The 1% rule
I just read the 1% rule in the Guardian Unlimited which are figures which run parallel to observations about the types of participation in online communities of practice.
It's an emerging rule of thumb that suggests that 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.
Similarly, in a healthy online community you can expect 10% of people to be active and discussing. However, an initial reaction by people who post in online communities is frustration and disappointment that there is so little participation, where they equate participation with posting.
In my own research one of the findings that has surprised me the most is the number of people who posted little or nothing in an online event (e.g. a course of a workshop) but who report that they felt transformed by that event. And how much they felt part of the group even though they weren't posting.
That ties in with what Wenger says in his 98 book. Participation in an online community isn't about specific activities related to specific people, it's an accountability to a community and the meanings that are given through their participation in it (p.57) Participation is a constituent part of a person's identity, it's not an act of posting.
Tags: legitimateperipheralparticipation, lurking, communitiesofpractice, participation