I had the pleasure of watching John Battelle interview Evan Williams to wrap the Web2 conference yesterday. John’s a great interviewer and it was a memorable talk. But the thing that stayed with me through the night and was on my mind as I woke up this morning was this part, as transcribed by Matthew Ingram.
Williams — who founded Blogger and later sold it to Google — said that “lowering the barrier to publishing” has been something he has spent most of his career on, and this is because he believes that “the open exchange of information has a positive effect on the world — it’s not all positive, but net-net it is positive.” With Twitter, he said, “we’ve lowered the barriers to publishing almost as far as they can go,” and that is good because if there are “more voices and more ways to find the truth, then the truth will be available to more people — I think this is what the Internet empowers [but] society has not fully realized what this means.”
Of course, blogging in general and Twitter specifically are two juggernauts. If you have a smidgen of tech savvy, something to say, and a dose of extrovert in you, then these are two great options. And millions of Mother Earth’s 6-7 billion people are blogging and tweeting now.
What I haven’t seen is what percentage of internet users are blogging or tweeting… or posting on Facebook or YouTube, etc. I wonder how close these various services are to the ol’ 1:9:90 estimate… 1% of visitors post frequently, 9% have posted once or twice, and 90% never post… just lurk.
While this seems disappointing in light of Fred and Evan’s ambitions above, it’s a heck of a lot better than the pre-social media ratio. What could that have been? 0.1 : 0.0001 : 99.9? That is… 0.1% contributed almost all the content of the newspaper, 0.0001% wrote letters to the edit, and 99.9% just read the thing.
With Front Porch Forum, we aim to take this to where Fred and Evan dream of. In dozens of Vermont FPF pilot communities, more than half of the households subscribe. And it’s not uncommon to find participation ratios akin to 25:50:25. Put another way… 75% post! This is getting close to “giving every person a voice.”