A couple of years ago, usability expert Jakob Nielsen put forward what he called the 90-10-1 rule: Social communities tend to be composed of 90% “lurkers”, 9% intermittent contributors, and 1% heavy contributors. I’ve repeatedly observed the same tendency, both in the work setting and my personal life, in groups ranging from 10 to 1000 people.
Don’t be quick to assume that this is a value judgment on the three levels of involvement; it’s not. Each group tends to get out of the community what they need, but it’s also proportional to what they contribute.
But here’s the question I would challenge you with: For each community that you’re connected to, where do you choose to be? And in particular, which ones are so important that you want to be part of the 1%?
Obviously, with any significant number of communities, you won’t be able to afford being a heavy contributor to each. And if you only are involved with the few groups where you’re heavily invested, you’ll develop a very narrow field of interest.
Most likely you have to choose. So it would be good to choose wisely, based on:
- The value to you professionally
- The contribution to your personal life goals
- Where your passions lie at this point in your life
So give this a try: Make the list of all the communities that you’re connected with, even if it’s just following the progress of others. Then compare these with your goals, priorities and passions.
Are there any places where you seem to be over-involved? Before you back off, ponder whether this is actually telling you something about your true goals and desires.
Are there any places where increasing your leadership would help you achieve your goals? Great, but don’t increase your contribution without realizing that this will take time and energy from other things in your life.
But in the end, I’ve found it quite valuable to have one or two places where I’m choosing to be part of that 1% – even if it’s just me.