The spectrum of participation

ParticipationI just came across a great essay by Ross Mayfield on the Power Law of Participation. Ross provides an excellent way to visualise the different thresholds for participation and this is really important because it talks to the fact that people don’t have the time and energy to do everything, so slight increases in difficulty translate into thresholds for participation that are not reached. The following graph shows the idea off better than words.

Much as I like the idea my order would probably be slightly different to Ross, as follows:

  • Read
  • Tag
  • Comment
  • Subscribe
  • Favourite
  • ….

Anyway you get the idea and it’s one that anyone planning to deploy a new process or system must bear in mind.  In my company we call this focusing on the end user experience, and this is in my view key to success.  All to often people focus on the process and how important it is,  however to many people their part in the process is not that important to them, and it it gets in the way of what they are trying to achieve then their contribution to the process might not reach the critical threshold for participation and the process will fail.

Let’s take an example: a project manager sets up a collaborative workspace and relies on each team member to:

  • check the workspace discussion areas, issue, risk and change logs every week
  • post replies to discussion items that they can contribute to and track these daily
  • create new risks and issues as they arise
  • update existing risks and issues they own as their status changes
  • post updates to documents as they reach key milestones

well I can be pretty sure that most if not all of these activities will not get done by at least some team members some of the time (if you are really lucky!).  Technologies like RSS help, because it’s much easier to scan a set of RSS subscriptions, especially with the better tools, than it is to visit a whole load of web pages.  However that’s unlikely to help with posting updates to documents.  Tools like SharePoint with Office do make publishing a much more integrated experience,  but I still don’t think they support the “publish snapshot” – checkout – carry on working off-line scenario that may of us have.

Key message: Think about people at least as much as process!

Steve Richards

I'm retired from work as a business and IT strategist. now I'm travelling, hiking, cycling, swimming, reading, gardening, learning, writing this blog and generally enjoying good times with friends and family

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