John McCann

Archive for the ‘Measuring participation’ Category

In Measuring participation on August 7, 2006 at 4:22 pm

I invite you to read the comment secton of my recent post about teen use of the Internet. I really enjoyed the exchange with the commenters and I encourage all of my readers to comment so we can have a conversation.

I have been thinking a little more about the issue raised by lenina in her comment and my response. How can it be that over half of on-line teenagers create content while at any given website (such as a Yahoo forum or YouTube) only a small fraction of all visitors to the site actually create content of any form? As the Guardian article that caused the debate said the “creator to consumer” ratio at just 0.5%.”

As I said in my comment, this question can be answered by looking at the unit of analysis: sites versus people. After writing my comment, I thought of an example that might help clarify what I am talking about. Suppose you owned a shoe store and you keep records of people who entered your store. On a typical hour, 100 people enter the store, 1 buys a pair of shoes, 10 try on shoes but do not purchase, and 89 simply look around. You can calculate that 1% of the shoppers in your store buy shoes from you.

But can you correctly state that only 1% of shoppers buy shoes? Of course not. Practically every one buys shoes. The percentage of your shoppers who buy shoes from you has nothing to do with the percentage of people who buy shoes. You cannot look at statistics about the activity of people who use one entity and use those statistics to make statements about the percentage of people who use the larger collection of entities. The percentage of people buying in any one shoe store tells us nothing about the percentage of people who buy shoes. Similarly, the percentage of visitors to Wikipedia who create content tells us nothing about the percentage of people who create content for the Internet.