Nielsen, Rogers and the lack of contribution

If you are implementing anything that is related to collaboration most of you will know and have used the rule for participation inequality or the 90-9-1 rule. This rule shows that in an average group of people 90% are lurkers, 9% contributes from time to time and 1% of the group members participate a lot and account for most contributions.

On the other hand there is the theory of the Diffusion of Innovations of Rogers, which shows us of how, why, and at what rate new ideas and technology spread through cultures. He defines adopter categories of the members in a group, the categories are: innovators (2.5% of the group), early adopters (13.5%), early majority (34%), late majority (34%) and laggards (16%).

If you combine to these two rules, you’ll notice why it is important to start with a group that is big enough:

Just the participation inequality rule

When you start with a group of 100 people, 1 will actively contribute (sometimes up to 90% of the content), 9 will contribute from time to time, and 90 will read. As you notice, 1 person creating 90% of the content is not that exciting, and only 10 people that contribute in total is also not that many. They might get out of topics for conversation.

Combining the participating inequality rule and the adoption categories

If you start with a group of 100 people, you know that 16% will be laggards (they are likely not to  participate), leaving you with 84 people who might contribute to the collaboration platform. Taking into account the participation inequality rule, you will end up with maybe one person who will actively contribute, about 8 people will contribute from time to time and 75 people who will read the content.

Some even say that not only the 16% laggards aren’t participating but also about 50% of the late majority, which means that about 30% of the group will not be participating. Making the numbers to about 1 (if you are lucky) to contribute actively, 7 contributing from time to time and 62 people who will read the content.

Don’t despair

The group you’ll select will be not a standard group that will be a representation of your enterprise. Most often that group does not consist of any laggards and, but mostly of enthousiastic people who will help you driving adoption in later phases. However, always keep in mind that not everybody will contribute on your new platform, so be aware your group who will be using this platform is big enough.