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January 14, 2010

Private Communities and Engagement - The 90-9-1 Rule

Online community ninja, Jakob Nielsen, is one of the original brains behind the 90-9-1 rule. Stated simply, the rule goes...

In most online communities, 90% of users are lurkers who never contribute, 9% of users contribute a little, and 1% of users account for almost all the action.

Wikipedia is a classic example. 99% of Wikipedia users never contribute to the site. Of the 32 million Wikipedia unique visitors in the US, 68,000 are active contributors. In other words, only .02% of US Wikipedia users actually contribute to the site. Wikipedia isn't alone in experiencing such inequality. The rule applies to almost any online community.



Engagement matters, and almost every online community would give a few fingers for more user participation. Lurkers make up a site's largest set of eyeballs. Without lurkers, 90% of the possibility of new engagement is eliminated. Private platforms are often used in higher ed as a way to maintain control (both legally and mentally). By hiding content and contribution behind password protected areas, a community is eliminating 90% of its possibility of new engagement.

The Student Affairs Collaborative has been our experiment in an open, peer-to-peer, learning community. The SA Collaborative, The SGA Collaborative, The FYE Collaborative, and The #SACHAT are all open learning systems that allow, and welcome with open arms, lurkers. Lurkers are learning, and often times come back to contribute.

Nelsen says that we can't overcome participate inequality, we can only move the shape of the curve.



We're experimenting with even more ways to create open communities in higher ed, because we believe open communities lead to increased engagement. Not to mention they are cheaper to build and maintain and are great for SEO.

Allow more lurkers in. Make participation easier for lurkers. Reward contributions. Publicly promote your 1%.

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