The Elements Of Community: Just How Many Passive Viewers Are Active Contributors?

This is a rant, pretty much, but will be a continuing discussion about how the social media platforms are evolving, and the key differences.

This is a pretty new blog, so I don’t get a lot of comments, other than, “hey, I agree with you!” My writing style doesn’t lend itself well to controversy — I usually come off as very matter of fact — so I get readers, but not discussion.

That’s really true for the vast majority of websites.

A very small minority of people control the content on sites like Digg (Social Blade tracks it), and Coding Horror has an article about how less than 1000 people contribute the content on Wikipedia. I ran a message board back in the day, and less than 100 people contributed to a message area that was getting close to two million page views a month. Just under .2 percent of You Tube visitors actually put up videos, and the trend goes on and on.

It’s really about being an active contributors: very few of us are in the world are truly active, and the majority of traffic on MySpace isn’t people posting to their profiles, but users who have joined to have a really basic account there browsing through photo after photo. The user may comment occasionally, but for the most part, it’s really just about seeing what other people have done.

The perception of passive versus active is very important in User Generated Content: for sites like and MySpace, they don’t exist if there isn’t an active community, but the distribution of contribution for all these sites has a definate long tail result in graphs (a few people generate most of the content).

Some of the sites, like Yelp, have turned a lot of views into contributors in a way that other sites haven’t by essentially creating hundreds of Yelps, all locally based. Yelp events happen all over the country, and they have generated a sense of community among it’s users that Facebook has to a certain extent, but MySpace hasn’t except for music and entertainment event.You can go to Yelp events, and meet the people behind the reviews. Locally, there is a certain set of people that contributes much more than the rest of the audience, so they are essentially the super connectors, the people for whom if they didn’t contribute, the community didn’t exist.

With Facebook, you tend to stay within your own social circle, so the same effect happens, even if you don’t meet the other people on a regular basis. There are events, but more often than not, there’s a disconnect between the virtual and the physical world because the status messages are from people in other parts in the country versus someone reviewing the dry cleaner down the street.

There will be more thoughts on this. Please stay tuned.