Lurker or Contributor, or maybe Innovator?

I didn’t get to the DEECD‘s Innovation showcase on Friday. I’d sent in a proposal for a session but it was knocked back. The fact that I teach in the Independent system and not the Public system may have had something to do with that, but that’s probably just sour grapes from me!!

Thanks to the very obliging John Pearce, who is truly one genuinely nice guy, I’ve been able to partake in some of the experience by reading through his Cover it Live embeds on his blog. Cover it Live is an application that allows you to ‘live blog’ your observations as you watch someone present. John has embeds on his blog from presentations delievered by Jason Smith, co-founder of TeacherTube and Martin Westwell, Director of the Flinders Centre for Science Education in the 21st Century.

John recounts something Jason referred to that has me intrigued; 

the 99:1 rule 

  • 90% of people in online communities are visitors, (lurkers)
  • 9% are early adopters who add to the commentary and/or content but can’t really be depended on
  • 1% are the givers who continue to maintain the innovation

I don’t know where he got those figures from, but if they’re right, they have implications for the use of social networks in schools. I know that the Ning we are using for Yr 9 has some regular contributors, but it also has a spread across the year level. I know it’s artificial to some extent because we ask the students to make contributions because it relates to curriculum, but I am heartened by the fact that forum topics are being created by students. Of the 34 forum topics posted, 15 have been initiated by the students. That’s a pretty good number posted by a spread of students across the year level.

There’s no denying also, that there are students for whom this forum is just not their thing. And that’s OK; you can never guarantee that any teaching method you employ is going to hit the mark for every kid you teach. But maybe they’re lurking?? It’s something I hadn’t really considered. I think what I need to do is set up a Survey Monkey for the end of this term to attempt to get some feedback and derive some statistics from which I can draw some conclusions.

Lurking is something that I find very interesting. By nature, I’m a participant and not a lurker, so I find it a little hard to understand why some wouldn’t want to enter the conversations. But then again, I’m the ‘E’ personality type who’d prefer to go the party rather than sit by the fire with a book. I think that translates to my online life as well. But those figures Jason referred to are mind boggling for me. I suppose if there are 90% of people out there lurking (a word I really don’t like – the connotations are sinister I think) then that accounts for the small number of comments in proportion to the number of hits on this blog. 

And as for the 1% of innovators, well I guess I can see that in the networks I operate in. When I first started reading educational blogs I had this perception that the base  was huge; I now know that is not the case.  I suppose that translates to our teaching communities as well; if you think about schools you’ve worked in, who is innovative and who sits back and lets others come up with new ideas? What proportion of your school community does this relate to and do the figures translate to the 99:1 rule?

Mmmmnn….interesting things to consider. Thanks John for providing me with a PD experience on my weekend. 

*Update – read this post re research on the 99:1 rule. Makes for interesting reading.

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7 Replies to “Lurker or Contributor, or maybe Innovator?”

  1. Hi Jenny,
    Thanks for the kind words, you’re making me blush, though at the risk of creating a mutual admiration conclave I hold you very highly on the genuine and nice scales too. Given your ponderings on the origins of the 99:1 Rule I did a bit more ferreting around and though it might not be the definitive source, this article on Participation Inequality from Jakob Nielsen certainly is worth considering even though it is a few years old now.
    Cheers John P

    1. Thanks John for your kind words too! I found the same article; I’ve linked to it in an update at the end of the post. I think it definitely worth some consideration.

  2. It come from:

    Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox article Participation Inequality: Encouraging More Users to Contribute (October 9, 2006) he states” User participation often more or less follows a 90-9-1 rule:

    * 90% of users are lurkers (i.e., read or observe, but don’t contribute)
    * 9% of users contribute from time to time, but other priorities dominate their time
    * 1% of users participate a lot and account for most contributions: it can seem as if they don’t have lives because they often post just minutes after whatever event they’re commenting on occurs

    But I also think Derek Wemmonth’s 4C model is worth considering as well.

    Part of the reason why communities like Nings often struggle are related to ownership or lack of.

  3. Hi Jenny ( my Yoda),
    Really interesting post! The 90-9-1 rule certainly relates to school and probaly most thingsand I’m not sure about the word lurking either.
    Cheers Nina

  4. Jenny, I found your post on lurkers most interesting. I am an ‘I’ and it translates into my online life as well. I am a lurker and a collector who will pass links and posts along to individuals I know will benefit from them but I struggle with making comments and keeping my own blog. As in the real world by the time I have crystallized my thoughts in a way that is [I believe is] presentable the moment is over. I have many unfinished posts!

    This makes me wonder what kind of expectations we should have for our students and how we accommodate their schema and persona in the online world.

    1. Donna, I so appreciate you leaving your ‘I’ persona behind and sharing your thoughts here. I’m with you in wondering how a shift to online learning communities will affect our students, particularly if they are of the ‘I’ persuasion and it translates to their online life. Like you allude to, there is so much benefit to be had from ‘lurking’, but how do we measure someone’s involvement when they are not visible in terms of commenting or developing an online profile? For that person, the satisfaction from their level of participation is probably the same, but it’s hard to quantify in terms of a public measurable outcome. These are the kinds of things we are going to have to consider when it comes to the unfortunate assessment component of school curriculum. If we are to seriously consider the use of learning communities then we may need to come up with new ideas around the vexed issue of assessment.

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