More on participation inequality: An excerpt from "The Wisdom of the Chaperones: Digg, Wikipedia, and the myth of Web 2.0 democracy
," by Chris Wilson:
Social-media sites like Wikipedia and Digg are celebrated as shining examples of Web democracy, places built by millions of Web users who all act as writers, editors, and voters. In reality, a small number of people are running the show. According to researchers in Palo Alto, 1 percent of Wikipedia users are responsible for about half of the site's edits. The site also deploys botssupervised by a special caste of devoted usersthat help standardize format, prevent vandalism, and root out folks who flood the site with obscenities. This is not the wisdom of the crowd. This is the wisdom of the chaperones.
The same undemocratic underpinnings of Web 2.0 are on display at Digg.com. Digg is a social-bookmarking hub where people submit stories and rate others' submissions; the most popular links gravitate to the site's front page. The site's founders have never hidden that they use a "secret sauce"a confidential algorithm that's tweaked regularlyto determine which submissions make it to the front page. Historically, this algorithm appears to have favored the site's most active participants. Last year, the top 100 Diggers submitted 44 percent of the site's top stories. In 2006, they were responsible for 56 percent.
[Aside: The PARC link in the first paragraph is well worth visiting if you like pretty pictures. The overall blog itself, Augmented Social Cognition
, is worth skimming, if you're into this sort of research.]
Wilson's article goes on to describe how Slashdot and Helium.com are working to make things more ... uh, flatly participatory?