Notes from Sergey Brin and Chris Anderson on building participatory systems to scale

Chris Anderson takes notes on the Long Tail at a Sergey Brin talk that turns to participation and scale.  It turns out, Brin through no one would show up to populate Wikipedia with articles:

“But he was wrong, he says, because he–even he!–had underestimated the way scale can change the game. Sure, the experts say only 1% of Wikipedia’s users actually contribute to making it better. Indeed, if you do the math, it’s even worse than that: probably closer to 0.01% (today, Wikipedia has 75,000 active contributors out of 684 million visitors). But that 0.01% have created 10 million articles.”

OK, so let’s do the math: If 75,000 passionate users can create 10 million collections of facts and data, what could 75 do? How about 7?

Would it really only take seven users of a local community information database to populate it with 931 entries?  There should probably be a flattening of that curve as the scale shrinks, but keep in mind, as you build systems for a (relatively) large number of people to participate in publishing community news and information, that you can’t expect many to jump in and push the buttons.

See also: Jakob Nielsen on participation “inequality” and the 90-9-1 rule.