Online communities, bikers and the 1% rule


Loyal. Dedicated. Vocal. Eager to win new converts and open up new territories. Am I describing a valued customer and contributor, or a hardcore biker? A theory is developing that many online communities depend on that one in a hundred user to populate and popularise the site. Just like the larger biker gangs fascinate and attract that one percent of bike riders.

Ben at Church of the Customer pulls together some disparate metrics to make the point. Wikipedia, he points out, depends upon 1-2% of users to contribute and edit content.

“… If we also add evidence from Bradley Horowitz that roughly 1% of Yahoo’s user population starts a Yahoo Group, we seem to have The 1% Rule: Roughly 1% of your site visitors will create content within a democratized community. (Horowitz also says that some 10% of the total audience “synthesizes” the content, or interacts with it.) …

It would appear that small groups of people often turn out to be the principal value creators of a democratized community. Over time, their work fuels widespread interaction that engages the non-participating community and attracts new ones. If continually nurtured, the community can become a self-sustaining generator of content and value.” (Church of the Customer)

Okay, I guess there’s a difference. It’s evident from definitive sources like the movie Hell’s Angels on Wheels: Eat my Angel Dust! that biker gangs tend to carry a lot of baggage with them to a new community – not to mention warrants. Still, as the movie’s radio promo (WFMU) promises, “when you see a Hell’s Angels wedding, you won’t believe it!”

“They’re not bad guys, individually. I tell you one thing: I’d rather have a bunch of Hell’s Angels on my hands than these civil rights demonstrators. When it comes to making trouble for us, the demonstrators are much worse.
Jailer, San Francisco City Prison” (H.S.T’s Hell’s Angels)

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1 Comment

  • Fielding

    Ths 1% rule mirrors Gladwell’s Law of the Few, as articulated in The Tipping Point. The cynic, comme moi, could say that both are clear evidence that it is only a very small few of us who are truly interesting. The rest of us are only interesting in terms of how close we are to the Few, or the 1%. Perhaps we can call this Positional Interestingness.

    05/05/06 – 4:07 pm

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