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Author Topic: Blog Article: Participation Inequality: Encouraging More Users to Contribute  (Read 4105 times)

mouser

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"Participation Inequality: Encouraging More Users to Contribute"
nice article and relevant to this site.

Quote
Summary:
In most online systems, 90% of users are lurkers who never contribute, 9% of users contribute a little, and 1% of users account for almost all the action.
All large-scale, multi-user communities and online social networks that rely on users to contribute content or build services share one property: most users don't participate very much. Often, they simply lurk in the background.

In contrast, a tiny minority of users usually accounts for a disproportionately large amount of the content and other system activity. This phenomenon of participation inequality was first studied in depth by Will Hill in the early '90s, when he worked down the hall from me at Bell Communications Research (see references below).

When you plot the amount of activity for each user, the result is a Zipf curve, which shows as a straight line in a log-log diagram.

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.
...


mouser

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The conclusions are worth posting as well:
Quote
How to Overcome Participation Inequality
You can't.
The first step to dealing with participation inequality is to recognize that it will always be with us. It's existed in every online community and multi-user service that has ever been studied.

Your only real choice here is in how you shape the inequality curve's angle. Are you going to have the "usual" 90-9-1 distribution, or the more radical 99-1-0.1 distribution common in some social websites? Can you achieve a more equitable distribution of, say, 80-16-4? (That is, only 80% lurkers, with 16% contributing some and 4% contributing the most.)

Although participation will always be somewhat unequal, there are ways to better equalize it, including:

  • Make it easier to contribute. The lower the overhead, the more people will jump through the hoop. For example, Netflix lets users rate movies by clicking a star rating, which is much easier than writing a natural-language review.
  • Make participation a side effect. Even better, let users participate with zero effort by making their contributions a side effect of something else they're doing. For example, Amazon's "people who bought this book, bought these other books" recommendations are a side effect of people buying books. You don't have to do anything special to have your book preferences entered into the system. Will Hill coined the term read wear for this type of effect: the simple activity of reading (or using) something will "wear" it down and thus leave its marks -- just like a cookbook will automatically fall open to the recipe you prepare the most.
  • Edit, don't create. Let users build their contributions by modifying existing templates rather than creating complete entities from scratch. Editing a template is more enticing and has a gentler learning curve than facing the horror of a blank page. In avatar-based systems like Second Life, for example, most users modify standard-issue avatars rather than create their own.
  • Reward -- but don't over-reward -- participants. Rewarding people for contributing will help motivate users who have lives outside the Internet, and thus will broaden your participant base. Although money is always good, you can also give contributors preferential treatment (such as discounts or advance notice of new stuff), or even just put gold stars on their profiles. But don't give too much to the most active participants, or you'll simply encourage them to dominate the system even more.
  • Promote quality contributors. If you display all contributions equally, then people who post only when they have something important to say will be drowned out by the torrent of material from the hyperactive 1%. Instead, give extra prominence to good contributions and to contributions from people who've proven their value, as indicated by their reputation ranking.


JavaJones

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Another great article. Nice and short too! The recommendations at the end are very good. I particularly liked the "make participation a side-effect" suggestion - that's a really interesting dynamic they've hit on. That last one is interesting too - "promote quality contributors". He suggests doing it based on "reputation ranking" (from reputation manager sites, presumably). The problem with that is there are few, if any, real *generalized* *people-centric* reputation management systems. Is this a niche waiting to be filled? Or is someone going to point out that there are tons of these systems already? :D

- Oshyan