I really can’t stand the “1% rule” – which posits that out of 100 people visiting a website based on user-provided content (also referred to as a ‘democratized forum‘, but that’s a misnomer) 1 person will create content, 10 will interact with it somehow, and the remainder will stand around and gawk. It was based on a few anecdotal observations about Yahoo Groups and Wikipedia, augmented by a handful of observations about Digg and YouTube, but these data points really don’t justify this broad generalization, which is gradually moving from observation (‘hmmm, only 1% of people on these sites create content’) to some sort of dot-commer folk wisdom (aka ‘you shouldn’t expect too much online.’)
I’ll guarantee you one thing – if you expect only 1% of your users to create content, that’s all you’re going to get. Don’t limit yourself, don’t limit yourself, don’t limit yourself. Participation is both a design and a scope problem, and you can’t just take a pass and say ‘eh, we’re everything to everybody and we’ll get our 1%.’ Yes, this is partially an old debate redux, but it needs to be said now more than it did back in February. Take chartreuse’s advice: “The mainstream is dead… hit your core audience first and hit them hard with something they LOVE.”
Getting a little preachy about this but the whole “1%” line of thought is frustratingly lame.