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Peerage Production

There has been plenty of talk in the blogosphere about the power of peer (or, community) production. The notion being that by virtue of us all coming together and creating/contributing the product is defined and created.

I’ve often wondered the extent to which this is actually happening. There might be plenty of participants but few contributors. Richard has some sats on Digg that seem to reinforce this notion:

  • Of Digg’s 445,000 registered users, only 2,287 contributed any stories to the site during the last six weeks.
  • The top 100 users contributed fully 55% of the stories that appeared on the site’s front page, and the top 10 users contributed a whopping 30% of the front page stories.

Nick chimes in with a great descriptor: “Peer production? I think a better term for it would be peerage production.” Digg’s stats are here.

All of this points to one of the core questions we ask in building any community – “to pay or not to pay for participation – that is the question”.

Answer – it all depends on the nature of participation. In the realm of those participatory ‘platforms’ that depend on light contribution and content aggregation (ranking things for instance), incentivized networks will ultimately win over those that depend on the enthusiasm of the community to contribute – a group which while sparking the initial flame of enthusiasm often shrinks back to the core over time. Compare that to communities and networks that depend on hardcore participation and engagement – think Java or Wikipedia. Much more stickiness, less incentive required.

Anyway, that’s a theory I’m developing and testing and this set of data seems to point to it. If you want to build a community and keep them engaged, make it sticky and get them engaged.

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