Got any stats on lurkers vs. contributors?
March 23, 2008 3:44 PM   Subscribe

Are there any statistics available regarding the number of lurkers versus contributors on sites with community-generated content?

I'm thinking primarily of social sites and wikis, but would appreciate data similar data about lurkers vs. commenters on sites with otherwise non-community-generated content. Even participation statistics on the metadata level, like song plays vs. song ratings would be helpful.

The PDF about the relative contribution of Wikipedia "Elite" linked here is a good example of the kind of data I'm having trouble finding. Do you remember seeing anything else like this?
posted by moift to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: This is hand-wavey, but it's generally considered to be a kind of power rule. Only 10% of your readers will register, only 10% of your registered users will post, only 10% of your posters will post regularly, and 10% of your regulars will generate most of your content.
posted by jacquilynne at 3:55 PM on March 23, 2008 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you, that's interesting. The Wikipedia stats appear to overlap closely with that model, and you've given me some more fruitful search terms.
posted by moift at 4:08 PM on March 23, 2008

Best answer: This is the site that I think started a lot of that, Jakob Nielson's post on the participation inequality gap. It's not specifically geared towards user-generated content and it's based on old research but it has a "ring true" quality to it and a few meaty facts and sources. The basic line is

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.

You can probably run some numbers form the MeFi Infodump if you want to see if that measures up here, but I seem to recall that it's not far off.
posted by jessamyn at 4:13 PM on March 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Alas, the lurker data is not available from MeFi Infodump...
posted by tkolar at 7:34 PM on March 23, 2008

Best answer: Anecdotal, but we've just gone past 100 members at the Team Fortress 2 Mefight Club site I'm running for our gang of players, and of those, 47 have never commented, and another 15 have commented less than 10 times, while the group of power-user types (about 15 more) are all over 100-200 comments.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:42 PM on March 23, 2008

So, does the 90/9/1 percent rule work for Metafilter?
posted by pjern at 8:51 PM on March 23, 2008

While the focus of the article is not the same, Matthowie's Superfans & Noobs article on has some relevant data and links.
posted by datacenter refugee at 10:32 PM on March 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

I've found the 1% rule of thumb to be pretty useful. I've had technical discussion with a couple of community sites and found it pretty accurate in vetting the grandiose claims that they were making about their user base versus what their usage stats were showing.
posted by w.fugawe at 5:08 AM on March 24, 2008

Just thought it worth pointing out that Jacquilynne's "hand wavey" statement adds two orders of magnitude to the numbers Jessamyn provides, one by dividing lurkers into readers and registered users, and two by dividing those who post less than the uber-posters into those who post at all and those who post "regularly" but without "generating most of the content".

Point being, 1 in 10,000 is different from 1 in 100, so just because the "10%" rule seems consistent, doesn't mean your two favorited statements are in agreement.
posted by mdn at 10:28 AM on March 24, 2008

Response by poster: Right, thanks mdn. The data fit with the model linked by Jessamyn. Particular thanks also to stav for the stats and to everyone else for your help.
posted by moift at 12:09 PM on March 24, 2008

I may have inserted some extra power levels in my post. I remember more the power rule aspect of what I've previously read and not so much the specific levels that fall on the power scales.
posted by jacquilynne at 3:26 PM on March 24, 2008

Clay Shirky, in "Here Comes Everybody, the Power of Organizing Without Organizations" talks about power law distribution in Chapter 5. He mentions the 80/20 rule. However, the actual stats for participation in communities are quite variable and not easily measured. The value of a single contribution to a community can not be measured against volume. "Any system described by a power law, where mean, median, and mode are so different... by definition most participants are below average."
posted by chase at 10:39 PM on March 26, 2008

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