Charles Arthur, from Guardian Unlimited released an article about the 1% rule, which uncovers some suprising statistics about users in the Web 2.0 world. Basically, only 1% of users will contribute content to an application or website while only 10% of users will comment or offer improvements. The other 89% will simply look at it. This is seen at YouTube, where there are “1,538 downloads per upload and 20m unique users per month”, and at Wikipedia, where an estimated 70% of articles are written by 1.8% of the users.

This figure may be frightening to web businesses that rely solely on user generated content or developer interaction. They’re essentially competing for a fraction of the 1% of traffic out there that’s willing to actively contribute anything to any cause. I believe this adds to the importance of reaching early adopters and technologically savvy users early in an application’s life. We’ve also noticed that active bloggers seem to play around with products and experiments a little more than the average user.

If your application isn’t driven by user created content, maybe allowing users to help out isn’t such a bad idea., for example, is experiencing success with their application sharing program, AppExchange. In order to get the builders building, they offer a share of the profits and some name recognition in exchange for applications that Salesforce users can quickly download and integrate into their workflow. It seems to be doing pretty well. Even though there are only 280 applications, tens of thousands of users have downloaded the pre-made apps. If you can somehow tap in to the 1% of your builders effectively to create content 89% of your users want, you might be on to something.

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Chris Campbell

The 1% Rule by Chris Campbell

This entry was posted 4 years ago and was filed under Notebooks.
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  1. Michael Luu · 4 years ago

    Interesting data… IMHO, I think the low number of participants can be contributed to two factors. First: how much they care about the subject itself, second: the barrier to entry/learning curve. I think flickr is a good example for lowering the learning curve. Granted, their model is fairly simple (upload a photo) but through their API, there are now workflows for almost any user to easily post images to their flickr account. Wikipedia on the other hand is quite daunting for the average user. Learning custom wiki markup of how to use their visual editor takes a time investment that our attention deficit populus can’t muster.

  2. Jeff · 4 years ago

    This isn’t at all surprising to me. I’ve thought about it before at depth. Time is valuable. Incentive must exist. Om Malik wrote a good piece on this a bit back but I can’t seem to find the link. Or maybe I can’t be bothered to :)

  3. Leo · 4 years ago

    What the 1% rule says is right:

    …if you get a group of 100 people online then one will create content, 10 will “interact” with it (commenting or offering improvements) and the other 89 will just view it.

    But the conclusion, is wrong:

    …Only that you shouldn’t expect too much online….The trouble, as in real life, is finding the builders.

    The trouble is not “finding the builders”. Quite the contrary, with all the Web 2.0 stuff, people are more willing to try new things than before. You can see the proof, YouTube can live, without big budget marketing; Digg can, Flickr can, too. There’s no problem to attract “builders” if your service is good.

    The 1% rule only concludes that, like in the fire scene, most people just like to watch.

  4. Rob Grady · 4 years ago

    It would be interesting to see how these numbers have changed over time. While I have no data points, given the growth the social web over the last 18 months (i.e., it would appear that more users are willing to participate.

  5. AdamD · 4 years ago

    Don’t make the mistake that only 1% of the population will ever contribute any content. Remember that most Web sites don’t have a complete overlap in users, so 1% of my site plus 1% of your site should get us something greater than 1%.