Social Networking: Why should Participation Inequality matter if we all gain?

Social Networking: Why should Participation Inequality matter if we all gain?

What is the point of social networking if people won’t participate? Inequality of participation (i.e. large number of users but only a very small percentage of the users actually contribute) is a common frustration for online forums, blogs, wikis and social networking sites.

I know myself I often think what is the point in contributing in online forums when I am the minority? And most of the others are just lurking. Well I have decided that it does not matter at all! I gain from participating and networking; the more you participate in a positive manner the more people are willing to share with you. Most things I do and learn are the result of networking (blogs, wikis, Skype, Google Talk, podcasts, social networking site). Remember the Wisdom of Crowds – Many are smarter than few so the more you network the greater the gain.

Okay I participate a lot more than others in that I also have a blog, a wiki (sorry my girlfriend Sue reminds me not just one wiki) and a podcast site (so obviously have no life). While it would be nice for people to visit my sites and gain from the information I provide; ultimately I do not care because I gain from providing the information (as it takes time to create and I learn a lot while I do it). It also opens up lots of opportunity for me to networking with others that can that help me. So to me it is all cool; you gain by lurking (I so hate that word – because in reality you are still participating – just not showing a visible presence – what does it really matter as long as you gain) but you gain more if you actively engage and participate in a form that suits you (whether it be a blog, wiki, online forum, podcast site, social networking site).

Thanks Sean for the bookmark in your account on Participation Inequality: Encouraging More Users to Contribute. (Oops sorry if you were going to blog on it – but this time I was tag drafting you). However it has put it into context for me (and others that I network with). Also gives me food for thought when I use wikis for managing projects and documenting progress of projects.

Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox article Participation Inequality: Encouraging More Users to Contribute (October 9, 2006) he states” User participation often more or less follows a 90-9-1 rule:

  • 90% of users are lurkers (i.e., read or observe, but don’t contribute)
  • 9% of users contribute from time to time, but other priorities dominate their time
  • 1% of users participate a lot and account for most contributions: it can seem as if they don’t have lives because they often post just minutes after whatever event they’re commenting on occurs

After doing a lot more research on this topic I came across Penny Power comments which to me really sums up what is important:

“Knowing who you can learn from is what matters and what social networks should be about”

Final (sad) point for the day:

ZUDE – I been Zude – given something new – enjoyed the experience -waited excitedly for the site to be open to the public today only to discover – well read the screen shot below from their site.


One thought on “Social Networking: Why should Participation Inequality matter if we all gain?

  1. 🙂 Love it! Good perspective. I blogged a while back on community participant segmentation ( which attempts to flush this out a bit further. I think this taken in combination with some insights from Lee LeFever ( on the currency of communities ( provides a nice “tapestry” with which to think about community devlopment and participation.


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