Lithium Community Study Questions the 1-9-90 Consumer-Curator-Creator Rule

Michalel Wu of Lithium (@mich8elwu) analyzes the behavior of contributors across 143 Lithium communities to understand if the 1:9:90 rule really holds.

I have earlier written about the problem with assuming the 1:9:90 rule (that only 1% of the community members will create most of the content, only 9% will curate it, and the rest will be lurkers) in enterprise communities, and especially employee communities.

Michale Wu ignores the lurkers in his analysis and only looks at creators (hyper-contributors) and curators (occasional contributors) — the 1:9 part of 1:9:90. His findings confirm my hunch.

– The hyper-contributors can contribute anywhere from about 30% to nearly 90% of the community content with an average of 55.95%.
– The hyper-contributors create at least 50% of the content in 65.73% of the communities.
– Turning the problem around, the fraction of contributors who contribute at least 50% of the community ranges from 0.84% to 17.87% with an average of 9.35%.

So, if we define “most of the content” as “more than half the content”, then the 1:9:90 rule does seem to hold on the average, but with a lot of variation.

So is 90-9-1 a hard and fast rule? Definitely not! Not even the 9-1 part of it. But it is certainly a great rule of thumb, when looking at or explaining community data. And it tells us that participation in communities is highly skewed and unequal, and there is a small fraction of hyper-contributors who produce a substantial amount of the community contents.

I build and nurture online communities as CEO of 2020 Social. Read my bio, interview me for a media story, invite me to speak at a conference or ask me how we can help you. E-mail me at [email protected], call me at +91-9999856940, or connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, or Slideshare.

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