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Participation Inequality

User participation is the big credo in the new online-development called Web2.0. But there are only a few who are actively participating or expressing their opinions.

This week I read an article of Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox, (Nielsen is a world-famous researcher on usability, theĀ user-friendliness of the web, and Alertbox is his bi-weekly column) where he writes about “Participation Inequality“:

“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….

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….

The problem is that the overall system is not representative of Web users. On any given user-participation site, you almost always hear from the same 1% of users, who almost certainly differ from the 90% you never hear from… Blogs have even worse participation inequality than is evident in the 90-9-1 rule that characterizes most online communities. With blogs, the rule is more like 95-5-0.1.”

This participation inequality is a general situation in life: in a school class few pupils are really committed, the same it true in a local community, in politics, in environmental groups – or in a spiritual movement. They set the tone and give shape to a group or a trend.

There is always a big group of passers-by or of onlookers – that’s like things are. They might be interested, but don’t take up any commitment. On the spiritual path people who are just interested stagnate, active commitment is the way to progress: “In every way engagement in duty to the fellow beings fulfils the one in all ways and always.” (K. Parvathi Kumar)

See also the blogpost on “A Child Appealing to the UN to save the Future” as an example for committed action.

Passers-by, City of Berne, April 07

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