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The 1% Rule Or What YouTube Teaches Us About Who Really Does The Work in Crowds?

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on July 28, 2006

There is a fascinating piece in the Guardian on research that shows that if you get 100 people online, 1 will create content, 10 will interact with it (comment or try to improve it) and 89 will just read and watch it.
The stats are drawn from YouTube which now has 60% of all online viewing. There are 100 million downlods and 65,000 uploads—1,539 downloads per upload and 20 million uniques per month. The “creator to consume ratio” is 0.5% but it is early days so this may improve.

At wikepedia, 70% of all articles are written by 1.8% of users.

What does the author of the Guardian piece< Charles Arthur, conclude? “So what’s the conclusion? Only that you shouldn’t expect too much online. Certainly, to echo Field of Dreams, if you build it, they will come. The trouble, as in real life, is finding the builders.”

This is a fundamental issue. If 1% of crowds are creators, then what is the difference between “experts” and “crowds?” What is the difference between professional historians who write encyclopedias and the “masses” of people who do? Where does the real value of crowds lie? Are there higher “quality” crowds where more than 1% of the people create. Is the IBM innovation jam model where tens of thousands of highly trained people “crowd” better at innovation than a more general group of people? Who really participates in social networking and what do they do? Who is active, who is passive and why? Huge questions here on social networking that we really need to answer in this pell mell rush to social networking.

Thank you Mark Vanderbeeken at Putting People First, one of the great innovation blogs around. You are so right on in selecting the good, provocative stuff.

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Reader Comments


July 30, 2006 06:25 PM

I'm not really sure about those percentages. Although I have no clear factual research in percentages on this yet.......

My idea is that it might depend on PEOPLE, BENEFIT, CULTURE, BRAND, TOOLS, TOPIC, TECHNOLOGY, and more.

Who are these PEOPLE? Are they Lead Users?(users who are ahead of the majority of users and will BENEFIT from creating and sharing content for reasons of open innovation?) See also Von Hippel's "Democratizing Innovation". Or are they the "average man on the street" who are creating content for their own direct BENEFIT, for example like one does on Ebay.(How are the percentages there???)

Is there a strong community CULTURE where people are used to creating, sharing and interacting with each other? Does the BRAND appeal strongly and stimulate interaction?

Moreover, the better and nicer the creative TOOLS supplied, the more people will be engaged in co-creating. They must be highly user-friendly, stimulating and effective.

The TOPIC must trigger you. People need to feel a strong urge to create content. The topic might be of their greatest hobby or interest. The information given might be incorrect. Or it might be a highly controversial topic which requires immediate discussion or contribution.

Furthermore it might be argued that TECHNOLOGY is important too, as some online content collaborations are automatic / by default. That's why Web 2.0 tools are so good as an enabler of this whole thing.

My hypothesis is that in the near future "businesses will become facilitators of user communities". We've seen it off-line and now we can see it on-line. But until now it was only a tip of the iceberg.....Many of the current business models need to change to become more profitable and competitive in the future.

If you are interested, I'm doing a Masters project on this topic, send me a mail:

What do you think?????

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Want to stop talking about innovation and learn how to make it work for you? Bruce Nussbaum takes you deep into the latest thinking about innovation and design with daily scoops, provocative perspectives and case studies. Nussbaum is at the center of a global conversation on the growing discipline of innovation and the deepening field of design thinking. Read him to discover what social networking works—and what doesn’t. Discover where service innovation is going and how experience design is shaping up. Learn which schools are graduating the most creative talent and which consulting firms are the hottest. And get his take on what the smartest companies are doing in the U.S., Asia and Europe, far ahead of the pack.

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