have a few years ahead of them to reach the big numbers.

Posted by Ben McConnell on May 03, 2006 | Permalink

TRACKBACKS

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COMMENTS

Very interesting statistics. I like them for the reason that there is so much hype stirring about Web 2.0, that everyone's getting into the 'fever' again.

To see a model that works, but is realized that will take time, is a refreshing reality check for those thinking everything is going to be hyper-growth.

Posted by: Gary Bourgeault (managersrealm.com) at May 4, 2006 11:29:50 PM

Thanks, Gary. We hope to test it against similar types of communities and/or programs as well. If you happen to stumble across any similar figures or findings, let us know.

Posted by: Ben McConnell at May 4, 2006 11:37:28 PM

Maybe you should think about paying the 1%. Since they are actually doing the work.

Posted by: patience at May 14, 2006 5:12:30 PM

Interesting point of view, but I don't think that the user genereted content production sheme is very different from the ''normal'' creation thing. How many people start a business verus the people working for someone? What percentage of people like fine arts or cinema but never tried to accually create? There are few leaders and many followers.

Posted by: Jean Thibaudeau at May 15, 2006 2:44:11 AM

I’ve spent quite some time on wikipedia - just editing stuff to make it a bit better. Let’s call it a novelty factor. It quickly wore off but there are probably people who go through that same period all the time. Which pushes the whole thing forward.

It’ll be interesting to find out if the 1% that contribute are the SAME 1% over the course of a year. I doubt it.

Posted by: Krasimir [Vidize.com] at May 16, 2006 8:37:26 AM

This is very interesting data! Over the years, all of us have been told the 80/20 Rule (and, it is a VERY useful tool) but it does not apply to all aspects of the human experience. My own anecdotal evidence tells me that websites like wikipedia...and most other volunteer-based activities such as contributing time to non-profit event or local church is closer to the 1% level. Many people are willing to give dollars for such causes, but it is a very slim minority who donate their time and brainpower. Thanks for sharing these statistics.

Thom Quinn

Posted by: Thom Quinn at May 16, 2006 6:57:01 PM

Ben/Jackie,

Your 1% rule has been a real thought provoker. It is a simple shorthand for how marketers need to adjust ther lenses.

I've provided a follow up to the rule called the 20-10-1 Word of Mouth Marketing Rule as I do think there are layers to this Infleucne onion. Here is the post http://buzzcanuck.typepad.com/agentwildfire/2006/08/the_20101_word_.html

As you will notice by my recent Top 11 posts, I'm a big citizen fan of the Church, look forward to the book and keep up the inspiration.

Posted by: Sean Moffitt at Aug 11, 2006 3:46:17 AM

Ben/Jackie,

Your 1% rule has been a real thought provoker. It is a simple shorthand for how marketers need to adjust ther lenses.

I've provided a follow up to the rule called the 20-10-1 Word of Mouth Marketing Rule as I do think there are layers to this Infleucne onion. Here is the post http://buzzcanuck.typepad.com/agentwildfire/2006/08/the_20101_word_.html

As you will notice by my recent Top 11 posts, I'm a big citizen fan of the Church, look forward to the book and keep up the inspiration.

Posted by: Sean Moffitt at Aug 11, 2006 3:47:13 AM

I was doing some word of mouth math homework on the weekend and found that TiVo has 19,000 beta testers as a subset of its community and 3.6 million subscribers - the ratio 0.6% comes pretty close to the 1% rule - not too sure if you can corroborate the number...i'm just a Canadian that still can't get TiVo...cheers

Posted by: sean moffitt at Sep 3, 2006 8:21:34 PM

You might be interested in this Future Tense report about an alternate study on Wikipedia contributions done by a Stanford student, Aaron Swartz. Rather than counting the number of edits, as Wales does, Swartz counts the number of characters contributed by each contributor.

His research concludes (based on a small subset of articles) that the vast majority of the content is actually written by ocassional contributors, while the "active" and "very active" contributors make a large number of minor edits and administrative changes rather than contributing content.

The MP3 is here: http://www.publicradio.org/columns/futuretense/

Swartz's explanation and comments are here: http://www.aaronsw.com/weblog/whowriteswikipedia

Posted by: Linda Zimmer at Sep 7, 2006 12:56:42 AM

I operate a vehicle reliability research panel at http://www.truedelta.com . Whenever I receive an email, I assume that 100 other people are thinking the same thing, but aren't voicing it. So I take feedback very seriously.

At the same time, for my research to work I have to get people to be active, i.e. to submit information about their repair experiences. My current solution: provide free access to the full results in exchange for helping to provide the data. This boosted the rate at which site visitors join the panel by an order of magnitude.

Posted by: Michael Karesh at Oct 7, 2006 11:45:41 AM

I think the problem of the 1% is one of incentives. 1% seem to be the number of contributors to any given social site WITH NO CLEAR INCENTIVE to do so. I'm surprised by how many social sites don't recognize this and find innovate ways to incentivize their customers.

Posted by: Darren Johnson at Apr 21, 2007 7:50:08 PM

guanhua88
zgh1984@yahoo.com
This is Great! I have posted some related sites over here: http://todaytop10.com

Posted by: guanhua88 at May 3, 2007 9:36:36 PM

If we go with the 'natural' process, yes. But what if you encourage your users to contribute? Like giving prize rewards and such stuff. I think the ratio will go up. Anyway, there must be a good strategy there.

Posted by: Darren at Oct 28, 2007 1:57:29 PM