The Wisdom of a Few in the Crowd

Much has been made of Web 2.0's wisdom of crowds and the notion that the new read-write web is the ultimate democratic everyone can contribute nirvana. When you run a Web 2.0 site, which I have, you quickly learn that things don't really work that way. Lots and lots of people may visit and use the site but very few actually contribute. You then spend some time pondering how your Web 2.0 site could be so different from all the other Web 2.0 sites out there but if you also do a bit of digging, you find out that they're all like that. Less than one percent of all visitors to Web 2.0 sites actually contribute anything! Turns out that that very small number of very dedicated people do a lot to contribute, hence the title above "the wisdom of a few in the crowd". What's even more interesting to learn, though, is how the big Web 2.0 sites like Digg and Wikipedia actually work. Slate Magazine recently ran a really interesting article, Digg, Wikipedia, and the myth of Web 2.0 democracy that examines several different models of contribution and governance that are being used at the various sites.