online participation: climbing the greasy pole

I'm running a research community at the moment for the best part of a week. Its faschinating how predictable it is that from an original sample of hundreds that from a hundred who said they wanted to participate only a handful are actually doing so. What has changed? Well its the power curve Clay Shirkey talks about in Here Comes Everybody.  Intentions aren't the same as taking on a task and then posting and commenting. I am confident that all of those who said they wanted to participate meant it at the time. But a lot wont' get around to it because its a busy time of year. There are bound to be some technical glitches that stop others. One way or another it comes down to a log scale (or power curve) where each point is half the value or less of the previous one.  There is a certain amount I can do as a researcher to persuade more people to participate. I can remind. I can make it personal so people participate as a personal response. I can suggest that you'll miss out if you don't join in – since everyone else has enjoyed doing the exercise so much. But I can't push the percentage figure all the way up to 100% participation – it just gets harder and harder.

I'm enjoying the extremes – those who have participated have got a lot ouf of the exercise. I know that becuase they told me so – and I hadn't asked them for feedback at this stage. But that contrasts with the silence of the rest of the list despite repeated inducements.  This is the new reality of communications.  It was probably always like this but being able to measure message delivery to a massive audience created the illusion that everyone was paying equal attention.





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