Have you heard of the 90-9-1 Principle? It’s a social web theory that boils down to this:

  • 90% of users are ‘browsers’ who read or watch but do not actively contribute.
  • 9% of users are ‘editors’ who modify content or add to an existing page but rarely create new content.
  • 1% of users are ‘creators’ who add new content.

Exploring the 90-9-1 Principle @ronmader//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Wow! 1% of people create content, 9% edit or modify that content, and 90% view the content without contributing.

This is not to place a value on the subsets. Creators need editors and an audience. Lurking is perhaps too strong a word as these fans or followers are not altogether passive, particularly if they pay a return visit. Readers and viewers play a critical role. There’s a job for everyone (sort of like there’s a position for everyone in rugby including the fans in the stands!)

That said, is there a way to overcome the participation inequality? Perhaps … by creating events in which the internet savvy meet face to face with those less savvy and incorporate suggestions. But for the most part experts say ‘no.’ Adding members to one group will affect the others.

My only recommendation for those developing online collaborative projects is to talk it over with colleagues and determine in advance what success looks like. Far too many people think that communication is easier than it is. If you have a forum that attracts a lot of attention, but you find yourself asking ‘Why are you not posting?‘ … this theory helps explain what’s happening … and you can make the necessary adjustments to bolster more engaged participation.

This entry was posted in 2011, Web 2.0 in Action and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to 90-9-1

  1. Marcus says:

    The question for me is: What is content. You get loads of feedback when you post that you didnt sleep well last night, but hardly any reply when you ask for quality participation. The web has definitely increased the amount of information available but it gets hard when you look for knowledge. As the web seems to be more of an entertainment, turning it a bit more into edutainment would be great.

  2. ronmader says:

    Thanks, Marcus. I like the term ‘edutainment’ a lot! Ten years ago I was calling for e-culture as much as a compliment to e-commerce.

    What the 90-9-1 model demonstrates is that the vast majority of people are unlikely to add their own creations (or edits) to the Web. But that does not mean their participation (reading, viewing) is not valued. Also, we might want to think creatively about notching up the level of engagement across the board.

    Pursuing the notion of ‘edutainment’ I’d propose the creation of PhotoSafaris, Green Drinks and BarCamps that create a friendly environment for Internet savvy and Internet not-savvy participants. More face-to-face meetings, please!

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