Participation inequality

So we are using Yammer where I work. I like Yammer a lot. Mainly because the basic functionality is free and therefore gives me the chance to experiment without spending a bean. The technology is fine and it sure beats email as a way of threading conversations across the company and in work groups.

We never officially launched Yammer, and yet around 15% of the company (244 people) have found their way to the site and registered in a matter of months. I was initially disappointed that despite going to the effort of joining the network, most people do not appear to use it. Analysis of the contributions to date reveal that 5% of the users (12 people) are responsible for just under 60% of the content and 50% of the content is generated by just 6 people.

Then I discovered Jakob Nielson’s theory of Participation Inequality.  In short, Nielsen’s theory, otherwise known as the 90-9-1 theory, is that in most online communities, 90% of users are lurkers who never contribute, 9% of users contribute a little, and 1% of users account for almost all of the action.  On this basis, our Yammer figures look quite respectable.

So I took a quick look at Wikipedia, and discovered from their latest figures that that a mere 0.13% of users (85,000 people) are active contributors against 64m unique users. And I took a quick look at Twitter, where recent figures suggest that 5% of users account for 75% of all activity.

I feel much better now! The next step is to try and work out whether the lurkers are deriving any benefit….

4 thoughts on “Participation inequality

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