Last month the Monitor Institute launched a blog http://workingwikily.net about how the social sector is adopting the new tools, strategies, and practices of networking.
They explain here that "Working Wikily" was coined "to describe the new ways that people are applying network theory and networked technology to do the work they’ve always done in a more collaborative form and also to begin working in new ways altogether."
As my contribution to "Working Wikily," I'd like to offer a reality check on what happens when people use a wiki. Before I continue, however, let me make clear that (1) collaboration is great, (2) wikis are great, and (3) the reality check I am about to deliver is aimed at people who associate "collaboration" with "wiki" and thereby set themselves up for disappointment when they learn this the hard way:
Jakob Nielsen summarizes Web collaboration in general with the 90-9-1 rule as pictured below.
90% do nothing, 9% do a little, and 1% do practically everything.
Blogs are even more skewed than average Web sites, with 95% doing nothing, 4.9% doing a little, and 0.1% doing practically everything.
Wikis are the most skewed of all.
Most community facilitators I know who have set up wikis lament that they can't get anyone else to edit it without resorting to bribery. That is 100% doing nothing while one outsider does everything.
With a hugely successful wiki like Wikipedia, the ratio is slightly better, 99.8% percent do nothing, 0.197% do very little, and 0.003% do practically everything.
The above dose of reality is called "participation inequality" by Nielsen. Let me reiterate that I do not see this inequality as a problem, even though Nielsen presents it that way (as would, I suspect, many who set out to "work wikily" and end up proving Nielsen's point).
Thank you to Laurie Damianos for alerting me to these statistics during her presentation on MITRE's use of social bookmarking on their corporate intranet. Her experience at MITRE was consistent with the general trends claimed by Nielsen. Unlike many others in her position, though, she did not get discouraged by low participation, nor did she try to change it. Instead, she did a great job explaining to the powers-that-be that MITRE's social bookmarking system was working great, even with most people contributing nothing.
So let's raise a toast to the 99.8% who have perfected the most popular way of "working wikily" -- those who do nothing and, when they feel like it, coast off the hard work of the 0.003% who give it all away.
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