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Participation inequality

Participation Inequality in Communities

Anna Grigoryan
Anna Grigoryan
4 min read
Participation inequality

Table of Contents

(Illustration by Ahmed Ali)


I rewrote this section 3 times! I had trouble choosing what to talk about in length, and after a long internal debate I decided to write about Lurker Contributor ratio.

I found the article "Participation Inequality: The 90-9-1 rule" under long twitter thread about community engagement.

The gist of it is that all communities have participation inequality: 90% of members are lurkers, 9% contribute from time to time and 1% are that produce the most contributions.

I love that the article is written 2006 but everything is true to this day.

Jacob Nielsen points out the inequality is representative to the internet in general, not just online communities.

Quote: "167,113 of Amazon's book reviews were contributed by just a few "top-100" reviewers; the most prolific reviewer had written 12,423 reviews".

Because the loud majority is creating some kind of "mainstream" movement inside the community, the other 90% are feeling "too radical" to participate.

I can't tell how many times I started writing a message in a Discord server and then scrapped it because I thought:

"eh, no one will understand where I'm coming from"

"now I have to explain everything I ever felt to drive this point"

"nothing will change anyway"

One of the reasons I love communities and still write about them is because in my opinion it's the only place you can create nuanced communication between people.

No character limit, no algorithm, no problem.

Founders that are building community-led organizations are more concerned about the engagement numbers, however how to make sure that your community becomes a place where contribution is not available to 1%?

Shenspeare is one of my favorite youtubers. She does deep dives into popular media, like 2 hour dive into Euphoria.

One of the ways she is able to keep the balance is hiding in the way she sources her information. When she selects a topic of a video she blasts it on her newsletter. Asking questions about real people's experiences.

For Euphoria video she was able to gather experiences of teenagers that watched the show.

I assume not every person on her newsletter sends her response. However, buy getting responses from a diverse set of people to begin with, she is able to represent different angles.

Although Nate is toxic from every angle.

Jacob writes about 5 ways to overcoming this 90-9-1 ratio. I'll focus only on 1 of them: make participation a side effect.

Building recommendations and referral systems for all members not just contributors can be a great way to start thinking about 90-9-1 problem.

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Drawer of Inspiration 🎥

1/ Twitter Spaces → Podcast
How I discovered it: I'm following Sheida on twitter, and love whatever she builds.

Why I include the tool: Twitter spaces is maybe one of my favorite products by Twitter. I love to scroll around and find my friends talking or listening on. It totally killed Clubhouse, and I love that for them.

However, I do find as a listener that relistening stuff on twitter after the Spaces has ended is not the best experience. So Sheida, decided to tackle this issue!

By building a tool that helps you to manage your Twitter Spaces, make automatic RSS feed out of them, and publish as a podcast. I hope this will add more breath into reusing Twitter Spaces content.

2/ 4 hours about creativity
How I discovered it: I curated list of 5 episodes about creativity for Podcast Listening Party event series.

Why I include the playlist: I think discovery through episodes is the best with to get to know a podcast. The playlist has 5 episodes about creativity ranging from 30 to 50 minutes each. Talking about ebbs and flows of being creator in the current digital age.

The party goes on, the next season will start on June 1.

3/ The first-ever Patreon Creator Census
How I discovered it: Feels like every newsletter in my inbox talked about this report.

Why I include the report: I usually try not to share things that are already overshared. But this one really got me. First of all if I trust any data about creator economy it would be from Patreon or Linktree.

What surprised me?

1. The huge pushback against crypto on all fronts. Except some mysterious "Image" category (I don't know what that is, if you know and can clarify please reply!). At least 30% of creators in each category are against introduction of crypto payments. The biggest bucket being visual artists.

2. 16% of podcasters building audiences through podcast networks! I mean I knew that networks are huge deal in podcasting, however, did not think it's that huge.

3. Quote: Creators who promote daily earn 75% more and creators who promote once a week earn 31% more.

Daily promotion sounds exhausting, and let's hope that they at least have teams behind them that do that work. Just goes to show how much creators are still dependent on social media.

Force be with you comrades!

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Anna Grigoryan

Writer, engineer and recovering over-achiever. I bring context into creator economy with Community Weekly newsletter, and help people discover best podcasts out there with Kradl.