Thinking about the 1% rule

People are generally familiar with the 1% rule that one in ten people in communities create content, and that one in ten of those creators are contributing original content.  Phil Wainewright has some thoughts around Solving the 1:10:100% problem.  He also adds another layer to these 1:10 rules -- Only one in ten of the original contributions will have value to anyone else.

Participation is the biggest challenge to the success of Enterprise 2.0 in an organization -- as it is for any knowledge-sharing exercise in an enterprise. If you can’t get the people with the knowledge to participate in whatever mechanisms you build for sharing it, then it’s patently apparent that you’ll fail in that objective. Frustratingly, the history of enterprise IT is littered with failed attempts to share information and knowledge, from CRM shelfware in the sales office to disused intranets on the company’s central servers.

There are many options for addressing this question of "how to make participation happen?" particularly within the enterprise.  (And Mukund Mohan has been tweaking people on this, also in the Future of Communities blog.) Wainewright suggests placing the focus on the people who are already motivated to participate:

[C]oncentrate your efforts on the minority who are already motivated to participate. There is no workaround for the 1% rule. Instead, recognize it exists and work with it. With luck, you’ll find it’s more like a 3% or 5% rule among knowledge workers, since middle-class professionals (and their offspring) are more predisposed to posting content online than other demographic groups. But still accept that most of what they contribute will be irrelevant, inaccurate, superseded or redundant, and build the system in a way that allows users to discover and recognize the most useful items.

I wonder how this gels with the research I cited earlier which suggests that different community members are attracted to the community for different reasons.  If you focus on one segment of the community, do you end up alienating the other (much larger) set?  Of course, the silent majority are motivated by useful-to-them content.  Assuming the vocal minority are contributing things that mean something to the larger group, then you might have something.

2 Comment(s)

Tony Karrer said:

I had seen the same post and had a somewhat similar thought. I would suggest that we can attempt to lower the barrier to participation and thus increase the participation level. For example - rating something should get higher participation than having to write a comment. But, you can likely only fight it so much.

Mukund Mohan said:

Jack & Tony

I can say from our experience of about 50+ communities, suggests there is NO one answer. I am almost ashamed as a consultant to report that I cannot detect a consistent pattern. Alternatively any of the tactics adopted has different outcomes and some of these outcomes could not have been planned at all before. E.g. One of our customers as I mentioned initiated a purge process for a subset of the 90% to get their ad sponsors all upset and wanting reduced prices.

What I am seeing is within the types of communities there are patterns. Just too early for me to tell whethere the patterns are transient or permanent.

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