Esther Dyson was at eBay a couple weeks ago for a speaker series we have and she made a comment during her talk that really struck me. In discussing her upcoming PC Forum conference “Erosion of Power: Users in charge” she pointed out that in a Web 2.0 world where everyone is a participant there is a real need for smaller groups. I find the thought to be incredibly insightful and couldn’t agree more. The way I see it this is a result of two factors: the move to niche communities and the 80×20 rule.
In the same way that the world of TV went from four networks owning the majority of viewers to the array of cable television stations we have today focused on niche areas, so too will go the web. We’re already seeing this happen. The rise of local classified communities around the world focuses on one niche (location). Social networking sites like Flickr focus on another (family, friends, interests). Successful companies will respond to our society’s need to feel comfortable sharing online and enable people to find a community that fits them. Whether that’s others that live in my town, people like me that love all things Pixar, or perhaps my family and friends that are interested in seeing pictures of my kid.
Lastly just take the common 80×20 rule and apply it the web. If you assume in any one community 20% of people do 80% of the work, then the only way to get more folks involved is to make more and smaller groups. We see this all the time in our lives. We throw parties for people that are close to us, not for someone else that just so happens to live in our state. It’s much more likely that a parent has attended a PTA meeting than shown up in Congress for the passage of educational legislation. If we can create a large number of smaller groups where people truly feel ownership then we can start to approach 100% participation. And perhaps these smaller communities can be linked together to form a larger one, but only time will tell.