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Adi is a social business blogger and community manager that writes for sites such as Social Business News and Social Media Today. Away from the computer he enjoys cycling, particularly in the Alpes. Adi is a DZone Zone Leader and has posted 1233 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

Is the golden 90:9:1 rule of online communities dead?

03.11.2013
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The 1% rule is deeply ingrained in the culture of online communities.  It states that for every 100 members of a community, 1 will generate new content, 9 will reply to that content and 90 will read or watch without contributing anything.

The BBC would have us believe that this rule no longer applies.  They surveyed several thousand UK adults about their online behaviour, in particular how they interacted online.  Their findings suggest that we are now much more likely to participate online rather than passively consume content.

What's more, they don't believe this is a small shift, but rather a fundamental one.  They believe that 77% of the UK population are now producing content in some way online.

They say that online participation has exploded because it is now so easy to do so.  What once may have taken time or a degree of expertise can now be done by most of us very easily.

Of the 23% that aren't contributing, they suggest almost half of those have the skills to do so but are actively choosing not to, with this merely reinforcing the value participation plays in reflecting who we are and what we stand for.

They define all of this under a new title of Participation Choice, which is broken down into four key forms:

  1. Passive
  2. Easy reaction
  3. Easy initiation
  4. Intense participation

the participation choice

So, does this signal the death of the 90 9 1 rule?  Personally I think not.  Whilst this research is a great indicator that web users are becoming more interactive, it is worth remembering that it is a study of web usage as a whole.  With such aggregation it is always likely that better results will be returned than if you analysed individual communities.  Expecting 3/4 of your users to actively contribute to your community is in my opinion extremely far fetched, with most of my personal evidence still correlating broadly with the 10% of users the initial rule suggests.

Do you think the rule still applies or are you seeing more engagement across your communities?